You would be hard pushed to find a head teacher who is prouder of her school than Gillian Robertson.
The head of Carrongrange High School, which opens its doors to senior pupils today (Thursday) and the rest of the youngsters tomorrow, loves every aspect of the new additional support needs learning facility located in Oxgang Road, Grangemouth, built over the course of 18 months to replace Larbert’s Carrongrange School.
Mrs Robertson said: “It meets the wide range of needs of all our pupils and I’m so looking forward to seeing their reactions when they see it.
“It’s a fantastic reflection of how much we value our young people and their families. They all deserve a facility like this and our staff all deserve to work in a school like this.
“There was great feedback from parents and pupils on the tours we held and we cannot wait to get in and get started. We’re happy to now be a part of the Grangemouth community and looking forward to making contact with local businesses and organisations – and using Zetland Park.
“We have three special bikes adapted for children in wheelchairs and Zetland Park would be the perfect place to use them.”
The head teacher and most of the 80 teachers and support staff were mucking in together with some last minute unpacking yesterday to have the school ready for the pupils, but Mrs Robertson took time out to show The Falkirk Herald around.
Featuring 19 classrooms which all lead into outdoor learning areas, nine specialist classrooms, a bike workshop and an independent living teaching area which looks better than a lot of high end flats available on the market at the moment, the school also boasts a swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool, complete with sensory lights and an overhead tracking system to help wheelchair users easily access the facilities.
A vocational training room is currently set up as a beauty salon, complete with massage table, but can change to suit other professions.
Flexibility is one of the key features of the new school, with some of the classrooms able to double in size with the removal of screening.
Mrs Robertson said: “The staff have worked really hard packing and unpacking – it was a huge amount of work to get everything packed up and brought here. There is much more storage here and the amount of light in the building is fantastic.
“The technology we have here is amazing – smartboards in the classrooms and tablets and other devices for the pupils. Security is so much better – we have security cards to get into and out of classrooms.
“The total floor area is actually the same as the Larbert school, but the layout here makes you feel it’s so much bigger. It’s taking some getting used to find our way around, but the signs are really clear.
“The whole outdoor facility is just so much better and we also have a roof garden and a sensory garden.”
Mrs Robertson was full of praise for Falkirk Council architect Steven McEwan – the “main man” behind the design of the school.
She said: “I can’t really praise him enough. He understood what we were all about and spent over three weeks going around the Carrongrange School in Larbert with a notebook listening to us tell him what worked and what didn’t.”
The pupils themselves also had a hand in designing the badge for the new school and other aspects of the building.
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald officially welcomed the opening of the school in parliament.
He said: “It’s gives youngsters with additional support needs every chance to succeed and learn in a comfortable and encouraging environment.”