COMMONWEALTH Games gold medallist Chris Cook made a big splash at the official opening of a unique new school.
The champion swimmer joined borough mayor Linda Arkley to declare Benton Dene Schools in Longbenton open.
As well as helping unveil a commemorative plaque, the 32-year-old, of Wallsend, joined the pupils for lessons and Olympic-related sessions.
The Benton Dene Schools campus brings together a mainstream and a special primary school under one roof.
The two schools replace the former Goathland Primary School in Longbenton and Whitley Bay’s Glebe Special School.
Pupils moved into the new campus in June but have had to wait until now for its official opening ceremony.
Primary school headteacher Jill Forster said: “We have come such a long way since we moved into the new school.
“The vision we had – to create an inclusive community school that would allow all children, from those with learning difficulties to those with special talents, to thrive – has become a reality.”
Mrs Arkley added: “We place a strong emphasis on high-quality provision for all children, no matter what their abilities.
“The Benton Dene Schools campus is an excellent example of high-quality integrated education which expertly meets the needs of pupils of all levels of ability.”
As well as its teaching and support facilities, the Hailsham Avenue school offers more than 30 extra-curricular activities each week.
Pupils are also delighted with their new school.
Luke Devlin, eight, said: “Our school is different to any other school. It’s just amazing.
“There is so much more to do and much more room. We have loads of clubs, a gym room, special dens in the playground and a brilliant dinner hall.”