Education Overview

Across the county, East Lothian’s communities – town and country, coastal and inland – have always comprised those who were socially and economically deprived, as well as those of considerable affluence. By the end of the period, there were still parts of the county where significant deprivation occurred; evidence of this was reflected in new initiatives, including the New Community Schools Initiatives (1999) that were being piloted by schools in Dunbar and Prestonpans. These had followed on from some successful examples of the holistic approach to education such as the Early Intervention Projects, with the pilot scheme at Prestonpans in 1997, and the Social Inclusion Partnership (1999) based in Ross High School, Tranent.

By 2000, the county’s six secondary schools had a total roll of over 5,000, and the 35 primary schools a total roll of over 8,000. The largest primary was Law Primary in North Berwick (646 pupils) and the smallest was Humbie (19) (School Census, 2000). Four primary schools – in Haddington, Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Tranent – served the catholic community. For secondary education, to the 1960s, some catholic children went to Holy Cross school, Edinburgh; however, latterly, catholic children tended to attend the local mainstream secondary schools, or St David’s High School in Dalkeith.

This brief overview highlights some of the ways in which national, social, economic and political trends affected the provision of education in East Lothian, 1945-2000. In addition, it indicates how the concept of what education is has changed; from the narrow, one-chance, ending-at-15 option of the post-1947 to the mid-1960s period, to the plethora of opportunity and the notion of education for life that existed by 2000.

At the end of world war two, educational establishments looked forward to the reinstatement of the administrative infrastructure, especially for national examinations (Philip, HL 1995 p8), an end to staff shortages as teachers were released from the armed forces and freedom from day-to-day uncertainty in the form of erratic timetables and instability in the home lives of both staff and pupils. Post-war, apart from a few private schools such as Belhaven Hill in Dunbar and the nationally renowned Loretto School in Musselburgh, education was the responsibility of East Lothian County Council, excluding Musselburgh, which came within the remit of Midlothian County Council. The responsibility for all education, child and adult, lay with the local authority of the time; for college or university education, the individual went elsewhere.