A NEW school was given the Royal seal of approval.

Princess Alexandra visited the newly-opened Gilberd School in Highwoods, Colchester, in May 1981.

The school went through a transitional period between 1980 and 1985.

The Highwoods site had its first intake in 1980, with the North Hill site gradually winding down until it closed its doors in 1985 and all students were taught in the new premises.

Brightly dressed in a red coat and hat, the princess was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex Admiral Sir Andrew Lewis.

She made her way into the new school building as eager children and parents showed their enthusiasm through their claps and cheers.

The dedicated children had given up a day of their half term holiday to be at the school for its official opening and the chance to catch a glance at royalty.

At the school's entrance, the princess was presented to several dignitaries including chairman of Essex County Council Bob Daines and Colchester mayor Roger Browning.

The first stop on the school tour was the needle work class, where the princess asked the students what they were making.

Then came a cooking class, where the princess stopped to speak to the only two male students in the class, asking them what sports they liked.

Richard Mellhuish-James, aged 12 at the time, said: “She asked me what sports I like and I told her rugby and football."

The princess then spent some time in the art department, where 13-year-olds David Cornell and Paul Everitt said they were nervous before the princess came in.

She then visited the Mathematics and Language classes, before returning downstairs to the ground floor, so that she could sign the visitors' book.

When meeting some of the school staff on the ground floor, Princess Alexandra told staff that they were to be congratulated for coming into the school during half term.

On leaving the dining hall, the Princess unveiled a plaque to commemorate her visit to the school, after which she was presented with a bouquet by 11-year-old Susan Plumb.