Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Meldrum Academy was Aberdeenshire’s first ‘superschool’ and opened 20 years ago

Meldrum Academy became known as the region's first 'superschool'.
Meldrum Academy became known as the region's first 'superschool'.

First days back at school are normally an exciting time for pupils and especially when they are walking into a brand new building.

So you can imagine the sense of anticipation when 350 first and second-year students arrived at the £12 million Meldrum Academy 20 years ago this week and were greeted by their teachers in a facility grandly billed as Aberdeenshire’s “jewel in the crown”.

The youngsters were able to take advantage of three social areas which led them to classrooms, an attractive central courtyard with landscaping and lighting and a range of impressive sports and drama amenities which helped explain why it was described as a “superschool”, designed to take pupils from 13 feeder schools in the surrounding area.

However, there was also political controversy about the way the project was financed – as the first community school to be built in Aberdeenshire under the Private Finance Initiative – and it suffered a few teething problems within months of its opening.

Oldmeldrum Academy was billed as a “superschool” in the north east.

The Princess Royal formally opened Meldrum Academy in August 2002 and seemed impressed by the scale of the community initiative as she toured the building.

Opening ceremony for Meldrum Academy

During the ceremony, she was met by Lord Lieutenant Angus Farquharson and shown around the school, which included some of the most modern facilities in Scotland, including drama and music studios, a fitness suite and a gym with a spectators’ gallery.

The school also housed a library – which opened the following month – and a cafe which promoted healthy eating to pupils and the staff, and pupils were bolstered by having access to the most up-to-date computer infrastructure in Scotland.

The Princess Royal formally opened Meldrum Academy in August 2002.

The Press and Journal covered the development of the school from its early days as a large building site through to the gradual completion of the venture. And the paper was offered a tour of the premises just a few weeks before they were officially opened.

It reported: “The games hall offers pupils the latest in sports facilities and there is a large assembly hall theatre featuring retractable seating and a stage complete with theatre-style lighting, sound and curtains.

‘Minor creases to be ironed out’

“The cafeteria is also expected to be a big hit with pupils. Electronic swipe cards, complete with a photograph of the owner, replace money.

The construction site at Meldrum Academy in December 2001.

“Head teacher Andrew Sutherland said: ‘Most members of staff have been into the building over the last few weeks, so they are familiar with the work that has been going on, but we are all very enthusiastic and positive that the big day is going to go smoothly.

“All the classrooms are ready for the learning and teaching to start. There are a few minor creases to be ironed out, but that is the same with any new school.

“We have a full programme organised for pupils.”

Meldrum Academy became known as the region’s first “superschool”.

However, while the school’s qualities proved a hit with students, the means by which the construction project was brought to fruition was criticised by opposition politicians.

Funding method criticised

Standing at the gates of the state of the art complex, the SNP’s shadow minister for education Mike Russell said: “I am very pleased to see Oldmeldrum and the surrounding area now has such an impressive new school. But what I am not happy about is the fact that is that it is costing the public far too much.

“No one is in any doubt this kind of new facility is needed in many parts of the country, but the public private partnership (PPP) means new buildings are run by private companies whose shareholders are making a profit from the taxpayer.”

Meldrum Academy opened its doors in August 2002 and was an instant hit with pupils.

Mr Russell argued that the growth of PPPs in education was leading to the closure of rural schools because education budgets were faced with an ongoing cost burden.

He told the P&J: “Let us build more new schools like Meldrum Academy across Scotland in the years ahead. But let us build them through not-for-profit trusts, so that all the money goes to benefit pupils, not faceless investors.”

Leak just three months after opening

However, Aberdeenshire Council responded by insisting that they had taken all the proper steps in financing the flagship school, constructed by the Elgin-based Robertson Group, which, upon completion, had reached an arrangement whereby they would lease the building to the local authority for the next 25 years.

Meldrum Academy was built to accommodate up to 900 students.

Given the hype which surrounded the academy and its links to the community, there were some red faces when the place sprung a leak just three months after opening.

Builders had to be drafted in to repair the roof at the school, following torrential rain in October, but it later emerged there had been concerns about the design.

The Evening Express reported: “A fault in a seal above the school’s library has been blamed for the leak, which forced the closure of the library over the weekend and part of Monday, while repair works and electrical tests were carried out.

Everything was ready for the successful opening of Meldrum Academy in 2002.

“Head teacher Mr Sutherland said: ‘It was a special roof that had been fitted and one part of it had not been sealed properly, and that led to water coming into the building. But it was only a very small leak.

Important part of community

“As with any new building, you do expect some snags. But 99.9% of the building is watertight. It was just unfortunate that this small problem occurred, but it was nothing major. The library was closed for a few days, but all the resources were still available to the pupils, and the problem has been resolved so it should not happen again.”

Meldrum Academy is now an important part of the community in Aberdeenshire.

Project manager Iain Sutherland of Robertsons conceded that the leaky roof had been an issue for the previous two months, yet claimed it was nothing to cause alarm.

He said: “The problem has been surfacing since October, but we have got to the bottom of it. The works carried out were minimal and it is nothing to get concerned about.”

He was right. Politicians may have clashed over the funding method, but there’s no doubt Meldrum Academy has become an important part of its north-east community.

And if you were one of the original intake, the chances are you will agree the advances in technology and education aids helped make these among the best days of your life!

More like this:

Ashes to classes: How Strathburn School in Inverurie rose again after being destroyed by fire in February 2001