At the virtual official opening event, Jeane Freeman was joined online by Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of the Council, fellow elected members, invited guests including Sir Tom Hunter and Sir James McMillan and children and young people from the Barony Campus.
Speakers including Chief Executive Eddie Fraser, Councillor Reid, Head of Education, Linda McAulay-Griffiths and Eddie Robertson, Managing Director of Morrison Construction addressed the special guests before Jeane Freeman invited the children and young people to unveil the plaque on her behalf.
Olivia and Finlay from Cherry Trees Early Childhood Centre, Freya, Kian and Lennon from Lochnorris Primary School and Supported Learning Centre, Ethan and Michael from Hillside School and Vicky from The Robert Burns Academy Supported Learning Centre lead a countdown before Alix and Matt, The Robert Burns Academy school captains, unveiled the plaque.
Peter Gilchrist, Head of the Barony Campus then proposed the vote of thanks.
Jeane Freeman, MSP said: “As the area’s constituency MSP, I have had the immense privilege of seeing this project from start to finish and is one of a number of new school openings I have had the pleasure of attending with East Ayrshire Council over the last five years. I am acutely aware of the difficulties this pandemic has brought over the last year not only to the construction of the campus building, but more importantly, to our children and young people. As we exit out of this pandemic and schools return to more normality, I’m sure the young people of Cumnock, Auchinleck and the surrounding areas will get the chance to fully experience the host of facilities this new campus has to officer.
“I am delighted that the campus has accepted a small gift from me, an apple tree, to be planted on the campus grounds. I know that as this tree grows so will our children and young people, learning and growing, with new friendships and experiences and the doors to their future opening wide in this exemplar facility for them and our communities.”
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of the Council said: "We were very grateful to Jeane Freeman for agreeing to perform the official opening of the Barony Campus and joining our celebrations online.
“The world has changed entirely since we held a topping out ceremony on site last January, but what hasn’t changed is our commitment to the education of our children and young people and providing the best educational facilities possible to realise their full potential. In the past ten years, the Council has invested £226m in new and refurbished educational facilities and has exciting plans to invest another £82m in projects to be completed over the next four years.
“The Barony Campus would not have been possible without a strong partnership between our delivery team and contractor Morrison Construction. They faced significant hurdles but their flexibility and commitment to the project meant that the school was delivered when we needed it.
“The Campus now belongs to our children and young people and to our communities. The facilities they will enjoy, in all areas of learning - music, sport, STEM, the Arts - are exceptional, utilising the very latest technology including Scotland’s first interactive and immersive video room. Within Hillside School, in addition to specially designed classrooms there is a hydrotherapy pool, sensory room, soft play area and trampoline for rebound therapy, which will be life changing for our children and young people.
“It has been a difficult year for our colleagues from Education, for our children and young people and parents and carers who have been home schooling, often while working full time, which has not been an easy task. I would like to thank you all for your exceptional efforts, it is very much appreciated. There is light at the end of the tunnel now, and a full return to school is within sight.
“What the pandemic has shown is that we are strongest when we work together. Bringing our children and young people into one Campus, provides better opportunities to learn and achieve. They are stronger together and will have every opportunity to achieve their full potential.”
The £68m Campus was handed over by Morrison Construction, and opened to pupils last October.
It offers an unprecedented level of sports provision that will be available for community use, including two full sized, flood-lit synthetic pitches of world class rugby standard, a 400m 4-lane running track with 6 lane sprint, 2 full sized grass pitches, a 7 aside floodlit synthetic pitch and an outdoor basketball court, together with 13 indoor courts in various configurations.
Community recreation space includes a community café, meeting rooms, a theatre space, enterprise kitchen for catering, recording studio, music practice rooms and project space for textiles/crafts and pottery.