After opening its doors to pupils for the first time in August 2019, Bertha Park High School situated on the northern edge of Perth, has become a hallmark for state-of-the-art teaching facilities providing a dynamic learning environment capable of readying its learners for life and work in the 21st century.
Forming part of the Scottish Government’s ‘Schools for the Future’ programme, the £32.5m purpose-built school is entirely unique in being the first new, non-replacement secondary in Scotland for more than two decades.
Following an extensive two year build, the 1,100 capacity school, which features cutting-edge facilities including a stunning auditorium and performance space, a sports hall, gym and full size grass and synthetic football pitches alongside modern design elements such as street-style murals, was the 100th school to be built as part of Schools for the Future’s ambitious £1.8 billion initiative.
Beginning in 2009 the scheme, which is managed by the Scottish Futures Trust, aims to deliver 117 new schools across Scotland by 2020. The project, led by hub East Central Scotland on behalf of Perth and Kinross Council, with Robertson serving as the main contractor, forms part of an effort to accommodate Perth’s growing population.
Following an extensive consultation process with the local community Bertha Park High School, which has joined with US firm Microsoft to ensure it becomes a centre of excellence for digital technology, is adopting a widely welcomed and innovative approach to education with a considerable emphasis on digital learning. This includes every pupil being issued with their own device for use at school and at home to collaborate with each other and access learning resources and materials anywhere and at any time.
Enabling pupils to access and show their learning in more pioneering ways than with traditional methods, these devices will also help break down barriers to learning by adapting to individual learners’ needs.
A New Approach to Learning
Much has been made of Bertha Park’s different approach to learning. There are no personal mobile phones permitted during school hours and a daily mindfulness practice intends to prepare pupils for learning and for any challenges they might be facing. The school’s three core values – Respect, Respect, Respect – are emblazoned across its very walls.
As its new head teacher Stuart Clyde explains, the most impactful aspect of this new school will be on its relentless focus towards good relationships.
“Everything we’re doing differently has one purpose: to make the learners’ experience the best it possibly can be,” Stuart says. “We need everyone in our community: our staff, our pupils, and their parents to think a little differently about how we all interact with each other. The better the relationships between us all, the better the outcomes for our young people – it’s as simple as that.
“Traditional schooling prepares kids for life in the 20th century – an environment that no longer exists. We asked ourselves what skills do kids need now? What environment do they need to learn in? By questioning everything and consulting with parents and pupils from the outset, we have made bold decisions that will see us write our own history.”
As Convener of Perth and Kinross Council’s Lifelong Learning Committee, Councillor Caroline Shiers has been involved in the school’s development since its infancy. Forming part of their ‘Securing the Future of the School Estate’ transformation programme which is currently underway, its opening signals the first in a series of a £175m investment for primary and secondary schooling across the region between 2018 and 2028 including the recently announced £50m replacement of Perth High School.
Cllr Shiers said: “The development of the brand new school is an important part of the Council’s programme to transform the school estate in Perth and Kinross and enable it to deliver a high quality environment for learning and teaching into the future.
“We are ambitious for all our children and young people and our ongoing investment for the future reflects the importance the Council places on giving them opportunities to achieve to their fullest.”
She added: “Undoubtedly the quality of education available across Perth and Kinross is a key consideration for any families with school-age children looking to move into the area.”
The Scottish Government’s Education Secretary John Swinney who cut the turf on the grounds of Bertha Park two years ago and who officially opened the school, said the Schools for the Future programme demonstrates a commitment to ensuring young people and teachers can thrive in modern, state-of-the-art buildings.
He said: “The all-new Bertha Park High School delivers a fit-for-purpose learning environment and modern sports facilities for up to 1100 pupils. Through the £1.8 billion programme, we are delivering schools that make a real difference to the lives of pupils, teachers and parents as well as the wider communities they serve. I am pleased that the Scottish Government was able to support the development of Bertha Park with £19.6m funding as part of the programme.”