Pupils and staff at Kinellar Primary School in Blackburn have enjoyed marking the facility’s official opening alongside invited guests including Provost Bill Howatson who unveiled a special commemorative plaque.
The £12m project was completed last year and serves as a unique example of Aberdeenshire’s nationally-recognised primary school building brief, built on two floors and boasting views of the local countryside from a completely different perspective from what the local community might have been able to enjoy before.
Its social staircase is already becoming a well-used architectural feature alongside its many other bright and airy flexible learning spaces, including the glass fronted library and learning area upstairs. The school’s teaching wings benefit from cleverly designed acoustics, modern set up and technology offerings in all 16 classrooms, and are on two levels, with lightwells connecting them.
The process of building this state-of-the-art facility was a unique experience for Aberdeenshire’s property, learning estates and planning teams alongside professional consultants from Halliday Fraser Munro and Fairhurst, and contractors Morrison Construction. It involved decanting more than 400 pupils to nearby Midmill School for 18 months, following a fire in their old building, as well as making temporary accommodation on site suitable for the nursery children. The new school is built on the same site as its predecessor and the building brief was adapted to suit the local landscape.
Aberdeenshire Provost Bill Howatson said: “I am so very proud to mark the opening of this fantastic new facility. A great team effort has led to the delivery of an extremely high quality building on time and on budget, and we’re thankful to everyone who has played their part in that.
“It stands testament to what a community can achieve by working together, right from those dark early days after the fire when local people rallied round to offer soup and sandwiches to staff, to the lovely reception pupils received from the community in Kintore during their time at Midmill. The team at RS Coaches went the extra mile by offering great kindness to the young people on their daily commute, and by all accounts colleagues from Morrison Construction couldn’t have been more accommodating when it came to tours and learning experiences for the children. This is a big thumbs up to the people of Garioch.”
Specially commissioned artwork is also an important feature of the new school. Local artists worked with pupils to design and create a number of pieces, including a large Oak tree in the dining area symbolizing growth with leaves painted by every child. They also created a series of acrylic panels exploring how the children felt about the identity of their community: past, present and future. Part of their research involved a bus tour with the artists exploring parts of the community they may have been less familiar with.
During their time at Midmill, the pupils enjoyed the opportunity to walk back to Blackburn through the fields that separate the two areas. Photos were put together in a slide show for the ceremony and pupils enjoyed singing two particularly pertinent songs: ‘We’re building’ and ‘Sing Together’.
Chair of education and children’s services committee, councillor Gillian Owen commented: “It’s not only wonderful to see the pupils at Kinellar enjoying their new school but also to reflect on what a fantastic learning experience this project has given them. In addition to the educational opportunities – working with artists, the community and the construction team – the pupils have also learned important lessons when it comes to being resilient and flexible.
“Congratulations to head teacher Pamela Farquhar and the staff team at the school who have gone above and beyond to support the children settle in to the unfamiliar and make the most of the opportunities that come with change.”
As part of the build, the project team also used the opportunity to improve facilities in the village by redeveloping a derelict tennis court and constructing an enclosed children’s play park as well as additional parking for use by the school as well as the local community. The project has been well-received by pupils, staff, residents and visitors to Blackburn alike.
Vice chair councillor Mark Findlater summed up by saying: “This fantastic new facility has been designed in such a way it is truly inclusive for all. It suits the local landscape, it benefits from fantastic design features inside and out, and those inside should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved during the last few years.”
There are currently 152 primary schools operated by Aberdeenshire Council, 85 of which have a nursery unit. These schools serve over 20,000 pupils. Further details of Aberdeenshire’s nationally-recognised primary school building brief can be explored through this video clip, shown at a recent Education Scotland conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XoQVTI5awU