Where Will Penicuik’s High Schools Go?
We look at the possible new locations of Penicuik's single site high school
The deteriorating condition of Penicuik’s secondary schools has prompted the council to consider their future.
In a recent report into their school estate, Midlothian Council has revealed they are undertaking feasibility studies into building a new single site secondary school for the town. The concerns have arisen not only due to the deteriorating condition of the school buildings, Beeslack is rated ‘B’ and Penicuik is rated ‘C’, but due to the falling school rolls. Both high schools are operating below the newly set 6000 house minimum, and even with new developments in the north west of Penicuik, the rolls will not rise sufficiently to sustain two schools.
Unfortunately there are no funds to build one secondary school, let alone the proposed two schools, one in Penicuik and one further up the A701 corridor. As such, the council must apply for ‘Schools for the Future’ funding. The application process for the next round of this will open in approximately 18 months time, giving the local authority a year and a half to collate their proposals. To do this, they are undertaking a series of feasibility studies which will identify possible new school sites. We won’t see the results of these for around a year, but in the meantime, we’ve compiled a guide of the possible contenders.
There are two options facing the council when considering the local secondary school estate. Either, construct one “super school” in Penicuik for the entire A701 corridor, or construct two smaller secondary schools, one to serve Penicuik and the other to serve Roslin, Bilston and Loanhead. Firstly we will look at the probable locations of a new single site Penicuik High School and secondly, we will explain where the “A701 Corridor” secondary school, or “relocated Beeslack”, could go.
Single Site Penicuik High School
New Midlothian Council guidelines say that a successful secondary school will be one which is served by over 6000 households. Neither Penicuik High School or Beeslack Community High School are served by 6000 households, and even with the construction of around 1000 new homes in the north west of town, neither school will have sufficiently “successful” school rolls. The solution; create a single site secondary school that will be capable of holding every pupil in the town. To be able to do this, at least one school building must remain operational during construction, however in all likelihood both school buildings would have to remain open. For that reason we have discounted the current school sites. This leaves us with three contenders: the Penicuik Public Park, Eastfield Industrial Estate and Beeslack CHS’s playing fields. Other possible sites could be those in north west Penicuik, however these would be out-with the main catchment of pupils and would likely prove unpopular with current residents.
Penicuik Public Park
The public park is the most likely option for relocation. The close proximity to the current school means there would be limited disruption when moving to the new building. It may also allow the council to keep the Penicuik Centre operational in its current location, greatly reducing the cost of a new building. Playing fields would be lost but the original high school would be partly or wholly demolished to give further land. The historical facade of Penicuik High School would likely remain. If this was the chosen site, pupils from north Penicuik would be required to commute a substantial distance, however this would happen regardless of the chosen site. Benefits include the transport and pedestrian links. Furthermore, the council has chosen not to safeguard the site from further development. This is perhaps telling of their future plans. Likelihood 4/5
Land at Beeslack
Another option would be to build a “super-school” on the land at Beeslack Community High School. The council own 17.5 acres of land here and have ample space to erect a new facility. However, the school site caters solely to north Penicuik and those who commute from further up the A701. Should the A701 get its own school, the positioning of the building would be questionable, considering the substantial commute that would be required by the majority of local pupils. Advantages include the transport links and the large amount of land, even after construction of a new building. The land itself though, would be worth more to the council for housing than an educational facility. So, if they build on the public park, they can sell Beeslack’s land and use the funds to pay for the new school, or whatever they’d do with the money. Likelihood 3/5.
Eastfield Industrial Estate
Perhaps the only central site, the redevelopment of Eastfield Industrial Estate would allow the council to create a facility easily accessible to all communities. Eastfield Industrial Estate is currently owned by Alex F Noble and is only partially let. A compulsory purchase order by the council could provide them with a substantial plot of land, capable with linking the new secondary school to Strathesk Primary. It should be noted that the council already own the vacant land to the west of Strathesk and it would seem logical to utilise it. Advantages of the site include the transport and pedestrian links, along with the proximity to the supermarket and other auxiliary units. Disadvantages include the initial outlay needed to purchase the Industrial Estate, along with the siting within a rather busy road network. Likelihood 2.5/5
The A701 Corridor
If a “super-school” was not taken forward, a secondary school would be built to replace Beeslack. This would be relocated closer to the towns and villages it serves (Roslin, Bilston and Loanhead). However, the creation of the “relocated Beeslack” would come several years after the new Penicuik High, due to funding problems. Pupils would continue to use the current building until the new one opened. Here are the options for relocation:
Midlothian Council have been putting a great deal of emphasis on creating a world class science triangle at Easter Bush. They have reaffirmed this by allocating further land for research use in the north of the development. Theoretically, the “relocated Beeslack” could become part of the park, giving the school connections to the University and research facilities there. These alliances could allow the school to flourish in the scientific environment. It’s not all good news. Pupils would still be required to commute to the school and very few would be able to walk from the surrounding region. Lothian’s new bus services would, however, give Loanhead and Bilston direct access to the school. The Lothian 15 would require re-rerouting through Roslin to give them access. With all this in mind, the likelihood is 4/5.
Roslin is expanding rapidly, and with the recent local development plan, the village could double in size. This could lay credence to moving a secondary school there. Land has been allocated for 260 houses in the north of the village but this could be reduced to provide a new high school building. Transport wise, both Loanhead, Bilston and Roslin would have easy access to the site, either by foot or by bus (Lothian 37). Likelihood 3/5.
The land at south Bilston is earmarked for housing but could easily be used for a new secondary school. Transport links to the site would be excellent and the development could be linked to the new Bilston Primary School. However it is out-with a residential area. The land would also have to be acquired from the University of Edinburgh. Likelihood 3/5
It is the least likely option mentioned in this feature, however the allocated commercial land north of Ashgrove, Loanhead, could become home to the new secondary school. Owned by the now defunct Morston Assets, the land will become available to buy soon and the council could acquire it at a bargain price. The site would also benefit from connections to the planned new housing at Ashgrove but its isolation away from Bilston and Roslin would mean a lengthy commute for many pupils. Likelihood 2/5
Midlothian Council won’t report on their results until 2016 but many parents will be relieved to hear that Penicuik’s education provision is now being focused on. With a lack of funding, and many other planning considerations to be made, this promises to be a lengthy process.
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