â€œThe views from the classrooms are amazing and the rooms themselves are so light and bright. The facilities are second to none, fantastic; I think itâ€™s just the best.â€
That’s the verdict of Â Rosemary Mitchell, deputy headteacher, as she and around 1,500 Midlothian pupils have been enjoying their first days at the striking new Lasswade High School Centre.
And it’s not just teachers who like the new school. The pupils were invited to meet with architects at the start of the project to discuss what special eco features they wanted and this involvement has created an enthusiastic sense of belonging. Now,Â Amy Crosbie, 2nd year pupil, says, â€œEveryone really seems to like the new school, itâ€™s such a change from the old school and the classrooms are bright and airy.â€
Councillor Lisa Beattie, Cabinet Member for Education, said, â€œWe have delivered this impressive new school on time and on budget and Iâ€™m delighted to see the young people settle in and enjoy their new surroundings.Â Not only is this a great school, but the whole community will benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities on offer. I hope the pupils enjoy their new school and wish them all the best in the coming year.”
Amongst the old buildings closing and transferred to the new Lasswade Centre are Bonnyrigg Library, the existing town hall building and Poltonhall Community Centre, Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre and the old Lasswade High School.Â The old high school has been demolished and the ground made into football, rugby and a 3G pitch.
Involvement with the community has always played a major part in the school’s philosophy. In 2000, the Â Centre received the prestigious Schools Curriculum Award for involvement with the local community and this excellent relationship looks set to continue. Similarly, the school had an enviable record for Sport and in 2009 Â took the top prize in the Fitter Schools Challenge, in which 3,000 UK schools put their sporting prowess to the test. The Â gymnastics academy based at Lasswade has been incorporated into the new building.
The community facilities, including a brand new swimming pool, gymnastics academy, gym, community meeting rooms, Costa Coffee internet cafe and a new public library, opened in July and have already proved to be very popular. But now that the school is back in session, how does it work?
“The swimming pool has a raised split in it, which means pupils can use one side of the pool and the public have access to the other without running into each other, or lanes are simply put up. The sports facilities are open all day to the public. For example if the PE department have a badminton class on in the main hall they will use half the hall and the public can use the other half. The public are not excluded at any time from the sports areas.”
But classroom subjects are benefiting too.Â John Quinn, 2nd year pupil said, â€œHome economics is my favourite subject and the new classrooms are bigger and lighter,â€ whileÂ Andrew Kay, 3rd year pupil, said, â€œAt the moment Iâ€™m in my chemistry class testing different solutions and itâ€™s just great to be back at school in a new building.â€
The Lasswade High School Centre cost around Â£37.1m and took two years to build. Special eco features include a heating system which is more economical, increased insulation levels to retain heat gathered and generated and specially controlled solar glass and blinds. The school was also built as a low carbon energy construction project and with the intention of being delivered to a â€˜BREEM Excellentâ€™ standard.
Midlothian Council has funded the community hub while the school was delivered with joint money from the Council and the Scottish Government through Scottish Futures Trust and it is the influence of Scottish Futures Trust which has made the difference, with the school being hailed a prototype for future educational and community buildings across Scotland.
Barry White, chief executive of the Scottish Futures Trust which manages the Scotlandâ€™s Schools for the Future programme for the Scottish Government, explained, â€œIn a unique Schools Pilot Project, Midlothian and East Renfrewshire Councils came together to simultaneously build two new secondary schools, (the Lasswade Centre and Eastwood High School) which has helped save Â£4m and created a wonderful teaching and learning environment.â€
The Trust has a team of over 40 professionals working to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of infrastructure investment in Scotland. The team, drawn from public and private sector backgrounds, boasts a range of technical, legal and financial skills, and brings extensive commercial expertise in infrastructure financing, procurement and delivery into the public sector.Â According to Scottish Futures Trust, the employment of local workers and providing training opportunities have been very important. During construction of the Lasswade Campus, nearly Â£8m of construction work was awarded to firms with a Midlothian postcode and 93% of the construction value was spent within a 50 mile radius.
In many ways, Midlothian will be benefiting from this great new resource and this sort of cross regional collaboration is something we hope to see again.