GALASHIELS Academy hosted the launch of a four-year partnership with educational charity PAS (Planning Aid Scotland) last week.

Last Tuesday, pupils were joined by planning minister Kevin Stewart to discuss how youngsters can get involved in their town and were taught about decision making.

The event was part of the Bridging Gaps project which aims to provide first-hand experience of planning issues in Galashiels, for example where affordable homes should be built.

Mr Stewart said: “Planning affects everyone’s lives, so I’m delighted those involved in the Bridging Gaps project are providing a platform for young people to get involved. 

“The project supports the ambitions outlined in our consultation on the current planning review, to encourage more people to get involved in planning, and give young people a stronger voice in the decisions about the future of the place they live in.

“I firmly believe that, through empowering communities, our planning system can help deliver great places and provide an attractive environment for investment through the uncertain times we live in.”

Last year, PAS and the Academy ran a month-long pilot project in which all 180 S2 students used the Scottish Government’s ‘Place Standard’ toolkit to assess the quality of their town and come up with ideas for the future.

Following on from last year’s pilot, the new project will see students help to test out new digital tools to help engage local communities in the future.

Head teacher Kevin Ryalls said: “This is a great opportunity for Galashiels Academy pupils to really think about and explore the places where they live – and consider the things they would like to change in their community.”

Petra Biberbach, chief executive of PAS, added: “Inspiring young people to participate in their communities chimes well with the key pillars of the Curriculum for Excellence, helping them to become responsible citizens, effective contributors and confident individuals.”