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Built to learn is the motto at Balfron

THE new pound;16 million Balfron High is set to become the first in Scotland to be built entirely to a "curriculum design". The three-storey replacement, planned to start in January, will be funded through a public-private partnership after more than 10 years of high-profile campaigning.

It is one of several PPP educational projects worth a total of pound;330 million and is expected to open in August 2001.

Margaret Doran, Stirling Council's head of schools, says design features will reinforce student-centred learning, curriculum coherence and partnership with the wider community.

Jim Fleming, Balfron's headteacher, says the school has been closely involved in how the curriculum model should translate into bricks and mortar. His depute was seconded full-time.

The council also ran a competition among the eight associated primaries asking pupils to design what a school would look like in 2020. They are now being invited to give their reactions to the architect's design in what has effectively turned into a 5-14 project in the expressive arts.

Stirling believes it is the only PPP scheme to have been led by an education department rather than lawyers, technical advisers or outside consultants. The design therefore includes flexible space for student-centred learning, greater use of IT and a "village square" to reflect the rural communities from which Balfron draws many of its 850 pupils.

Subject departments are being clustered so that, for example, science and maths are to be grouped together as will social subjects. There will be shared computer workspaces and seminar rooms for tutorials and meetings in each area.

Drew Grieve, a former languages teacher who is the project manager, says the biggest classroom currently is 65 square metres in contrast to the smallest in the new building which will be 70 square metres. A leisure centre will include a pool, games hall, fitness room and floodlit artificial sports pitch.

The piece de resistance is a large atrium linked to an external classroom looking across to the Campsie Hills. It will be a very different Balfron from the present school of 20 huts, with a public road running through it and what Mr Fleming describes as "one wee gym".

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