Since the 1970s, Craigie High School and Braeview Academy have been serving the communities of the east of Dundee.
In just four years time however – all going to plan – these schools will shut their doors for the final time and a new £60 million community campus will have been built to replace them.
This new school, on the site of the former St Saviours High School south of Drumgeith Road, will replace the ageing infrastructure with a “modern, vibrant community learning campus.”
Following the merger approval last week, we spoke to teachers and pupils at the two schools to get their thoughts on how this could transform the community.
A school fit for the 21st century
Enhanced access to IT devices and improved wifi connection will be at the centre of how teaching is delivered in the future.
But the current Craigie and Braeview buildings, which were opened in 1970 and 1976 respectively, present challenges for how this can be delivered.
For Andrena Waghorn, headteacher at Craigie High School, the new community campus offers a chance to create a learning environment for the future.
She said: “The restrictions of a building built 50 years ago can sometimes get in the way.
“It was fit for purpose then, but the way young people learn now, with bringing your own device to school, we need to provide really strong wifi access.
“When they are building a new school, they are thinking about these things. You need to future-proof the school because it is a long-term investment.”
Lesley Elder, headteacher at Braeview, pointed to the recent experiences of remote learning as an example of how important improved IT access is to modern teaching.
She said: “My hope is that the new Braeview and Craigie community campus is at the forefront of learning that’s supported by IT solutions.
“The past 12 months have provided the opportunity for our staff to upskill themselves in how to deliver learning using IT, albeit at the moment it’s remotely.
“The investment of staff time in this will have huge payback when we come back into the school building.”
What is good about a bigger campus?
There are currently around 1,450 pupils enrolled across the two secondaries and when the new community campus opens its doors, it’s expected to be home to more than 1,500 pupils.
For some the increase in the size of the school is a worry and the public consultation on the merger highlighted concerns about the possible negative implications of having more pupils in the one school.
But with more pupils comes more staff, and this opens up opportunities to expand the curriculum on offer.
Mrs Waghorn said: “One of the things that young people sometimes don’t always appreciate is the opportunities that come with being part of a bigger school.
“For example, in a bigger school you will have more staff so you can offer more opportunities in the curriculum and more subject choice.
“The curricular choices available to young people will grow exponentially, and I’m very excited at the prospect of that.”
The prospect of increased links with Dundee and Angus College is also highlight for Mrs Elder, who deemed the increase in choice as a “game-changer” for pupils.
She added: “There will be a bigger range of subjects, particularly in the senior phase and they will have the opportunity to learn in a more 21st century, up to date way.
“Certain courses can be delivered at the community campus by college lecturers and that would be key for our pupils at Braeview because the vast majority of our young people go on to Dundee and Angus College.
“I see that as real game-changer for the Braeview and Craigie community.”
A new school community
Another concern raised in the public consultation was how smooth the transition from two school communities to a single one could be.
But Mrs Waghorn believes that the two schools are already in a good position to come together as one, as happened when Braeview Academy suffered significant damage in a blaze in September 2018.
She said: “I’m sure there will be challenges ahead but I feel that any which come up between now and when we move in we can overcome by working together.
“When the fire happened at Braeview, half of their cohort came here, so I think any fears people might have about putting two schools together have been alleviated.
“I can see no major negative at all in going down this road. I think it’s one of the most exciting things for this community that we have ever seen.”
The two school communities will also be working closely together in the coming years to ensure to that, by the time the new school opens, pupils will be familiar faces to each other.
Mrs Elder said: “Further down the line Mrs Waghorn and I will be creating opportunities, whether it be sporting competitions or some theatre or artwork.
“This is to prepare the young people for moving into the same building. I don’t foresee any issues in clashing with pupils or communities.”
Additional support needs
Data has shown a growing number of young people with significant and complex additional support needs within the east of Dundee
To address this, bespoke facilities for additional support needs pupils to support inclusion and transition is a key element of the plans for the merger.
Mrs Waghorn said: “To meet the needs of all our learners we had to retrofit our school.
“We’ve had a traditional school in accommodation so when we’ve had autistic pupils we have had to designed sensory areas and quiet area which meant adapting and changing things.
“And while we have done a fabulous job of doing that, actually having a space that is designed to do that will make such a difference.”
Mrs Elder: added: “The great thing about the new school, because of the new ASN hub, there will be opportunities for pupils with complex additional support needs to attend a school in their own community.”
What are the pupils saying?
A four-year transition to the new school is to be planned through a project board which will be made up of staff, pupils and parents from both Braeview and Craigie.
Getting pupils involved in the project, especially those in the younger years, is a key element and young people are being given the chance to put forward their ideas for the new school.
Braeview pupils Lilah Farquharson and Sophie Pountney are among those who are getting involved.
Lilah, 13, said: “Pupils have a lot of opportunities to help design the building and the name of the school.
“We can also be involved the mapping out of the school and different ways to get to it, such as the safest or quickest routes. Our ideas are really important.”
Sophie, 12, who is in her first year of secondary school, is excited at the prospect of having a brand new campus on her doorstep in a few years time.
She said: “It’ll be a community campus as well so people can use the building for other activities in the evening.
“The new school will have the most up-to-date facilities in Scotland, and it will be a much nicer looking building.”
Over at Craigie, first year pupils Aiden Provan, Natalie Shaw and Alina Lavrinovica are all eager to get on board with putting forward with their ideas for the new school.
For Aiden, 12, the prospect of being involved from the start is one he is relishing.
He said: “I’m excited about it because I like the idea that I can have an impact on the new school.
“We can have a voice and be able to suggest ideas to those in charge.”
Despite their concerns about moving to a bigger school, both Alina and Natalie expressed confidence that by the time it opened its doors, pupils from both schools would be well known to each-other.
As for what it will be like to switch to a new school, there are no concerns from the Craigie youngsters given that they have already experienced a huge change via remote learning.
Aiden added: “It will be a change all at the one time, rather than it being bits here and there.
“You know what’s coming so you can prepare yourself and you can manage the changes.”