Fire-ravaged Peebles High School to stay shut into next year

Peebles High School is to remain closed for at least the next five weeks due to the widespread damage caused by the fire that hit it yesterday, November 28.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 3:20 pm
Updated Friday, 29th November 2019, 3:46 pm
Firefighters tackling yesterday's blaze. Photo: Dan Tarrant.

Following initial assessment today of the damage caused by the blaze, education bosses have decided against trying to reopen the Springwood Road school before the forthcoming Christmas holiday.

Yesterday’s fire is said to have caused significant damage, especially to the old gymnasium, art classrooms and surrounding areas.

Other parts of the campus, including its tower block, have also been badly affected by smoke damage.

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Yesterday's blaze. Photo: Dan Tarrant.

It is not yet known how the fire started.

Staff at Scottish Borders Council’s Newtown headquarters are now working with the school’s management team to organise learning plans for each year group while the school is shut.

That emergency plan will include using other locations for classes as well as some online learning.

More details will be given to parents and carers via the council’s groupcall messaging service over the next few days as arrangements are confirmed.

Pupils with complex needs will attend classes at Galashiels Academy’s complex needs centre.

Council chief executive Tracey Logan said: “This fire has resulted in some serious damage to the school, and it just wouldn’t be safe or practical to open it without taking time to properly assess the damage and plan the recovery.

“To minimise disruption, we’ve taken a swift decision to close it right through to the Christmas break.

“We’re making sure we have plans in place to ensure pupils have the best learning experience possible and are supported appropriately for the remaining 14 school days left before the holidays.

“There will be a particular focus on helping pupils preparing to sit prelim exams.”

The old gymnasium at the high school was scheduled to be used as a polling station for the UK Government general election on Thursday, December 12, but those due to cast their votes there will now do so at Priorsford Primary School instead. Priorsford Primary will close to pupils on that day to facilitate that move.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to the blaze just before 1pm yesterday and had as many as 70 firefighters tackling it at one point, helping ensure it claimed no casualties.

Incident commander Stephen Gourlay, the service’s senior officer for the Borders, said: “This was undoubtedly a challenging incident and, indeed, one of the most complex building fires I have ever attended.

“I would like to thank our firefighters for working through the night to contain and extinguish this fire and prevent further spread within the school complex.

“I would also like to recognise the support of our emergency services colleagues and local authority partners in helping to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.

“The continued support from the community has also been outstanding, and we must also thank them for their patience.

“A full joint investigation alongside our Police Scotland colleagues will commence in due course, and we will work to establish the full facts and circumstances of the fire.”

The school was due to shut for the Christmas break on Thursday, December 19, and reopen on Monday, January 6.

Peebles High is the biggest secondary school in the region, with 1,270 pupils. It is currently scheduled to be rebuilt in 2032 as part of the same programme that saw a new high school opened in Kelso in 2017, with another to follow in Jedburgh in April.