Haddington | Education

Haddington Primary School | St Mary’s RC Primary School | Knox Academy | Compass School | Other schooing | Further education

From 1945-75 education in the county of East Lothian was the responsibility of the education committee of the East Lothian County Council; following the re-organisation in 1996, East Lothian Council became responsible. The Overspill Agreement with Glasgow in 1958 led to an increase in the previously static population of children of school age.

Hadington Primary School

At the beginning of the period the Haddington Primary School was accommodated in the old school building (known thereafter as the ‘old building’) and in part of the former Knox Institute, but by the late 1950s new classrooms were needed, and the annexe was built in the 1960s for the younger children.

From October 1955-June 1958 I trained at what was then called Moray House Provincial Training College. In August 1958 I started my first teaching post in the Infant Department, Knox Academy, Haddington, with a class of first infants which was by then known as P1. This class had 45 pupils, whom I taught for four terms and in January 1960 my next class of beginners had 48 pupils. This was the largest class I ever taught (unless I was given eight to ten extra pupils from a split class due to the teacher’s absence). However, I recall, as a young teacher, hearing older members of staff talking about teaching classes with 56-60 pupils.

Barbara Montgomery

Because of the poor structural state of the 19th century buildings, a new school was built on site at Brewery Park, and opened in 1970 as King’s Meadow School. The Primary 4 to 7 classes were at King’s Meadow, while Primary 1 to 3 remained in the old building and annexe under the name of Haddington Infant School, which had its own head teacher. Upgrading to the infant school was necessary in 1978 to replace the old and inadequate heating system, and the outside prefabricated toilets.

The first election for school councils took place in 1980, and a newsletter for parents was introduced the following year. The Parent/Teacher Association was officially started in 1989, followed by the election of the school board. After petitions from parents, playground supervisors were employed at the infant school in 1990, and a nursery class opened in the annexe. 1993 brought a new logo for the school badge, designed by one of the children. In 1997 reconstruction of the annexe gave more space to the existing nursery class, and an area for a Special Needs Nursery Base for East Lothian.

After reconstruction in the old building in 1998 the Sunshine Room was opened for P1 children with special learning needs. 1999 saw the first links with the Recife school in Brazil, which is being built with the help of Haddington Infant School’s many fund-raising events to help the street children of Brazil.

St Mary’s RC Primary School

A Roman Catholic school was opened in rented premises in Haddington in 1870, and the following year a school building (now the church hall) was erected behind the church in Poldrate. The early records were lost in the flood of 1948, which rose to a depth of 5′ 7″ in the classroom. Some improvements had been made to the building when the local authority took over responsibility for the school in 1921. Electricity was introduced in 1949 but, by the mid 1960s, a new school was clearly required. Numbers had increased from about 80 pupils and three teachers in 1953 to 121 pupils and four teachers in 1958. Numbers continued to rise, so that in 1966 when the new St Mary’s Primary School was opened in Millfield there were six teachers and 179 pupils, and a janitor was appointed for the first time. In 2000 the school roll stands at 110.

Knox Academy

The Knox Academy, or the Knox Memorial Institute, as it was originally named, was built by public subscription in 1879. In 1939, the secondary department moved to the present Knox Academy building with its playing fields. (The ‘old building’, after being used for some years by the primary school, was later converted and extended to provide sheltered housing). In 1959 a tower block and science block were added to the new school building, and later an extended library and computer area were built. The introduction of comprehensive secondary education required more classrooms, and a workshop/factory unit was also added to the school in the 1970-71 extension. Special classes were provided at Knox Academy for children with learning difficulties. Around 1980, changes in legislation required the education authority to be responsible for all children regardless of their degree of handicap, and since that time greater attempts have been made to make specialist provision in mainstream schools for pupils with special needs. There are 912 pupils in 2000.

Compass School

The Compass School arose from the lack of pre-school resources in East Lothian. It was founded in 1962, as a non-profit -making operation by Mrs Alny Younger in conjunction with the Rev Aeneas and Mrs Mackintosh of Holy Trinity Church. Starting with eleven children aged three to six, in the church hall, the school grew rapidly to a three-class establishment. The youngest children were accommodated in the nursery at Old Bank House (Mrs Younger’s home), and on the two days a week when they had afternoon school, the older children walked there for lunch.

Somnerfield Lodge in the West Road was bought and converted, providing much more spacious accommodation, and the school moved there in 1970. Later the caretaker’s flat and finally the attics were converted to provide further rooms for the school. The youngest children had their own building in the garden, with a sheltered play area. In 1992 the Compass School became a charitable company, run by a board of governors, and Mrs Younger retired as headmistress. There are over 100 pupils, ranging in age from four to eleven, taught in classes of 15-18, to provide time for individual attention and also the stimulus of plenty of group work.

The philosophy of the school has always been to regard each pupil as an individual, the development of the child taking precedence over chronology, so that he or she is placed in a suitable environment with regard to the needs of support and stimulation, rather than a formalised yearly structure. The aim of a highly skilled, dedicated staff is that the children should be fully stretched, and all talents explored and nurtured to produce a confident and well-balanced person. The Compass keeps pointing the children in the right direction.

Other schooling

Not all children living in the parish attend any of these Haddington schools. Many travel daily to schools in Edinburgh, while a few attend boarding schools.

Further education

Evening classes were held in Knox Academy during the tenure of East Lothian County Council; those wishing to attend day classes had to travel to Edinburgh, or elsewhere, depending on the subject of study. The county council was, however, one of the consortium of councils supporting Oatridge Agricultural College (West Lothian) and, during the tenure of Lothian Regional Council, Oatridge provided horticultural classes at the large walled garden of Alderston House.

Classes in a variety of subjects are now available within Alderston House itself, while the Poldrate Mill, restored by the Lamp of Lothian Trust, offers day and evening classes in a range of arts and crafts.