Wallyford set to get new high school to cope with housing boom

Pinkie St Peter's Primary School in Musselburgh. Picture: Scott Taylor
Pinkie St Peter's Primary School in Musselburgh. Picture: Scott Taylor
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EAST Lothian is set to get a new high school at Wallyford to cope with the expected population increase from major housing developments in the area.

A consultation is being launched on the proposals, which will include changes to catchment areas for several existing schools in the area.

The council says the £35 million cost of the new school will be partially offset by contributions from developers.

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East Lothian is required by the Strategic Development Plan for South East Scotland to provide enough housing land for 10,050 new homes by 2024, with around 6000 of them expected to be built in the Musselburgh area.

If the new school goes ahead, it will be the first all-new high school in the county for several decades.

Other options to cope with the surge in pupil numbers were considered – including an enlarged Musselburgh Grammar School on a new site or a new senior school to take S4-S6 students on a separate site.

But a report to the full council meeting on Tuesday said the school roll at an expanded Musselburgh Grammar could reach a peak of 2337 pupils and a new building of that size would cost twice the price of a separate new school.

The report said the option of splitting junior and senior pupils on different sites would mean teachers moving between the two locations, reduced contact time, increased staff travel costs and potentially higher levels of truancy.

A pre-consultation exercise last summer found 40 per cent of respondents in favour of a new school, compared with 32 per cent for an enlarged Musselburgh Grammar and 26 per cent who preferred a new S4-S6 school.

The report said a second secondary school in the Musselburgh area could offer additional community facilities and enhance curriculum provision across the existing Musselburgh Grammar and the new school.

An alternative site at Craighall was also considered for the new school, but the council was told it had significant constraints, including access and limited public transport services, while Wallyford can be accessed by a range of suitable foot and cycle routes and public transport.

The council agreed the plan for a new school at Wallyford should be the focus of the consultation.

The proposal will also include the revision of the catchment areas of Pinkie St Peter’s Primary, Wallyford Primary, Musselburgh Grammar School, Sanderson’s Wynd Primary and Ross High School.

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, East Lothian Council’s spokeswoman for education and children’s services, said: “Council approved the proposal for a formal consultation to take place on the additional secondary education capacity that is needed for the Musselburgh cluster. People can be assured that a thorough consultation process will be carried out, which will be robust in its level of engagement.

“Our newly appointed head of education, Fiona Robertson, who has considerable experience in this area, will be leading on the consultation.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com