Final day at Duns Primary after almost 130 years of education

After seeing generations of local youngsters educated within its walls, Duns Primary School finally closes its doors to pupils this week.

Thursday, 29th June 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:41 am
The nursery class at Duns Nursery were the last pupils to join the old school. The are picture on their last day in the old buildingbefore they move to their new school.

Primary and nursery school pupils will start the new term in August in the recently-converted former Berwickshire High School building along the road, and the old building will be put on the market by Scottish Borders Council.

A council spokesperson said: “The council will look to market the current Duns Primary School site following the end of term, with the property formally declared surplus to requirements.

“The school site is currently designated for redevelopment within the current local development plan.

Pupils at Duns Primary School nursery are looking forward to starting P1 at the new school.

“There are some portable buildings on site which local groups have declared an interest in, which the council will discuss with the groups as part of the appraisal of the school site.”

Duns Primary School was opened in 1880, six years after the state took over responsibility for education.

Prior to that, generations of the town’s children were educated at Duns Parish School, now used as church halls.

There was also a free church school in the town at the corner of Newtown Street and Willis Wynd, opened in 1846.

An aerial view of Duns Primary school with all the pupils in the playground.

Over the years, the Victorian school building, in Langtongate, was extended, including the addition of an open-plan infant department, but even that was not sufficient to accommodate the growing number of children in the town, and portable cabins and huts have been a regular feature in its grounds. Even its canteen was in a hut in the grounds during the 1970s.

In 2009, school buildings across the Borders were ranked according to need - based on a combination of condition, suitability and sufficiency, and Duns Primary finished at the top of the pile its score, giving serious cause for concern.

Inspectors also highlighted accommodation as a major weakness for Duns Primary back in 2007, and the council acknowledged that there was “a significant risk” it wouldn’t be able to cope with a projected increase in numbers if the school weren’t moved.

The original Victorian part remains the bit of the building in best condition, but it was clear that alternative premises needed to be found.

Pupils at Duns Primary School nursery are looking forward to starting P1 at the new school.

The decision to re-site the school in the old high school building was made in 2009, and with the £8.6m funding needed in place, work started on making it suitable for primary education and for a new Berwickshire locality support centre in 2015.

Pupils have been visiting their new school this week to familiarise themselves with the new surroundings before they start there on Wednesday, August 16.

Lauren Hamilton, whose son Charlie will attend the support centre, visited the school and said afterwards: “The new learning support centre is really quite something.

“It will be amazing for the children attending. Although I had some reservations about him going, that was all forgotten about.

An aerial view of Duns Primary school with all the pupils in the playground.

“The children will have access to the pool and a large outdoor area with basketball nets, football goals and plenty of space to run about in safely.

“This centre has been a long time coming, but I am sure it has been worth the wait.”

Staff will have two closure days, one this week and one as the new term starts, to allow time for packing and unpacking to ensure classrooms are ready for the new school session.