Peebles High School Fire Update

General FAQs

Latest update: 3.30pm Monday 30th December


Specific FAQs are available for S1-S3 pupils and S4-S6 pupils. Information regarding the prelims is also available. The information below covers other questions which parents and carers have asked us, and will be added to as more details become available.

Teaching and learning

What is the timescale for getting pupils back on PHS site?

We anticipate getting all pupils back on 3 and 4 February. Please see information on this

Are temporary classrooms an option to get all pupils back to PHS?

We have ordered a number of modular buildings to provide classroom and toilet facilities on the PHS site to ensure we can accommodate all pupils on the site. Temporary additional toilet facilities will also be in place for the prelim exams during January.

If the young person is self-motivated, why not allow home working?

Home learning enabled students to progress with their education immediately after the fire but is not a replacement for face to face teaching. If a student has particular needs or circumstances they/parents/carers should contact the school to discuss further.

Will students be able to access a science lab?

We are working as hard as we can to support pupils who need access to facilities like labs and it’s certainly a priority when we are assessing the PHS site. In the short term Galashiels Academy may have capacity within their science block so we are looking into that as an option.

Are vulnerable pupils and those with additional needs being adequately supported?

Regardless of year group, all complex needs students from PHS will attend the enhanced provision at Galashiels Academy until they can return to PHS. This has been in place since Tuesday 3 December and pupils have settled in well. Vulnerable young people attending the other learning bases are being supported by Pastoral Care staff.

There are some concerns that S1-S3s learning will fall behind as seniors are prioritised due to exams?

We are focused on providing the best possible learning arrangements for all pupils. This includes ensuring that S3 pupils are supported with electing their Nat 5 options. We are also looking to enrich the learning provision to S1-S3 pupils while the senior students are on exam leave. It has been a priority to get all pupils back on PHS site as soon as possible and we are pleased to announce that we expect this to be 3 and 4 February. 

There are some free periods in the timetable – could this be looked at?

We are constantly looking to refine the timetabling but it has been necessary to have some free periods simply due to the challenges and logistics of putting everything in place within the timescales. We would ask for your patience as what we are delivering is genuinely the best we have been able to do but we are continuing to refine what is being offered.

The timetable has some very long periods – would it be possible to have even a 5-10 minute in between?

Yes, we can look at that.

It does look like in some cases pupils are getting less teaching time. Is it possible to recruit more teachers to help, maybe providing extra tuition after hours?

It would not be logistically possible to recruit extra teachers but we are looking to refine the timetable as much as we possibly can. We are also arranging extra activities over the Easter Break.

Will the SQA make a blanket consideration for all pupils? Some may have lost more work than others, but everyone has lost time and been emotionally affected so it would be good if that could be factored in.

We continue to have regular dialogue with the SQA. The SQA has an exceptional circumstance request and we will be doing all we can to ensure every pupil is given due consideration, taking into account the full impact of what we have gone through.

Is there any legal requirement to provide a set number of hours of education for the children?

No, there is a legal requirement to provide a set number of days over a year. It is not defined in hours and there is flexibility around that in emergency situations. We are liaising closely with Scottish Government around our recovery plans and what we are putting in place to support pupils. Our intention is also to run various clubs over the Easter holiday period to supplement any hours that have been lost and to support those children working towards SQA exams.

Course choice for next year – what support will be available to make decisions?

All pupils will be continue to be supported with their education and in making decisions regarding course choices for future years.

Is S2 Parents’ Night postponed?

Formal parents’ evenings will take place in the new year for all year groups

Is it true that student artwork and portfolios are now contaminated with asbestos?

No. A specialist company is working to recover and record work. If anything is not suitable to be retained it will be scanned or photographed so it can still be used as evidence, albeit in a different format.

Have PHS staff had their Christmas holidays cancelled?

During an incident of this scale and complexity we may need to ask staff to work over and above what is expected. We have explained this to PHS staff that this may mean having to work for periods of time over the Christmas break to support us with the work that may be required for coming back in January. This does not just affect school staff but staff across the whole Council who continue to work on prioritising getting pupils back to PHS site on 3 and 4 February. 

Will the pupils have any access to their previous teachers?

Due to the logistical challenges of establishing the temporary teaching arrangements it has not been possible for all pupils to be taught by their normal class teachers. Senior pupils will have access to subject teachers during exam leave.

How is the wellbeing of the staff being catered for?

All staff have access to specialist occupational health support and will continue to be supported.

Can the meals provided be improved?

Since 9 December we have provided free soup and sandwich lunches for all Peebles High School pupils. Due to the volume of meals required, and the logistical challenges of distributing these to multiple venues in both Peebles and Galashiels the options we can provide free of charge are limited. Pupils are free to bring in their own lunches or purchase from shops in Peebles or Galashiels. NEW - we expect ParentPay to be back into operation from Monday 3 February for pupils returning.

Could all free periods be timetabled for a Friday?

All of our teachers are on or close to maximum contact time. The complexity of the timetable combined with the importance of ensuring all young people benefit from the right balance of subject specific, high quality teaching means it is not possible to concentrate all study period opportunities into a Friday. We also do not believe that, in most cases, this would be beneficial for young people. That said, any individual requests for rescheduling study periods can be made to the young person’s Pastoral Teacher and will be considered.

What’s happening with Sport? Could the Daily Mile be introduced?

Only one sporting fixture has been cancelled as a result of the fire. We are continuing to plan and participate in all of our fixtures with other schools and will continue to do so. We are delivering the nationally recommended number of hours of Physical Activity in the Broad General Phase of education. We would not consider introducing extra physical activity into the Senior Phase at this time as we are very focussed on meeting the learning priorities of young people preparing for National Qualification Examinations.

Could students remain at PHS for practical subjects such as science?

Returning to all of our on-site facilities (including Science laboratories) is a priority and we are delighted to annouce that we will be bringing them all back over the 3rd and 4th February all going well. The present arrangements will remain in place from the 6th – 10th January. During that week the school’s Senior Leadership Team will be working with all of the Principal Teachers in the Extended Leadership to consider all strategies that will best support all young people in preparation for upcoming assessments. Thematic blocks of support, such as ‘Science Mornings’ will form part of our discussions

After prelims, there is an 8-week piece of work to complete for CDT. Will students have access to Gala facilities to do this after their exams?

We aim to have all pupils back at PHS after prelims.

Why do children (ie. S5) have free periods when they are unlikely to complete the syllabus for many of their subjects?

It is not the case that the syllabus is unlikely to be covered in many subjects.  Independent study opportunities are still important for all seniors. Teachers will be offering more direction about how this time can be best spent in our current circumstances immediately upon our return in January.

Senior pupils should be given access to science labs as a priority.

It is a priority and is being explored.

Can staff provide dedicated you tube videos, webinars/glow conferences or online resources on key curriculum subjects?

Yes. A sub group of the Parent Council have met with the Mr Wilson to share and learn from expertise in the area of enriching learning with online resources from Strathclyde University and Edinburgh University. Early stage plans are in place to offer training to staff in how to create and post new online resources to aid study and learning. Such resources will be in place when we have returned to our Peebles site and have access to our resources. We are also already planning a more ambitious and robust Easter School Provision to ensure that, as we approach final examinations in May, S4-S6 students are given more direction and support in their approaches to effective revision than ever before.

Travel and transport

There are some concerns around travelling times for all seniors and how much this will take out of them. Can anything be done to minimise this?

For a small number of S4-S6 pupils in areas such as Carlops and West Linton the temporary arrangements will result in slightly longer travel times due to the need to take them on from Peebles to Galashiels. We have tried to minimise this as much as possible but what we have put in place is the best we can do in the circumstances. There are now only four days travel after Christmas break.

Could pupils be accommodated in other schools e.g. Biggar and Penicuik?

Parents have the option to put in a placement request for another school and should they wish to go down this route we will be supportive. However, we would urge caution as we are planning on bringing all pupils back early February (3 and 4) so a temporary placement at a school for such a short space of time, away from their normal pupils and teachers, might not be in their best interest.

A number of arrangements don’t make sense and are causing frustration e.g. travel towards Peebles to then go out again.

It has been a hugely complex operation to put in place the alternative learning provision and associated plans, such as transport, in such a short period of time, and we are aware that they may not suit all. We continue to ask for the support and understanding of parents at this challenging time as we do have to try and accommodate the greatest number of pupils.

Can plans be altered to make things better from January and going forward e.g. Cardrona kids picked up en route?

We are continually reviewing the arrangements that are in place and taking learning points from these as we make plans for the new term and beyond.

Could a separate bus be set up for West Linton pupils to take them directly to Galashiels?

We have fully considered whether a bus solely for West Linton pupils could be accommodated. Such provision would require a significant number of changes to be made to the current arrangements in a short period of time, such as parking plans being amended, pupils moved between contracts, re-issuing of bus passes and other transport having to be re-directed. It has not been deemed possible to achieve all of these changes effectively in such a short time period. As a result, a decision has been made to keep the current arrangements in place for the four days this will apply for before study leave starts. If necessary, we will look at this again during the period of study leave.

Why can’t pupils be taken door-to-door from Galashiels Academy to the Langlee Complex?

Unfortunately it is not possible to turn the buses safely at the front entrance to the Langlee Complex, however arrangements have been in place since 9 December to have pupils dropped as close as possible and walk a short distance to the temporary classrooms.

Can senior pupils travel on a service bus to get home early to study if they have free periods at the end of the school day?

Yes. Pupils can use service buses to return home early from Galashiels. They should show either their school bus pass or temporary pass to the driver.

Communications and personal belongings

We would like open and honest communication from SBC.

We have issued clear, consistent and regular communications through Groupcall to parents, our dedicated webpage, social media pages and through the local media as soon as it has been possible to do so. To put this into perspective, we issued seven press releases in 11 days after the fire, 16 Groupcall messages to PHS parents and 25 social media messages. We always welcome feedback from parents on how we can improve the communication and if you have any comments on how we can improve this please contact the Communications team directly.

When are we getting the rest of the belongings from the school?

Information about the ongoing recovery of belongings is available on our webpage and we will continue to keep this updated as more details are available. Pupil work - our initial assessment has highlighted that an encouragingly high amount of work has survived, including exam work, pupil notes, portfolios and artwork. A specialist retrieval company has been commissioned to assess all these items. If anything is not suitable to retain, it will be scanned or photographed so it can still be used as evidence, albeit in a different format. We are in discussions with SQA about the best way we can make use of what has been recovered and what arrangements will be put in place where materials have been lost.

Personal belongings in smoke affected areas

We are still assessing the extent of the damage to personal belongings such as bags and coats in smoke affected areas. These will be tested by the specialist company and if safe to do so, returned to owners. Once this has been done we will have a better idea of what has been completely lost.

We need some clarity as to whether personal belongings will be insured/ reimbursed?

We are still not in a position to confirm the full extent of the property that has been lost in the fire. We are making progress but there is still a significant amount to assess. We will not be able to consider any claims for insurance until this has been done. We ask for your patience while we complete this complex task.


We understand that there is insurance. Is it like for like/rebuild? Does it cover temporary accommodation?

The building was insured and has been inspected by the insurers. We have no report as yet as to what we will receive in monetary terms from the insurers so we are not in a position to be able to provide any more information on this. We are obviously looking at all options in the meantime for short, medium and long term requirements in terms of the building, learning and teaching needs for going forward. An options appraisal has been funded and will be taken forward as a matter of urgency. This will evaluate all potential options for the site before proposing the best solution. We will keep everyone updated as progress with this.

We are concerned that in the current financial climate, any extra funding might not be prioritised to ensure solutions are delivered quickly and pupils suffer no detriment to their learning.

The Learning Estate Strategy and previous Council decisions set out a priority replacement programme for the remaining secondary estate on completion of the Jedburgh Campus (which is due to open in April 2020), in the following sequence: 1. Galashiels Academy; 2. Hawick High School; 3. Selkirk High School; 4. Peebles High School. While notional timescales were identified for the replacement programme in the November 2018 report to Council, these are now subject to review within the capital programme as a consequence of the recent changes to the funding model for schools announced by the Scottish Government in September 2019 as part of their new Learning Estate Strategy.Timescales for the delivery of priorities identified within the wider Learning Estate Strategy may be affected by the need to prioritise investment in the Peebles building. Scottish Ministers have verbally indicated they are prepared to support us to minimise any such impact.

Thoughts for the future

Is it a priority to get all pupils back to PHS?

Yes and we have now announced all pupils are expected to return on 3 and 4 February. (see news story)

Can you tell us more about what is being considered for the future of Peebles High School?

Councillors approved a report at their meeting on Thursday 19 December for £100k to be allocated from the 2019/20 Emergency and Unplanned Capital budget to be used for an options appraisal at PHS. The appraisal will be taken forward as a matter of urgency and will evaluate all potential options for the site before proposing the best solution. We will keep everyone updated as progress with this.

Will PHS be pushed ahead of other schools in the new build programme?

Timescales for the delivery of priorities identified within our wider Learning Estate Strategy may be affected by the need to prioritise investment in the Peebles buildings. However, Scottish Ministers have verbally indicated they are prepared to support us to minimise any such impact.

When will you know if the Scottish Government will help fund a new Peebles High?

We have been advised that bids for the next round of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate funding will likely be invited between Easter and Summer 2020. The announcement of successful projects is then expected in Autumn 2020.

Could technological solutions such as Inspire Learning be accelerated to allow better online learning?

The rollout of the Inspire Learning programme to Peebles High School is being considered as part of the next phase of the recovery.