THE hunt is now being stepped up to locate a suitable site for the new Kelso High School, after this week’s surprise announcement from Government ministers that construction work can start within the next 12 to 18 months.
The Scottish Government went public yesterday with the news that the replacement secondary for Kelso will be one of the first built in the next phase of the £1.25 billion Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme.
The announcement was met with delight in Kelso and from education officials, but with construction due to start on site within the next year to a year-and-a-half, it is now imperative a suitable site is found as soon as possible.
Glenn Rodger, Director of Education at Scottish Borders Council, was clearly delighted with the news.
“This announcement is absolutely to be welcomed and is excellent news for Kelso and the Scottish Borders,” he told TheSouthern.
It was earlier this year that TheSouthern reported the council’s intention to bid for almost £10million from the third phase of the Scotland’s School of the Future programme.
However, the £80 million of planned investment has now been brought forward and will be allocated to revenue -financed secondary school projects, so allowing up to 12 new schools to begin construction within the next 12 to 18 months.
The overall cost of the new Kelso High School is estimated at £14.8million, not including the cost of land.
The government contribution would come via the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) and be worth £9.9million, with the remainder coming from the local authority’s coffers.
Kelso High rector Ruth McKay, told us: “Our current building is truly iconic and has a special place in the hearts of all those who have been through its doors. That said, we recognise the limitations it places on the experience we are able to offer learners.
“Our young people already achieve very well in a huge range of different activities and we look forward to working with the Scottish Futures Trust, council colleagues and the local community to deliver a new Kelso High School which provides a learning environment and facilities which will support our learners in going from strength to strength.”
Councillor Sandy Aitchison (Galashiels, BP), SBC executive member for education, also welcomed the announcement.
He said: “This is fantastic news for Kelso, as the present building does need replaced. But with the time constraints involved it is now a matter of urgency that we locate a suitable site for the new school.
“There have been a few ideas about sites but as far as I am aware, there is as yet no firm commitment to a specific location.”
Paul Wheelhouse, SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, said every local authority’s request for priority builds has been met by the Scottish Government and by the time the programme finishes there will be 67 new schools in Scotland.
“An achievement that provides, not only great new accommodation for our pupils but brilliant news for the construction industry and local economies,” he added.
John Lamont, Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire, added: “Kelso High School has long been in need of an upgrade and I am pleased that the SNP Government has finally delivered the funding to allow this to happen.
“Now that they have eventually stumped up the money it is vital that work on a new Kelso High School can begin as soon as possible.”
However, Mr Aitchison also flagged up the issues that will arise from the need to dispose of the present 1939-designed Kelso High School building.
Listed by Historic Scotland for its outstanding architectural interest, including its imposing clock tower and extensive art deco detailing, the school has been a local landmark for more than 70 years.
And Mr Aitchison added: “Kelso High School is an iconic and much-loved building and its future use is something that will have to be carefully considered as well.”