The establishment of East Lothian Council in 1996 necessitated the re-establishment of a county-based infrastructure for educational provision, including the development of technological support, a school library service providing loan material for schools, increased support for children with special needs, transport services and an administrative body to support the day-to-day running of the county’s primary and secondary schools (ELC Website).
However, the major influence during this period has been the increasing importance of the school within the community. West Barns Primary School’s handbook stated:
West Barns Primary, along with Innerwick, Dunbar, Stenton and East Linton Primaries and Dunbar Grammar School, are … designated as a ‘New Community School’.
The New Community Schools and other initiatives of the 1990s heralded a positive effort to pull together the whole community, and to increase the opportunities for all. By working on issues such as absenteeism, as well as literacy and numeracy, and by giving adults the chance to ‘so back to school’, the secondary schools involved became the hub of their communities. The division between school and home life was no longer clear-cut.
Allied to the multi-agency involvement of the New Community Schools was a developing awareness of a wider sense of what constitutes education. The responsibilities of East Lothian Education Service in the year 2000 included child protection, psychological services and educational welfare; extra-curricular activities in the schools included breakfast clubs to ensure children were physically capable of coping with the school day. Residential and day trips as a means of widening the child’s world view were no longer one-off arrangements like the Senior National Youth Camp at Broomlee in 1955, but formed an integral part of school provision.
An example of an integrated educational/social initiative was the East Lothian Pishwanton Community Wood Water-Cycle Env ironmental Awareness Project. This combined project involved, among others, East Lothian Council Education Department and the John Muir Award Team, and used the setting-up of an ecologically-sound, integrated water-supply and waste-water purification system as an education and training project for young people, particularly those who experienced difficulties in mainstream education (Scottish Office, untitled document ref: 2RPG/012/005).
Although there was a significant conceptual shift in determining the nature of education and the way in which it should be delivered, a number of issues remained constant throughout the 55 year period, most particularly, the need to finance the maintenance of school buildings and ensure that any redevelopment or refurbishing was appropriate for current and future educational needs. In 2000, East Lothian Council Education Service was considering the potential of Public/Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a means to ensure such finance was available (Public Private Partnership Project, East Lothian Council Information Memorandum, January 2000).
There were also important changes in the concept of ‘who’ as well as ‘what’ in the nature of educational provision, most particularly in the growth of the ‘lifelong learning’ initiative. Education was no longer regarded as solely the prerogative of the young. Adult evening classes and extra mural lectures were available throughout East Lothian and the population had access to further and higher education through distance learning; this was not only offered by the Open University but also mainstream universities and colleges. An East Lothian branch of the University of the Third Age was launched in 1999.
Within the county itself, the Lifelong Learning Centre at Alderston House in Haddington was a combined venture between Jewel & Esk Valley College in Midlothian and East Lothian Council, supported by government funding, to promote lifelong learning and wider access in East Lothian (Scottish Further Education Funding Council Website – now the Scottish Funding Council www.sfc.ac.uk). Many local schools had their own websites, through which they promoted information and which often offered social contacts for current and former pupils, both far and near. Teachers, pupils and adults studying independently had access to an enormous range of learning resources. Information technology, non-existent at the beginning of the period, had made knowledge accessible, and to that end, the council supported, and subsidised, computing courses across the county. Access for all was encouraged, with the libraries providing web access. The chances were of a breadth and variety unimaginable in 1945.