Prestonkirk | Education

Care of young children other than by parents was mainly provided within the extended family when required and although more formal childminding by strangers should have been registered, that practice was almost unknown until the late 1970s. The development of parent & toddler groups and then playgroups for children aged three to five emerged in the early 1970s following the growth of the playgroup movement.

East Linton was not a priority area for the new nursery education provision set up by the Education Department from 1972. It was not until February 1990 that a nursery school opened, attached to the primary school building, with a playgroup and toddler group. They eventually moved (in 2000) to more suitable premises in the renovated community hall. The increase in population of young families separated at some distance from family support networks has led to other patterns of care being used, sometimes with grandparents moving house to be nearer to assist in childcare, and also use of commercial day nurseries near places of work.

Primary education

Government authority for the provision of a new school had initially been granted in August 1974, just before the transfer of responsibility to the new Lothian Region from 1975; this was a well-rehearsed move to get a project into a capital plan for a successive authority to implement. In spite of having the green light for this, it would take 14 years before any action was taken over the state of East Linton’s Primary School, and then when the detail of the project was approved, it was a revamp with an extension that was approved.

Replacement provision had been included much earlier in the county council’s capital plan in 1961 for the year 1963/4 following a central government Condition Report that noted there was no circulation space, no assembly hall, and no general purpose room. Lighting, both natural and artificial, was described as unsatisfactory and it was considered doubtful whether the school was capable of satisfactory remodelling.

It was in 1989 that an expanded and refurbished school was provided on the existing site, incorporating some of the original 1880 building. Perhaps it was fortunate that a 1960s new school was not developed with the subsequent problems of school construction from that era. When the remodelling did take place, it was already short of the required capacity by the time it was completed as a result of the housing expansion from the private developers and it was still necessary to use temporary units.

One particular aspect worth considering is the impact of secondary school children attending one of three local authority secondary schools at North Berwick, Dunbar or Haddington, (leaving aside the question of attending a private school). Their network of friends is then likely to include young people they meet up with at school. This can lead on to other social activities with that network rather than their geographical peer group. There have been examples of children attending Dunbar or Haddington schools to hold an event in East Linton which their school friends attend and where territorial friction could then arise. While these incidents are rare, the aspect of an East Linton identity for teenagers is clearly affected by the friendships and group activities that evolve elsewhere.

In contrast to this assessment, it is interesting that one of the political priorities of the Scottish Executive is social inclusion. An interesting example of that was experienced by young people in 1970 when Anne Gray of Smeaton noted that children in the town were missing out on the opportunity to have swimming lessons through the education system. She responded to that challenge by arranging to take a group to local swimming pools. So many young people wanted to take part that the original transport she was providing was woefully inadequate; it was impossible to fit 100 youngsters into a minibus! Her enthusiasm and leadership won the respect of the participants.

In the 21st century, other opportunities are around but youth leadership skills in a developing drug culture are much more demanding of adult time. The traditional leader committed to working with young people will now find training for the task a prerequisite.