Steel’s happy return as school opens extension

Tweedbank School extension opening.
Tweedbank School extension opening.

It was a proud day for the pupils and staff of Tweedbank Primary School as their £1.5million new extension was opened this week, writes Alice MacFarlane.

Work on the school began last May and after a year, it now has two new classrooms, pupil toilets, cloakrooms, a meeting room, a new reception area and offices. Some of the money also went on smartboards, netbooks and security cameras.

Among those at Monday’s opening ceremony was Lord Steel of Aikwood, who opened the school in 1976.

Asked what it felt like to be returning 35 years on, Lord Steel joked: “They have made a happy man feel very old.”

He went on: “The whole community has grown a lot. When I opened the school in 1976 there was only a little bit of Tweedbank left to built. There were few facilities back then, which was one of the main complaints when the school started, but now they have a shop and restaurant.

“When I opened the school I did not think that 35 years later I would still be around but this is a fantastic occasion.”

The school, which was awarded a green flag in January, has eco-friendly lighting and heating in the new extension, as well as carpets made from goats’ hair.

At the start of the ceremony, Tweedbank headteacher Alyson Weir said: “Our new facilities provide an environment for our pupils to advance both now and in the future.

“Our school has been at the centre of the community and our new school building will allow us to satisfy that role even more successfully. Our new school and increased facilities reflect the changes in education and enable us to fulfil the circullum of excellence to the fullest extent.”

The pupils entertained those at the opening with songs, poetry and a dance before taking guests on a tour of the new building.

The roll of Tweedbank is 221 including the nursery. The expanded school can teach up to 230 children with space to expand further in future if required.

Former headteacher Finlay Ferguson added: “I think the extension is long overdue.

“The original plans for the school were that it would be extended to teach up to 420 pupils based on the expected size of Tweedbank, with plans to attach a community centre.

“However, high unemployment in the 1980s meant fewer new houses were built and the school was around the 200 mark when I retired in 2004.

“I walked in to the school today and saw two pupils whom I recognised and it turned out that they were children of a former pupil. The school has helped create a legacy in the community.”

Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker, who lives in Tweedbank, said: “Tweedbank Primary is a growing and popular school. Each and every year for the last 10 we have seen quite considerable growth in the number of children who want to come here because it has a very good reputation.

“The school needed some new facilities, and this extension is a wonderful addition. It has been a huge job that has been done here and certainly the school looks very different from how it looked previously.”