A NEW landmark sixth form centre has been named after an inspirational teacher who drove forward plans for the post-16 centre.

Atherton Community School officially celebrated the opening of the its Robert Buckley Sixth Form Centre named after Rev Canon Dr Robert Buckley.

The honour is said to reflect the award winning physics teacher’s instrumental role in setting up the Free School — the first in the region — and his “exceptional service” to the local community.

Canon Buckley, pictured toasting the move, played a prominent role in the opening of Bolton St Catherine’s Academy in Harwood and is Team Rector of Atherton, Hindsford and Howe Bridge, the Area Dean of Leigh. He recently retired as Chairman of Governors at Atherton Community School. Canon Buckley said: “It is a great honour that the sixth form centre at Atherton Community School should carry my name.

“Throughout my 20 years in teaching I spent a lot of time with the sixth form with one student telling me they were ‘the best years of my life’.

“By coincidence, my work with Chapel St has led to meet up with one of my sixth form students some 30 years later.”

The school opened in September, 2012, thanks to local people and the charity Chapel St after Wigan Council shut Hesketh Fletcher School. It opened in new and refurbished buildings on the site of the closed school.

Canon Buckley was the guest of honour and people from the school and the community were invited to the opening ceremony to officially celebrate the completion of the school.

Principal Elizabeth Haddock said: “It’s exciting to be officially opening the doors of our new sixth form centre.

“We already have students here studying subjects including law, health and social care, English, sport, maths, physics, chemistry and biology and will see this student body grow in September.

“It seemed obvious to us that we should name the centre after Robert.

“Through his work with the school and the local community, he is an excellent example of putting our ethos of grace, love and fellowship into practice.”

Free schools are state funded schools, set up in response to local demand.

They do not make a profit and are accountable to the Secretary of State for Education and they are subject to Ofsted inspections.