Some pupils could return to Peebles High School in February

Council chiefs say they are aiming to return some Peebles High School students to the site in February, but confirmed they cannot commit to that timescale until more work is done.

The fire on November 28 destroyed parts of Peebles High School.
The fire on November 28 destroyed parts of Peebles High School.

On Thursday November 28, large sections of the school were gutted by a fire, and in the meantime pupils have been receiving education at alternative sites.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council on Thursday, December 19, the council’s chief executive gave an update to councillors, detailing the teaching arrangement for pupils after the Christmas break.

When pupils return in January, the current temporary teaching arrangement will remain in place, with S4-S6 pupils being taught in Galashiels, and S1-S3 pupils remaining in alternative sites in Peebles.

From Friday, January 10, S4-S6 year group will be on prelim exam leave, and Ms Logan confirmed that all prelim exams will take place in Peebles High School’s games hall complex, which was unaffected by the fire.

This includes all those exams which were scheduled to take place prior to the Christmas break and which were postponed following the fire.

Ms Logan also said she is hoping to return some pupils to the Springwood Road site in February: “We have managed to continue with the seven sites we have in Peebles for the rest of January, during which time we are hoping to start to get real progress on site with services to enable us to get as many children, and hopefully all of the children, from Peebles High School back on site as soon as possible.

“We’re aiming to do some of that in February, but I don’t want to commit to those dates until I’m absolutely sure that we can do that and we’re working with facilities to bring that forward as fast as possible.

“If I can give you an absolute guarantee of the timescales of a return during the Christmas holidays, or after them, than I will do that.”

During the meeting, councillor also councillors agreed to fund an options appraisal process for the high school with £100,000.

A report, presented to the chamber by service director assets and infrastructure Martin Joyce, shows that large areas of the school, including the gymnasium, changing facilities, the art department, and the additional support needs areas, were gutted by the fire, and will need to be demolished.

The report also states that the Scottish Government has been contacted by the council in relation to rebuilding the school, whether partially or in total, and the council has confirmed it is “proceeding with a major insurance claim” with Swiss-based insurer Zurich Municipal.

Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler, who acts as the executive member for finance, urged councillors to support moving £100,000 from the council’s emergency fund.

He said: “It’s good for us to remember it’s only actually been three weeks since this terrible event occurred.

“The report sets out very well what happened in response to the event, and I would like to echo further the comments which have been made earlier, to thank the students, teachers and staff for their phenomenal effort over the last three weeks to establish some sort of normality for the pupils of Peebles High School.

“But that’s the short term. What we’re looking at here is the long term, and that’s what the options appraisal report will do.

“I recommend you support this.”

Council leader Shona Haslam, who also represents Tweeddale East, said: “There’s no greater fear for a parent than when their child is phoning them up to tell them that the high school is on fire, and the fire that that brings to you as a parent is something I never want to have to go through ever again.

“Huge kudos to the community, as well as to the high school which has put on all of the dances for the children, to the coffee shops which are donating baked goods to the teachers, to the children and staff who dealt with the situation with calmness, resolve, and resilience.

“It’s been an absolutely incredible effort from the community and I just wanted to pass on my thanks as a parent, and to the council as well, as the work council officers have done has been incredible to bring teaching back to the children within seven days, three of which were public holidays.

“A massive thank you to Tracey from the parents and from the councillors as well.”