Cockenzie & Port Seton | Education

The old Cockenzie and Port Seton Primary School building, which dates back to 1865, stands on the north side of Edinburgh Road. An annex was later added on the other side of the road, because the school was on an extremely restricted site.

The Education Committee of East Lothian County Council, pursuing a policy of replacing out of date school buildings, in 1960 approved that a new primary school should be built on a site to the west side of Osborne Terrace. The old school building was to continue in use until 1967. The building itself was to come into private ownership and remains the same today with several small businesses operating from it. The annex building was to later become a public library; when it was demolished, the library moved into the Pond Hall building. Sheltered housing is now built on the site, now known as Cadell Place.

The new Cockenzie & Port Seton Primary School, offering places for 440 pupils, opened in 1967; it was officially opened by Mr Richard Wilson, the vice convenor of the county council Education Committee.

The report of the event in the Haddingtonshire Courier of May 5, 1967 is interesting:

Mr Wilson said it would have been fitting if the school had been opened two years earlier, on the 100th anniversary of the opening of the old school in 1865, but people had to admit that it had been worth waiting for… The school proper consisted of a senior block and an infant block, with staff rooms… an excellent hall and stage, dressing rooms, a gymnasium and a crafts room. “We are getting away from the old outmoded idea that a school is a building that opens at 9am and closes at 4pm. It is a building which should serve the pupils and the community at large”, Mr Wilson said. The headmaster, Mr Charles L. Bruce had informed him that four years earlier, the old school had opened its doors to some 20 adult students. Now there were well over 100 and he could see … that in the future the increase would be more marked. Badminton and drama clubs would have the use of the building as well as facilities for painting, woodwork, metalwork and pottery…

[The headmaster] felt that … the building was a fine one, and he believed it would, in no small measure, contribute towards training and equipping the rising generation to take its full share in shaping the burgh’s advancement in the years to come.

The director of education, Dr J. Meiklejohn said it was a “tremendous achievement” for … a local authority … to open no less than three schools in a year…

Thanks all round abounded – to the staff and pupils for a successful flitting; to Mr Rollo, the contractors; and to the architects who had presented the school with a magnificent bible. Guests at the opening were to see a display of model fishing boats made by Mr George Thomson, a former pupil, a collection of historic photographs were also on display.

Activities taking place at Cockenzie & Port Seton Primary School consisted of various visits to the museum in Chambers Street in Edinburgh, with follow up visits to the zoo in Corstorphine; other classes went to Middleton School Camp for a week’s holiday or to Dalguise House, Dunkeld, where they undertook history discovery work. Regular school concerts were held in which all classes took part. Pupils also danced in the gala, which they attended; at one time, they attended with their teachers.

In the 1950s and 1960s, when the leaving age was 14, children were streamed according to ability. Those in Primary 7 sat the 11+ examination [sic] and went on to Preston Lodge Secondary School in Prestonpans, where they were placed in classes A, B or C. A stream studied two languages, French and Latin, B studied French and commercial subjects and C studied no foreign languages, but took technical and domestic subjects. Preston Lodge is changed today.

Special classes were opened in 1947 in the old school annex, opposite the old primary school on Edinburgh road, for ‘retarded and difficult’ children. The classes were moved eventually to Prestonpans School (1955) and a new class formed for ‘ineducable’ children. Mrs Allan was in charge of the Special School.

A nursery was opened during this period and ran until a new school was opened in the grounds of the new primary school.

Provision for adult learning has been on a day and evening basis, at one time held in the primary school, and now in Port Seton Community Centre. These classes have been, and are, those grouped under a heading of leisure classes, such as arts, crafts, computing and languages. More recently other courses such as fitness and stress management have become available. Certificate and other personal development courses are on offer elsewhere in East Lothian.