A SECONDARY school will open its doors to the whole community after a multi-million pound revamp to bring it into the 21st century.

St John's RC Comprehensive School in Bishop Auckland, is celebrating a windfall of £4.1m from the Department for Education and Skills.

The cash will fund improvements to the 1960s building in a vision to develop 'whole life learning' for the school and surrounding community.

The project will see major improvements to the the school and the creation of an Open Learning Centre, which can be accessed by pupils and the local community.

It is hoped that work on site will start at the end of this year and be completed between September and Christmas, 2004.

Headteacher Gerard Moran said: "It is a very exciting time. Teachers, and pupils themselves, are the main influences on learning but the right environment is essential.

"We will be able to provide the best possible resources, ICT facilities that can be used for learning and make pupils more employable and an environment that is stimulating and vibrant.

"We also have a strong, extended community which includes local residents and families from Spennymoor, Crook and Barnard Castle. As a Roman Catholic school we have pupils from outside the town.

"Our concept is for 'whole life learning,' making each suite of classrooms as good as possible, with 24-seven learning available for the school and wider community through our Open Learning Centre."

A new science block will be built, which will provide space inside the school for a technology suite and expressive arts base.

A Sixth Form Centre will also be developed to boost the existing post-16 education department, with art study facilities, a cyber caf, study rooms and video conferencing and conference rooms.

All the developments will provide disabled access to all areas of the curriculum.

Fred Wilson, chairman of the governors, said: "We, and the Friends of St John's, were delighted to support the application and thrilled it has come to fruition. It will benefit St John's, other schools in the area and the community which we feel is part of the school's role."