A campus to blow the mind

21st August 2009 at 01:00
One council, six new community hubs for people who don't have access to leisure facilities

Not many primary schools can boast two tennis courts, a native orchard of 16 apple, eight plum and eight pear trees, a 300-seat cinema, a drama studio and a kiln.

But on Perth and Kinross Council's six new community campuses, this is to be the norm - and the grounds described above, Blairgowrie's are among the less ambitious ones.

"If you think this is good, Kinross will blow your mind," says executive director of education and children's services John Fyffe, as we tour Blairgowrie community campus, which was officially completed last month, but where snagging work (1,500 snags so far) continues.

The council is in the process of creating six community hubs, the idea being that it gets "more bangs for its buck" out of new schools and their facilities, particularly in areas where accessing leisure facilities can be difficult.

The campuses are being targeted at the main population areas - Blairgowrie, Glenearn and North Inch in Perth, Loch Leven, Strathearn and Breadalbane (see panel).

Kinross community campus in Loch Leven will house not only a wide range of sports and recreational facilities but also the local museum and a climbing wall; environmental officers will be based in Aberfeldy. The council is also considering placing a first-contact office on some sites, staffed by different departments such as housing and planning, at different times.

The campuses, all of which are scheduled to be completed by October, 2011, at a cost of pound;136 million, are being built under a 30-year public-private partnership with the Axiom Education consortium (constructor Laing O'Rourke, with Mitie Ltd providing facilities management).

The spaces will be genuine community hubs, open evenings and weekends, and charging reasonable prices, says Andy Cook, programme manager for investment in learning, and the man responsible for overseeing the six projects. The contract with the Axiom Education consortium is "probably the most extensive PPP contract in all the UK, never mind Scotland", he adds.

The Blairgowrie campus will be under council control from 7am-10pm during the week and 8am-5pm at the weekend.

"On top of that, we have 50 additional free evening lets every year," adds Mr Fyffe. "The building is open on weekday evenings anyway, so that means we'll be able to open it for free virtually every Saturday or Sunday night of the year, if we want. The community could hold ceilidhs, or films could be shown."

Blairgowrie campus brings together a nursery and two primaries - St Stephen's and Newhill. It is the only campus that will contain a denominational and non-denominational school. Each school will have its own separate wing, but share facilities like the gym and the dining- room.

The sectarianism that plagues the west of Scotland barely features in this area, says Fiona Patton, headteacher of Newhill. The 100 St Stephen's pupils and 300 Newhill pupils will integrate well, she predicts.

Newhill Primary's old building dated back to 1878 and was originally the secondary school for the area. It had passed its sell-by date, she says.

"When I joined three years ago, I did so knowing we would be moving to a new campus. It has more than lived up to my expectations. I just can't believe the space. We've got a drama space - we've never had anything like that before - and a lot of the staff are excited about the outdoor areas too. Before, the playground we had was just tarmac; there was no grass," she added.

COMMUNITY CAMPUS SCHOOLS

Blairgowrie - Newhill Primary (known as Hill Primary before the move), St Stephen's Primary and a nursery

Glenearn - Inch View Nursery and Primary, which replaces Caledonian Road Primary and Friarton Nursery

Loch Leven - Kinross High

Strathearn - Crieff High

North Inch - St John's Academy, which replaces St Columba's High, and St John's Nursery and Primary

Breadalbane - Breadalbane Academy, an all-through school in Aberfeldy.

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