Galashiels in line to be next town in Borders to get new school

Galashiels Academy.
Galashiels Academy.

Galashiels is in line to be the next town in the Borders to get a new school, probably an inter-generational campus, following on from Kelso and Jedburgh.

Scottish Borders Council has published a belated update on its much-anticipated school estates review, and it reveals that Galashiels is the top priority to receive new investment, with Hawick second, Selkirk third and Peebles fourth.

Education chiefs are recommending that councillors approve plans for a £61.6m cross-generational campus in Galashiels, which would be due to open in 2023.

The plans would see 1,100 secondary school pupils, 50 additional support needs students, 650 primary school pupils and 200 nursery children educated across the campus, to be split between the new Langlee Primary School and a new building at either Scott Park or Netherdale.

Although the cross-generational campus is the preferred model outlined by council officers, there would be a public consultation which would explore alternative options, which includes a new standalone secondary school building which would cost £47.9m.

The costs outlined in the report are currently indicative but would be confirmed once a detailed delivery strategy is drawn up.

The report states: “While both Galashiels and Hawick high schools are both classed as grade C in relation to their condition, Galashiels will require significantly more financial investment on an element-by-element fabric basis in order to remain a fully functioning asset with no impact on the delivery of the curriculum.

“It is recommended therefore that Galashiels is the first priority for investment given the current condition and suitability of the existing school in relation to the rest of the estate

If the report is approved by councillors, Hawick would be the second town to receive investment in its school estates.

As in Galashiels, council officers are recommending the construction of a cross-generational campus, due to open in 2026, at a cost of £95.6m.

The campus would cater for 900 secondary school pupils, 50 additional support needs students, 1,200 primary school pupils and 350 nursery children.

Again, the option to create either a cross-generational campus or just a stand-alone secondary school at a cost of £48.4m would be discussed with Hawick residents.

However, issues relating to floodingrisk  and available space have led to Hawick missing out on first priority place as council officers do not currently have a concrete plan for where any new campus would be sited.

The report continues: “There are other complex issues within Hawick aside from questions of scale and accessibility, in particular with relation to flood risk.

“While the existing high school site in Hawick has been included within the options appraisal, it is noted that further detailed investigations are required regarding the currently proposed flood prevention works at this site and the nature of permissible development works which could render this and other adjacent town centre sites undevelopable for an education project of this scale.

“The Hawick flood protection scheme will deliver protection to the town generally at a level commensurate with one in 75-year flood events.

“Early advice is that any new school provision on the same site or at the same level would require to achieve, a higher level of protection commensurate with its classification as a strategic asset.

“In addition, other sites are already identified within the local development plan in terms of business, mixed use or industrial zoning, and this could have a detrimental impact on the wider economic health of the town if utilised for educational purposes and an analysis would therefore be required.”

Selkirk would be the third priority for new investment, with council officers recommending a £60.1m cross-generational campus, potentially due to open in 2029.

As with the campus recommendations at Hawick and Galashiels, there would be a public consultation that would consider just building a replacement secondary school, at a cost of £37.2m

The report states: “From experience with the Jedburgh intergenerational campus model, it is considered appropriate that a three-to-18 campus option could be considered for the Selkirk cluster.

“This could comprise all the schools within the town and potentially a partial inclusion of the rural schools within the cluster, as was suggested during the pre-consultations, with pupils from P6 and P7 transitioning to the campus.

“Previous consultation with the community has focused on secondary education. It is therefore proposed that further consultation is undertaken with the community, parents, pupils and staff to determine the preferred option in terms of educational model.

“This will help develop a proposal to take forward to the next stage of the process. Discussions will also be progressed with the public, private and third sector regarding the potential for other services to share services and facilities.”

Peebles has been designated as the lowest priority for a new school but it would receive the largest investment, with council officers recommending a £127.6m campus to be opened in 2032.

The alternative would be a new secondary school building at a cost of £92m.

The report continues: “Primary and secondary schools within Peebles currently have limited capacity for increased roll numbers, which is the main concern in this location as opposed to issues of condition at Galashiels and Hawick.

“Both Priorsford and Kingsland primary schools are operating at 90% capacity and Peebles High School at 84% capacity, and further work on projected roll figures is required.

“It is recommended that any decision to build a new school or campus model must form part of an overall Scottish Borders Council masterplan for the town taking cognisance of projected housing developments, transport links, infrastructure, including flood risk, and the local development plan.”

The campus model is favoured by council officers and the elected administration as consolidating educational provision in one or two locations would allow the closure of disused school buildings and reduce annual running costs.

The report will be presented at the next full council meeting, to be held next Thursday, November 29, and councillors will be asked to approve the priority and sequence of investments.