This webinar discussed primary schools located in South Ayrshire. Although distinct projects in their own right, they both exhibited similar objectives: to open up the school to its local community, and enhance and develop overall life experiences and opportunities.
Newton Primary School as a Community Hub
Wallacetown is a deprived area on the outskirts of South Ayrshire which lacks community facilities, meaning there is no formal space for community issues to be appropriately addressed. Wallacetown has a high all-cause mortality rate, drug and alcohol misuse and a low immunization uptake for young children, increasing susceptibility to illness. These deep rooted societal issues need to be addressed. Having a dedicated space available to discuss these problems would help develop a sense of ownership within the community. As Newton Primary School had previously been involved in addressing these local issues, it made sense to repurpose unused spaces within the existing building to create a community hub. A computer suite and a vacant room were converted to achieve this. The development of this project not only provided spaces for community services, but was also a catalyst for service redesign. Since completion, the hub has offered services including food banks where individuals within the community can collect food packages, while enhancing their confidence and relationships. NHS services have been made accessible offering vaccinations for children, helping to address some of the area’s health challenges. Building on this, the hub delivers alcohol and drug support services – an important element within the planning and design process was security to safely offer this. Employability skills services are also offered in partnership with Ayrshire College to potentially encourage young people to remain in Wallacetown and help to boost the economy. Newton Primary School has ultimately become the heart of its community and a source of hope.
Ayr Grammar Primary School
Ayr Grammar Primary School’s refurbishment project took place in Ayr Academy’s former premises. As this is a historic building in Ayr’s town centre, a sensitive approach was taken when redesigning the infrastructure. It was important to not dramatically change the existing fabric, but instead maximise and celebrate its potential. One challenge was ensuring scaling was appropriate for primary aged children compared to its adolescent predecessors. An aim within this project was to create a community element which would provide the opportunity to engage in multiple learning experiences, regardless of age. The refurbishment offers spaces and lifelong learning opportunities for early years and primary level children, as well as a registration and archives facility for older generations: a true cradle-to-grave learning experience on one site. A community arts centre was additionally opened onsite for pupils and the wider community. Throughout the entire renovation it was important to retain as much of the existing fabric as possible. For instance, stonework was cleaned and repaired, timber panelling and tiles were refurbished, use of the tall ceilings meant large windows could allow natural daylight to enter.
Both projects recognised the significance of perceiving challenges as opportunities, which can act as a catalyst for addressing societal issues.