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STAFF at the new Leader Valley School in Earlston threw open the doors for the first time this week to welcome pupils.

The £1.7 million school provides education for primary-aged autistic children who previously attended spectrum classes in Hawick and Innerleithen.

Leader Valley will provide an enhanced level of education and well-being for pupils with the most profound and complex needs in the Scottish Borders.

Not only will the new school support the pupils, there will be also opportunities for the staff to share advice, guidance and professional learning opportunities with colleagues working in other support provisions, mainstream schools and in outreach specialist teams.

Education spokesman Sandy Aitchison is delighted with the new school.

He told us: "This is an extremely auspicious day for everyone who has been involved in this project and I am absolutely delighted that pupils and staff have now experienced their first day at Leader Valley School.

"The facility will be a wonderful resource, not only for the pupils and staff who will be attending, but also for parents, professionals and the wider community."

Plans are already in place to create links with the nearby primary and secondary schools in Earlston.

And it is hoped the partnerships will provide further life and learning skills for the Leader Valley pupils and also support integration into mainstream schooling and with transition planning to adult services.

The vision for a specialist school was first mooted five years ago with several sites considered.

Following the selection of the former Earlston High School site, considerable consultation was carried out with the parents of the 13 children who attended St Ronan's and Wilton as well as other interested parties.

The school was designed by the local authority's Architect’s Section who also provided project management, design, contract administration and clerk of works services for the project.

Landscape architectural design was also provided by Scottish Borders Council.

Councillor Aitchison added: “Getting to this point has been quite a journey but this school is the result of our desire to provide the best we can for these children and parents and is certainly a project that I am particularly proud to have been part of.

"I wish everyone well in the days and weeks to come as they settle in to their new premises and make it their own.”

Leader Valley School is holding an open afternoon on Tuesday, February 28 from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.

Parents, professionals and members of the local Earlston community are invited to view the new premises.

As well as being given a tour of the building, there will be a chance to speak to staff working in the new facility and those who were part of the project team involved in its development.

Anyone who would like to attend the open day should contact Children and Young People’s Services on 01835 825080 or schoolestates@scotborders.gov.uk