Dirleton | Education

Education | Dirleton Primary | Gullane Primary | Gullane playgroup | Fire Service Training School

Each village has a primary school, feeding naturally into secondary education at North Berwick High School, although there is parental choice. The primary school at Kingston closed at Christmas 1974 (see also Kingston from the Log Book by Sonia Baker) with both pupils and teacher transferring to the newly opened Law Primary School, North Berwick. A small number of children attend private schools in Edinburgh.

In both schools numbers have fluctuated over the period covered. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Dirleton Primary School was attended by 80-90 children but this gradually fell away, reaching a low of 33 in 1983. In 1984 a move to close the school was abandoned in the face of strong local opposition. Pressure on North Berwick Primary School has given rise to an increase in the Dirleton roll, which reached 61 in 1999. The number of teachers has varied from two to three during this period.

In the mid-seventies Gullane Primary School was full to overflowing with an additional infant classroom, two temporary classrooms and a dining hut built in the playground. On 27 June 1977, the 225 pupils and 10 staff moved to a new open-plan school at Muirfield Terrace. The local MP John P Mackintosh officially opened it on 10 April 1978. In 1950 there were four teachers at Gullane and in 1999 there were seven and 155 pupils. In addition both schools have auxiliaries, learning support provision and visiting teachers for physical education and music. Both schools have strong parent teacher associations, which help with fundraising and extra-curricular activities. In 2000 a school dress code is compulsory in East Lothian but Gullane introduced this ten years earlier, with blue sweatshirts bearing a logo of flying geese, designed by a P7 pupil. A nursery section was added to Gullane school in April 1993. The children are mainly from Gullane but with some also from Aberlady, Dirleton and North Berwick.

Since the opening of the new school, dinners have been prepared on the premises at Gullane. Although built as a community school, including squash courts, out of school hours use is mainly by pupil groups. Regular adult use has diminished, curtailed at least in part by the costs of janitorial cover for out-of-hours opening. In 1999 only classes in martial arts and weight training remained. For many years series of lectures were provided via the University of Edinburgh Extra-Mural Department and were very well attended but fell victim to the economic cutbacks in the 1980s.

A change in educational climate saw the end to the awarding of the Dux medal in Gullane in the mid 1980s. However two donated golf trophies are still contested annually. The earlier of these, the Honour Bright, has been in existence since 1922. In the early 1960s George Zaharias gave a sum of money to the school to purchase a trophy in the name of his wife ‘Babe’ Zaharias who had won the British Open Ladies’ Championship at Gullane in 1947.

Gullane playgroup for the under-5s began in the village hall in 1967. In the late 1970s, it moved to the rear portion of the old school and operates four mornings a week, catering for a total of 35 children. A grant is received from East Lothian Council, but not guaranteed. Management is by a committee of nine, plus a further fund-raising committee. Dirleton playgroup has been going for 29 years and was also originally housed in the village hall. Latterly it has used the church hall and takes children aged two and a half to five on three days of the week for a variety of play and creative activities. It has a leader and assistant and operates with parental help.

The former Gullane school building has had a variety of tenants besides the playgroup. The separate buildings of the former infant classroom and the dining hall were used as a base for the Outdoor Education Unit until February 1992. The former was then converted to become the Linksview Day Centre. The front of the main building was for a time used for Youth Opportunities activities and the head teacher’s office for child health clinics. In 1981 this space was taken over by East Lothian Council’s Library Service, which replaced the voluntary library, which had been housed in the small hall of the village hall, a provision which the village had long outgrown. It is open, and busy, 14 hours a week.

The last head teacher to occupy the schoolhouse was Mr William Bennett who retired in 1979. After lying vacant for some years it was finally sold as a private house.

One other educational establishment has its home in the parish. The Scottish Fire Service Training School (SFSTS) moved to Gullane in October 1953, taking over what had been the Marine Hotel. The building was used as an army billet during the second world war but an attempt afterwards to re-establish it as a hotel had not been a success. Since arriving in Gullane the school has gone from strength to strength and has seen substantial expansion.

The original building, known as Henderson House, contains the administrative offices, conference and seminar rooms, a closed circuit television studio, lecture theatre and classrooms, refectory and en-suite bedroom accommodation. An additional residential block containing 120 single study bedrooms was built in 1980 and a gymnasium was opened in 1990 and extended in 1996. In February 1999 Henry McLeish, Minister for Home Affairs, officially opened the Real Fire training facility and a separate Flashover facility. Unfortunately the latter has rarely been used following residents’ complaints concerning smoke emissions. In March 1999, a Confined Space training facility complete with grain silo became operational.

The SFSTS provides comprehensive residential training for the Scottish and Northumberland fire brigades involving both basic and specialised courses. A total of 1079 men and women attended 23 different courses in the year to 31 March 1999. In addition 328 people attended courses, seminars or special meetings. Of the 125 whole-time recruits on the three sixteen week basic courses held during that year, nine were female. All fire service staff other than the Commandant and his Deputy live outwith the village but local people are employed in the catering and domestic services provision.