Tain’s long-awaited community campus is up for planning permission next week – and it’s flying the flag for outdoor learning.
If approved, it will be the first school built to ‘passivhaus’ standards in the Highlands.
Fans of Grand Designs will be familiar with the passivhaus – a building so energy-efficient it uses barely any heating.
The Tain 3-18 campus will include a nursery, primary school, high school, playgrounds and sports facilities. It will sit on a sloping site on Craighill Terrace next to the existing health centre and care home, with views across the Dornoch Firth.
Artist’s impressions show a two-storey design featuring wooden cladding and extensive landscaping.
Highland Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and Tain looks set to be a flagship school build for the local authority.
The grounds will feature ‘bespoke landscaping’ including an orchard, which planners say will add a green layer between the school and the town.
Highland Council has designed the outdoor space for learning, play, sports and socialising. Planned features include a woodland and growing garden, willow dens, timber trails, nest swing, wheelchair roundabout and even an outdoor amphitheatre.
Classes will be encouraged to spill outside for extra lessons outdoors or to eat lunch at the timber benches and canopies.
However, the school build is not without its issues. The council acknowledges that the site is “challenging” because it’s a tight, hilly space with a constricted road network.
Some local residents are concerned about increased traffic on Craighill Terrace and about access to the medical centre. The council says it is likely to invest more into local road improvements including widening the footpath.
The council will put together a detailed active travel plan to encourage walking and cycling to school.
Long-awaited new schools
The campus is a long-awaited project for the people of Tain. It replaces Knockbreck and Craighill primary schools and Tain Royal Academy, as well as local Gaelic schools and St Duthus special school.
The new campus will include a Gaelic provision and specialist education unit for up to 24 pupils with additional support needs.
The school will have grassed sports pitches and a MUGA – but there will be no swimming pool yet. The council says High Life Highland will keep the pool open at Tain Royal Academy until a new facility is provided.
The planning report also states that Craighill Primary School will stay open until the new campus is complete. After that, Highland Council will demolish the building and consider the site for future parking space.
The Tain campus proposal goes to planning committee on Tuesday April 26.