OVER 500 people took the opportunity to have a last look inside Llantarnam School before it closed last week.

Last year Torfaen Cabinet approved plans to close Llantarnam Comprehensive and Fairwater High School and create a new secondary school on The Fairwater Site with a £6million investment from Torfaen’s 21st Century Schools programme.

Llantarnam School closed last Friday and pupils will be moved to Cwmbran High School in September 2015.

In the run up to the closure, the school gave four tours for past pupils to have one last look inside the school and to share memories.

Llantarnam School opened on September 1, 1954 for 22 teaching staff and on September 8 for the 519 pupils, before an official opening on September 25.

Kathleen Crew, 73, who started at the school the first year it was opened at the age of 12, attended one of the tours.

She said: “It was an eye opener to go on the tour as so much has changed and it is much bigger now.

“I remember when it opened, everything was brand new, and you had to wear daps inside as they didn’t want shoes scuffing the floor.”

She recalled going on the school’s first trip in 1958 to Italy and Switzerland, with it taking over two days to travel there via boat, trains and coaches.

She added: “It was an excellent school so I’m very sad to see it close as my children and grandchildren attended.”

Also attended the event were retired teachers Geoff Slade, who taught at the school for 34 years, and Gareth Williams, who taught at the school for 30 years.

The school also welcomed former pupils from as far as Switzerland and Australia onto the tours.

One historic tale that was discussed on a tour was that the architect Colin Jones purchased a painting for the school for £250 in the early 1950s after helping to build the school.

The eight-foot-tall work Victorian painting, The Daughters of Eve by George Dunlop Leslie, was sold by auctioneers Sotheby's for £170,000 to an American buyer. The money was used to fund the building of a new science block. A full size copy of the painting remains in the main reception.

Since opening approximately 12,000 students have been educated at the school during its 61 year history.

Head teacher at the school, Gareth Whitcombe, said: “In the 61 years since Llantarnam School first opened there will have been many successes relating not only to academic achievement but also linking heavily to the whole ethos of the school – a caring community seeking to do its best on a daily basis for each other and those with whom we interact.

“The communities of Cwmbran and Newport can be justifiably proud of Llantarnam School and all it has achieved. Friday, July 17 truly marks the end of an era.”

Recent events to mark the closure of the school have included a staff reunion with over 210 attending; four tours of the school for ex students with over 500 attending and a musical and dramatic concert starring past and present students.

After the musical concert on June 11, attendee Torfaen councillor Mary Barnett said: “As a former chairman of Governors at the school and parents of two daughters educated here, I am aware of, and very grateful for, the excellent service the school has provided over six decades to the community of Cwmbran and its wonderful reputation as a caring community.”

To mark the closure, the entire school had a group photograph taken and a copy was presented to each student together with a commemorative mug. The school also held a final ever sports day with ex-student of the school and Welsh rugby international, Ian Gough, as the guest of honour.

Other famous past students include Big Brother winner Rachel Rice, footballers Danny Gabbidon, Andy Dibble, and Steve Lowndes, cricketers John Glover and Huw Waters, Marc Hill of the pop group Artful Dodger, boxer Gary Lockett and paralympian Gareth Duke.

The Big Brother winner attended the school from 1995 to 2002 and served as head girl.

She said: “The school shows were my best memory -especially playing Rizzo in Grease - thanks to the excellent English, Drama and music departments. I also loved being in the choir and going on a German exchange.

“The teachers made Llantarnam School and are the main reason why I went on to be a head of department of a secondary school. Thanks to all the staff at Llantarnam school for always supporting not only me but all pupils.”

Notable school staff included Olympic medallist and Welsh rugby international the late Ken Jones, Welsh international rugby union player and British Lion Terry Cobner, Glamorgan cricketer in the 1970s Stuart Harrison, and Commonwealth Games boxer Dave Paley.

Following the closure, Mr Whitcombe, has been appointed as the new head teacher of West Monmouth School in Pontypool from January 1, 2016.

Deputy head teacher, Paul Edwards, is retiring from teaching after working at Llantarnam School for 35 years.

He said that Llantarnam School is the only school that he has taught in, starting in September 1980 as a history teacher having graduated in Aberystwyth University.

He became head of History in 1984 and was promoted to head of lower school in 1993.

In Sept 2000, Mr Edwards became assistant head teacher and was promoted to the position of deputy head teacher in July 2014.

He said: “My fondest memories of my time at Llantarnam are many but taking priority would be the large number of school trips I have taken students on to a range of destinations including Normandy, Krakow, the Rhineland and the World War One battlefields.

“I also have very fond memories of the school productions I have been involved in which include Calamity Jane and Guys and Dolls way back in the 1980s. I also look back proudly on the football teams I have run over the years at a school, regional and county level and the successes they achieved at a national level.”

His future plans are for semi-retirement with him working for the Welsh Assembly as an external mentor for NQTs, working for Torfaen council as a consultant governor and working for a European heritage travel company as a tour guide.

He added: “I feel I have been privileged to have worked at Llantarnam school. I have in the past and continue to take great pride in the achievements of so many of these young people.

“I would like to thank the young people who have attended Llantarnam and the community for the enjoyment they have provided to me during my career.”