GIVING the new secondary school at Wallyford its own identity is high on the agenda for its first headteacher, who is looking forward to welcoming pupils through its doors in August next year.

Gail Preston, 44, is set to work with pupils, parents and the wider community on a name for the school, which is part of the new £47.2 million Wallyford Learning Campus.

The school will cater for children from Wallyford Primary School and Pinkie St Peter’s Primary School in Musselburgh amid major new house building in the area.

Ms Preston said that pupils from the new catchment area who are currently in S1 and S2 at Musselburgh Grammar School but will be S2 and S3 from next August will also transfer to the new school, although exceptions, such as keeping siblings together, are anticipated.

She is getting a bird’s eye view of the construction of the building from her current base at Wallyford Primary School on Futures Way and has enjoyed visits to the site.

Pupil voice groups have been set up at Wallyford and Pinkie St Peter’s Primaries, and for catchment pupils at Musselburgh Grammar.

East Lothian Courier: The new secondary school at Wallyford takes shape. Photo (Drone): Angus Bathgate

Image: Angus Bathgate

“Each will have four sessions between now and Christmas looking at what we value about our schools, the school community, the school identity and pupil learning. These will involve almost 100 pupils in total across the three schools,” said Ms Preston.

In-person parent engagement sessions are also being held from now until Christmas, with the three schools all hosting at least one.

“All pupils and all parents will also be linked to ‘snapshot survey’ on, for example, the school name, house names, and school values. These will start coming out from January,” added Ms Preston.

For those who cannot attend the in-person engagement sessions, every parent is sent an online link for their written responses. Paper versions are available at school offices if there is an issue with online access. Responses are shared via the new school website.

Ms Preston stressed that she would like to hear the views of parents and carers.

Alongside modern teaching and social spaces, the new learning campus will include specialist provision for secondary-age young people with severe and complex needs who live across the county, a dedicated science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) centre, and a Tots and Teens area.

In addition, it will provide access to gym, sport, nutrition and health and wellbeing facilities.

East Lothian Courier: The new secondary school at Wallyford takes shape. Photo (Drone): Angus Bathgate

Image: Angus Bathgate

A range of partnership opportunities have been developed in order to provide an enhanced range of outdoor learning, employability and training opportunities for both adults and young people.

The new school will have a roll of about 300 pupils in the first year, increasing by about 150 each year beyond that, and only starts with S1 to S3; older pupils will stay at Musselburgh Grammar.

Ms Preston added: “There are various projections and factors that come in that essentially everything that’s being put in just now is based on it going up to 970 to 1,000 pupils by the time those S1s are in S6 – it’s that long-term planning East Lothian Council are doing just now, getting the structures right so they can be added to easily rather than thinking about it being one year it’s this and one year it’s that.”

Ms Preston, who is married with two daughters, is originally from Dumfries. She graduated with an MA in English literature and theatre studies at the University of Glasgow before going to Jordanhill College of Education.

A qualified English and drama teacher, she did some English teaching at the start of her career, then led drama and expressive arts before going into senior leadership. She is presently finishing her masters in educational leadership and learning at the University of Edinburgh, which started with her headship qualification, and is due to finish the same week as the new school opens. She previously worked at Dalkeith High School for 21 years, latterly as depute headteacher for seven years.

Ms Preston, who lives in Dalkeith, is looking forward to her new job in East Lothian, saying: “It is hugely busy and there are going to be a lot of challenges but it is absolutely the dream job.

'A real privilege'

“How many people get the opportunity to build a school from scratch? Virtually zero.

“Developing a creative and innovative curriculum, and having the chance to build the whole school culture and ethos – it’s hugely exciting and a real privilege.”

Previous to Wallyford, Ross High School in Tranent was the last secondary school community to be established in East Lothian in 1954.

The newest complete school building is believed to be Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans in 1969, when the school was rebuilt after fire.

Knox Academy in Haddington is East Lothian’s longest-established school, dating back to 1379, although it has only been named after John Knox since 1879. Musselburgh Grammar School opened, as a fee-paying school, in 1835.

The council has extended existing schools over the years, with projects at Ross High and North Berwick High School opening this summer, and the Dunbar Grammar school extension in 2019..