The New Anderson High School Takes Shape

by Alastair Hamilton -

On the north shore of the Loch of Clickimin, in Lerwick, Shetland’s newest school is beginning to take shape.

Work on the new school, along with accommodation for students from outlying areas, began at the end of July 2015 and is due to be completed in September 2017. The project cost is just under £56m, two-thirds of which will come from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Futures Trust. The main contractor is Morrison Construction.

The Anderson Educational Institute – motto: Dö Weel and Persevere – was founded as the result of a gift from Arthur Anderson, a Shetland businessman and philanthropist who co-founded the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, known today as P&O. It opened in August 1862 and was originally fee-paying, with senior and elementary departments. From 1902, with the opening of the Lerwick Central School for primary pupils, the Institute focused on secondary education, as it does to this day.

Dö Weel and Persevere!

In its centenary year, the school roll was 347, with several extensions having been added around the original building. Expansion continued, often by the addition of various huts, and it became the Anderson High School, following the introduction of comprehensive education, in 1970. The roll settled between 800 and 900 and new building continued through the 1990s, with a new science building added in 1993. A dedicated Additional Support Needs building was the last addition on the original site, opening in 2005.

By then, it was becoming clear that the operation of the school from so many buildings of varying ages and conditions was no longer efficient and there was considerable debate about the most appropriate place for a completely new school. The site eventually chosen is closer to the town’s main residential areas and, for those arriving by bus or car from elsewhere in Shetland, it offers much easier road access than the present site. The new school will also be adjacent to the Clickimin Leisure Centre, with its sports halls, 25m swimming pool and outdoor facilities including pitches and running track.

...there was considerable debate about the most appropriate place for a completely new school...

Today, the Anderson High School has students from every part of Shetland, except for those within the north mainland catchment area of the smaller Brae High School, Shetland’s other six-year secondary. Those attending junior secondary schools in Unst, Yell, Whalsay, Aith and Sandwick who wish to continue into fifth and sixth year transfer to the Anderson High School. Children from Fetlar, Out Skerries, Papa Stour, Foula or Fair Isle have to make the move to Lerwick at the end of primary school.

The school has won praise from inspectors, whose last inspection identified innovative practice and praised:

  • Well-behaved, responsible young people who are keen to learn and actively support their school and community.
  • A safe, caring, supportive and inclusive environment for all young people.
  • High-quality support from specialist staff for young people with particular learning needs.
  • Staff’s enthusiasm and dedication to enhancing experiences for young people.
  • The strong lead and direction from the headteacher, ably supported by the depute headteachers
Well-behaved, responsible young people...

Anderson High School was the birthplace of the Global Classroom, a successful, continuing international collaboration.

With fewer than eighteen months to opening, staff and students are already involved in planning for the transition. Some younger pupils from the nearby Bell’s Brae Primary School who, in a few years, will start their secondary education in the new building, have already become familiar with the new site, as they have been planting trees around the perimeter and will regularly check their growth.

It’s not yet clear what will happen to the present site, though the original buildings, which are ‘listed’, will no doubt be retained. One benefit will be that the huts that presently obscure the facade of the oldest building will, at last, be removed. For students and staff, the new school should be a huge improvement on their present surroundings.

...staff and pupils are already involved in planning for the transition...

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