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Education / Building new school picked as preferred option for future of education in Brae

The Brae secondary department, pictured here, is joined by a primary and nursery. Photo © Google 2021

A REPORT on how best to improve facilities at Brae High School has selected a new build – estimated to cost between £16 million and £20 million – as the preferred option.

Shetland Islands Council could make a bid for funding to the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme for the project if it came to fruition.

A strategic outline case on ‘sustaining education in Brae’ is due to be presented to councillors over the coming weeks.

A number of issues with the primary and secondary buildings are highlighted, such as the deteriorating condition of the estate and its carbon footprint.

Options are also limited in the current buildings for the increasing number of pupils who need additional support needs (ASN) assistance.

Other problems raised in the report include space for staff from visiting services, a lack of flexible “break out spaces” for pupils – especially those with ASN – and inside and outside play and learning being compromised, which is now encroaching into the car park.

There are also concerns raised from the Brae Parent Council, including car parking and the inside space and layout of the school.

Brae is Shetland’s only age three to 18 school, and it includes four buildings which are said to be deteriorating in condition internally and externally.

The total school roll in September last year was 328 – 35 in nursery, 149 in primary and 144 in the secondary. It takes in pupils from across the North Mainland.

A report to councillors said that “whilst the buildings have a large footprint, the design is ageing and does not provide the flexibility required for every child to achieve their full potential”.

The primary was built in the 70s and the secondary building followed in the early 1980s.

It initially offered learning up to secondary four but in 1993 it expanded to fifth and sixth year.

With a desire for upgrading the facilities, five options have now been drawn up in a shortlist.

They range from doing nothing to refurbishment or creating a link between the primary and secondary buildings.

But an entire new build has been selected by council officials as the preferred way forward.

This would provide a “fit for purpose, flexible, energy efficient, digitally enabled school with the opportunity for use by visiting services and the wider community”.

The cost for a replacement school, based on current pupil numbers, would be in the region of £12 million to £13 million.

But a ‘Shetland uplift’ of around 32 per cent, which is related to building cost in the isles, takes the estimated total to £16 million to £17 million.

If there is a desire to future proof the building for projected increased school rolls, then the estimate rises to £20 million.

More details on the prospective financial implications to the council would became clear later in the business case process, the report says.

Some options were immediately discounted, such as closing the secondary department and refurbishing the primary.

The last new school built in Shetland was Lerwick’s Anderson High School, which opened to pupils in 2017.

If councillors give the strategic outline case a warm welcome, then the next step would be an outline business case.

It is the first project to emerge under the council’s recently approved learning estate strategy for 2021-31.

The outline case will first go in front of members of the council’s education and families committee on Monday before getting an airing at the policy and resources and full council meetings the week after.