A HISTORIC girls’ school in Newington forced to close two years ago has been reborn as an educational institution thanks to the efforts of a local businesswoman.
Mother-of-two Ashira Mohamed opened a nursery this month out of the former St Margaret’s School following a £500,000 renovation to one of the old college buildings.
Founded in 1890, the school had sat vacant since closing its doors for the final time in June 2010. St Margaret’s lapsed into administration after battling an annual operating deficit of about £500,000 on top of falling pupil numbers.
Ms Mohamed’s two daughters, Faima, 21, and Shereen, 18, both attended the school in its final years, with the eldest having started in 1996.
The Playdays nursery manager said she had wanted the buildings to remain linked to education rather than being demolished and developed into flats.
She was limited for space at her existing nursery and decided to buy and transfer into St Margaret’s original classroom after the school went into liquidation.
Ms Mohamed said: “This building is the first building that was built for St Margaret’s School. It was the first all girls’ school – they used to call it a finishing school.
“We [my family] had a very close relationship with St Margaret’s. We were really happy with St Margaret’s. We were more drawn to the fact that our two daughters were educated there. We thought it’d be nice if we could continue to keep this for education.
“The building had to be stripped back to an empty shell. Everything had to be re-done, such as electrics. The whole building had to be gutted.”
The new nursery is registered to take up to 100 children and employs 14 staff.
The re-fit took 18 months to complete, with downstairs play rooms split into age brackets ranging from babies to pre-school. A 40 square metre indoors soft play area, and an upstairs library and computer room have also been created in the nursery.
In a sign of the times, the nursery is also fitted with a computer room, iPads and a wall-mounted smart board - an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection in the same way as a PC.
A nod to the site’s past will be made with a St Margaret’s blazer, kilt and scarf all to be mounted in a glass cabinet in the nursery’s hallway as mementos.
Councillor Jim Orr, who helped officially open the nursery on December 5, said there had been a real buzz amongst parents and children.
He said: “It is great that the building will be put to good use as a nursery so quickly, especially as the standard of conversion is so high.
“There is no more important service than childcare and no more important time to be creating jobs than now. I really want to commend Ashira and her team for their contribution to the local community.”