An innovative pilot programme that gives Scottish school pupils the opportunity to become involved in the development of their village has been deemed such a success that a second edition is set to be launched later this year, benefitting over 100 young people.

Winchburgh Developments Limited, West Lothian College and Winchburgh Academy collaborated on a 16-week programme, Developing Winchburgh Schools Partnership, which gave pupils a detailed insight into all the work that goes into placemaking. Later this year, the second edition of the programme will be expanded and rolled out to pupils at both Winchburgh Academy and the newly-opened Sinclair Academy.

During the first edition of the programme, more than 50 first-year pupils engaged with professional consultants, construction firms, housebuilders and utility suppliers involved in expanding the village of Winchburgh, which is located to the west of Edinburgh.

The 57 pupils, the first to attend Winchburgh Academy after the opening of the school in August 2022, were given practical insights into what it takes to work in the jobs required to deliver a vast masterplan like that in their home village. They heard from key experts working daily on the project, who demonstrated the breadth and types of roles that contribute to making Winchburgh’s vision a reality.

The programme gave pupils career ideas and insight into many different professions, including planners, lawyers, architects, ecologists, and engineers. School groups attended a variety of sites under construction and took part in in-school discussions with representation from more than 15 different professions.

Hailing the success of the programme, Penny Lochhead of Winchburgh Developments, said: “The ultimate aim of this partnership programme is to inspire Winchburgh’s future talent by giving them ideas in a broad range of careers, which they can see first-hand playing out on their doorstep as their home village undergoes exciting growth. It has been brilliant to see such energy and interest from speakers and pupils in the developing village around them and to open their eyes to roles outside of the traditional trades. As a result, we are delighted to be working with our partners to roll it out further this academic year so that more pupils can benefit.”

Penny continues: “If even one pupil is inspired by what they have seen and who they have met on this programme, that is a positive result.”

Winchburgh Academy pupil Ava said: “Participating in the Developing Winchburgh programme has been an intriguing and engaging experience. It has given me the opportunity to hear about a range of different occupations involved in the construction industry. The site visits let us see first-hand what is happening in our town as it develops and how the different jobs help contribute to the completion of these projects.

“I feel so privileged and proud to be a part of Developing Winchburgh. Based on my learning and areas of interest from the programme, I now plan to study architecture when my time at Winchburgh Academy comes to an end.”

School deputy head Colin Kerr said: “Developing Winchburgh was a significant part of our curriculum for all S1 students and has enabled our young people to work with the people and businesses that are building our community. Our young people have developed their understanding about employability opportunities on their doorstep and now realise all of the various sectors involved in construction.  We now have many budding architects, planners, lawyers and project managers to name a few of the jobs they have learned about. We are extremely grateful to our partners and all who have supported our learning. This has helped us understand our community and context in a very practical way.  We look forward to our partnerships continuing to grow and flourish in the coming academic year.”

Larry Higton of construction firm I&H Brown said: “Thank you to all the pupils at Winchburgh Academy for their time and enthusiasm during their site visit to I&H Brown’s railway overbridge project. We were delighted to be involved in the Developing Winchburgh schools programme and provide a practical insight into civil engineering and demonstrate first-hand what it takes to deliver the Winchburgh masterplan and inspire positive career choices.  We hope to see many of the pupils taking up a career in civil engineering in the future.”

Philip Hogg, Sales and Marketing Director, Cala Homes (east) said: “We recently hosted some pupils from Winchburgh Academy at our Oakbank development in Winchburgh. As part of the visit, we had assistant site managers, Nicola Gray and Scott Lynes, who spoke about their journey into construction.

“Nicole chatted to pupils about what it was like starting out in construction and the pathways women can take to kickstart a career in the industry, and Scott spoke about the skills needed to join the construction industry, along with the opportunities that are available at Cala Homes (East). We loved having the pupils out at the site, and hope to have inspired them.”

Winchburgh Academy is one of three schools completed through a £61 million tripartite partnership agreement between Winchburgh Developments Ltd. West Lothian Council and Hub South East, to provide a learning campus adjacent to the new 85-acre Auldcathie District Park, including a sports centre and health and wellbeing hub. Sitting alongside Winchburgh Academy is Holy Family Primary School with a new pre-school nursery, and Sinclair Academy, which opened earlier this month.

■ The companies who took part in the Developing Winchburgh schools partnership pilot programme are: Pinsent Masons, Cala, Ramboll, Open Optimised Environments, PMR Leisure, Scottish Water, I & H Brown, Scottish Water, RJ McLeod, PPCA Limited Town Planning Consultants, and Winchburgh Developments.