Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Committee will next week be asked to endorse a submission to the Scottish Government seeking funding support for its secondary school estate. The proposal would replace Galashiels Academy and redevelop the Peebles High School site following the devastating fire in November 2019. The Executive report estimates the replacement of Galashiels Academy will cost £55.5million based on the current plans, and will be completed in 2025. The development of the Peebles High site aims to be completed in 2025, with an overall cost of £40m.

The report also informs the Executive Committee that a progress update is being submitted to the Scottish Government on plans to redevelop Hawick High, which, if all projects are accepted by the Government, would be created in the next financial year after Galashiels Academy and Peebles High. Hawick will cost £48.4m and is currently expected to open in 2026/27.

The report responds to Scottish Government’s request for an update to be submitted by councils later this month, as part of the national Learning Estate Improvement Programme (LEIP) which delivers assistance to a local authority with the running costs of a newly built school.

In November 2018, the Council agreed its priorities for further investment in the secondary school estate based on the condition of the current buildings.

In February 2020, adjustments to the capital investment strategy were approved which progressed the replacement of Galashiels Academy and accelerated the development of Peebles High school following the fire, with the plans for Hawick High continuing to be progressed in line with the estimated timescales set out in the November 2018 report.

The update to the Scottish Government will provide estimated costs, timescales and demonstrate how each project would match the LEIP’s objectives.

Selkirk High is also in line to see re-development of its estate, and while these plans are not as advanced as the three other secondary schools, investment is currently being made in creating improved spaces for studying.

In line with its Fit for 2024 programme, the Council also aims to make best use of each development by providing a number of community facilities in one location, in line with the LEIP’s broader aims. This would see the Council continues its partnership with Live Borders in proactively managing community facilities to the new education campuses.

The report also emphasises the importance of each new facility being environmentally friendly, in line with the Council’s recent Climate Emergency declaration.

While almost £130m is allocated to the three new secondary schools in the Council’s Capital Plan, members of the Executive Committee will be made aware of the need for additional upfront capital funding to progress the plans at Galashiels and Peebles, within the capital investment programme for this financial year.

In addition, Councillors will be asked to agree that local engagement be undertaken on SBC’s overall Learning Estate Strategy, which aims to provide a longer term vision for the Borders’ schools estate, ahead of the final document being presented to a full Council meeting in November 2020.

Councillor Shona Haslam, SBC’s Leader, said: “The Council has a track record of improving our school estate, with the most recent example being the opening of the fantastic new Jedburgh Campus in August. This report highlights the progress made to date with our plans for new secondary schools, with a focus on Galashiels, Peebles and Hawick at this time. Further engagement with all local communities and Councillors is vital and full consultations will be taking place in each area as we progress to ensure their voices are heard.”

Councillor Carol Hamilton, SBC’s Executive Member for Children and Young People, added: “Our aim is to create community learning environments which are of the highest quality and are as environmentally sustainable as possible. We want to ensure we provide quality learning opportunities and experiences that will enable our children, young people and communities to achieve their potential. Creating these new secondary schools, alongside the progression of the Learning Estate Strategy, are both absolutely crucial to achieving this aim, and I look forward to further discussions with local communities and Councillors to help shape these plans further.”

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