Scotland Culture, sport and tourism

Innovation in action: Wallyford Learning Campus

Bookmark

Credit: East Lothian Council

Introduction

In recent years, East Lothian, just east of Edinburgh, has experienced significant growth. Home to over 112,000 people and reporting a 12.6% growth rate between 2011 and 2022, it has been – and continues to be – one of the fastest growing council areas in Scotland. New housing developments, such as the 2,050 new homes in Wallyford, have been developed to accommodate the influx of ex-pats from the Southeast of England. Additionally, recognizing the need for more educational facilities, in 2016 East Lothian Council approved a consultation process to construct the first new secondary school in the area since 1969.

Architecture

JM Architects and Morrison Construction, an architecture and design team appointed by ELC’s development partner Hub South East, have gone a step further. Following East Lothian’s brief and the Wallyford masterplan, they’ve built the £47.2m Wallyford Learning Campus (WLC)—a modern multi-purpose community space balancing state-of-the-art facilities with inspiration from the area’s natural environment.

JM Architects describe the facility as not only sustainable but positively “biophilic,” with a holistic approach to both energy efficiency and community inspired by the idea of a self-sufficient neighbourhood. That means using low-impact fabrics and environmentally sensitive operational systems that contribute to the health and wellbeing of users. For instance, its architecture maximises natural daylight, with sensor-driven lighting systems complementing it in a sympathetic and unobtrusive manner.

It also means constructing a dense, inclusive, multi-purpose, and intergenerational centre that builds on the urbanist principle of the 15-minute city, where key facilities, services, and amenities are readily at hand. JM Architects refer to the WLC as a superblock in reference to Barcelona’s self-contained 3×3-block neighbourhoods that prioritize pedestrian and cycling access over cars. The ambition is for the WLC to form part of a new urban nucleus for the former mining village of Wallyford.

JM Architects submitted its plans in February 2021. Ground was broken in August 2021, and the facilities opened on schedule and on budget in Autumn 2023.

Funding

Funding for the WLC came from the £2bn Learning Estate Investment Program, a joint programme between Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). The funds support local authorities for new and refurbished educational facilities, and prioritise outcomes such as the construction of modernizing and sustainable developments, including digital facilities and infrastructure, as well as energy efficiency and carbon targets. As Scottish Futures Trust explains, this programme approach to learning estate development prioritises establishing best practices by inviting expert input in setting parameters and having measurable outcomes.

Features

At the centre of the WLC is the new Rosehill High School, the first school constructed using LEIP funds. The name Rosehill was decided upon following extensive consultation with learners, families and staff, and reflects the local area and the school’s nature-based design.

As Headteacher Gail Preston explains, “The idea of the rose links with the biophilic design of the campus and its references to the natural world. It also reflects the vision we have for our young people: a learning environment in which, with care and attention, they can grow, thrive, and become the best versions of themselves. And, as one of our young people pointed out – the school is literally on a hill!”

The school opened in August 2023 with around 300 students and 50 staff, and has a projected future pupil roll of around 1000.

Alongside modern teaching and social spaces, the WLC also hosts The Brae, a specialist provision for secondary age young people with severe and complex needs who live across the county, as well as a dedicated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) centre.

Further specialized education offerings housed in the WLC aim to get skilled workers into in-demand industries. These include the Regional Construction Skills Academy, delivered by Edinburgh College, and an Agriculture Skills Academy, delivered in partnership with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Outside of education, also housed in the WLC is the Margaret Oliphant Library, which has moved from its former home inside neighbouring Wallyford Primary. Just like the school, the library takes inspiration from the history, nature, and current character of East Lothian. The library’s design features light wooden finishes and extensive use of glass with views to the east of Wallyford. The new library opened to Rosehill students from the start of the school term and to the wider public from mid-September 2023.

Beyond this, WLC also houses a community centre offering a range of activities, craftwork, games, cooking, outdoor education, outings and seasonal celebrations, as well as sports facilities, including three synthetic pitches and two grass pitches.

Community reception

The community has welcomed the new state-of-the-art development with open arms. Speaking to the East Lothian Courier, Justin Hynd and Ann Patton, co-chairs of Wallyford Community Council, issued a joint statement on behalf of the group, saying, “The opening of Rosehill secondary school and Wallyford Learning Campus is incredibly exciting and having a state of the art learning, sports and community facility will be of huge benefit to not only the village but the wider local area.” Wallyford resident Alister Hadden described the new learning campus as “a flagship of education.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire, East Lothian Council leader, said, “Wallyford Learning Campus fulfils our ambition to make sure that the benefits of development are widely felt across East Lothian from high quality, modern schools to spaces for communities. The building and its grounds have been designed to maximise opportunities for people of all ages and interests and act as a hub for community activities and initiatives. It’s a key part of our ambition for a dynamic, thriving East Lothian that enables our people and communities to flourish.”

Councillor Fiona Dugdale is also a fan. She said, “Having visited the campus when it was a construction site it’s wonderful to visit now that it is up and running, meet some of Rosehill’s young people and experience the buzz that is unique to a secondary school. Gail Preston and her team at Rosehill have to be commended for all their work to create the supportive and vibrant environment that is so evident when you walk through the doors.

“The quality of the design and finish is incredible and reflects the significant investment in this new facility. It is a testament to all of the teams involved at every stage of this development. I am delighted that it is now benefiting learners and the wider Wallyford community.”

Comment

Though there might be some concerns about the extent of development and population growth in East Lothian and fear of the area turning into North American-style suburban sprawl, spaces like the WLC, new, inclusive, community-focused, multi-purpose, sensitive to the area’s history, natural environment and economic needs should help to quiet doubts.

A similar facility exists in Aberfeldy, the Breadalbane Academy and Community Campus, however, WLC is the first of its kind in East Lothian. There is hope that it could serve as a model for future developments as much-needed housing is constructed in areas without existing services, amenities, and infrastructure.



Bookmark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *