Pre-school, primary and secondary education was available in Prestonpans throughout the period.
From the 1970s – date, there is a private Montessori nursery run by Mrs Watton the High Street. There are various playgroups. There is a nursery attached to Prestonpans Infant School, East Loan.
The Cuthill (or West) School closed c1950.
The Prestonpans Primary and Junior Secondary Schools, West Loan, took children to aged 15 until 1954. There were three parts to this school – the Grey (which predated 1864), the Red (built 1910) the White (built 1935) – all on the same site.
The Grey School took children from primary one to seven; it also housed the facilities for such as domestic science, laundry, metalwork, woodwork, science, and other vocational courses.
It seems that the White School catered for pupils to age eleven, and the older pupils (to 15) were taught in the Red School. However, the whole school complex was used to accommodate the pupils as necessary.
The Grey School’s life as a school ended c1979; it was briefly used as a youth centre, and was demolished in 1979. The site is now Housing Association flats, and is called Grey School Corner. In 2000, the lower floor of the Red School houses the nursery classes of the infant school; the upper floor is used for the youth club, Kirk Street.
From 1970, the White School was ‘recycled’ and is still used as the Prestonpans Infant School, West Loan. In 2000, there are 215 pupils; between 1989 and 2000, this was the lowest number, the highest being 254 (1992).
The Prestonpans Junior (Primary) School, Preston Road was newly built in 1970 in the grounds of the burned out Preston Lodge School. In 2000, there are 317 pupils; between 1989 and 2000, numbers fluctuated between 267 (1989) and 332 (1995). In 1980, there were 445 pupils.
The provision of secondary education in Prestonpans is confusing; to 1954, academically gifted children, up to age 17, attended the selective Preston Lodge School, Preston Road. The less academic children went to the Prestonpans Junior School (see above under primary), leaving at 15. From 1954, all children aged twelve and above, went to Preston Lodge School. In January 1967, this school was destroyed by fire; its replacement, Preston Lodge High School, opened on 14 November 1969 with 1000+ pupils. In 2000, there are 888 pupils, of which 30 are noted as having special educational needs. This last category first appeared in the records in 1999.
In addition, there was a sizeable Roman Catholic population in the parish, and the children often travelled outwith the parish for their education. The Cuthill Primary School re-opened as St Gabriel’s Primary School (Roman Catholic) in January 1955. In 1967-68, it was replaced by the newly-built St Gabriel’s Primary School (Roman Catholic), on South Grange venue. In 2000, there were 145 pupils; between 1989 and 2000, pupil numbers varied between 96 (1989) and 148 (1999).
Roman Catholic secondary aged children, through the 1950s, attended school in Edinburgh (both sexes to Holy Cross Academy, girls only to St Thomas Aquinas) and St David’s School, Dalkeith, and other secondary schools elsewhere (Musselburgh or St Martin’s Junior Secondary School in Tranent). From 1960 many became part of the school roll at Preston Lodge School, or sought a Catholic education elsewhere.
During the first post-war decade, the increased birth rate and the raising of the school leaving age in 1947 placed significant pressure on educational provision. This was addressed initially by means of temporary buildings and in the late 1950s and 1960s, a building programme which provided additional space for Prestonpans children both within the parish and in the neighbouring parish of Tranent.
In October 1999, the new Community School Initiative (the Prestonpans Partnership) was launched in the area. Working from Preston Lodge High School, the initiative supports the communities of Prestonpans, Longniddry, Cockenzie and Port Seton by working with the four primary schools – St Gabriels, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Longniddry. The local nursery and infant schools are also part of the Prestonpans cluster. The initiative aims to improve services and to provide support for young people and their families; the provision of a breakfast club for school pupils, marking a concern about the effect of hunger on pupils’ readiness for learning, and the development of Adult Basic Education provision for parents are just two of the support projects to evolve out of the initiative.
Opportunities for further/higher education and training within the parish have always been limited, though currently several classes are offered during the day at Preston Lodge High School as part of the Community Learning Programme run by East Lothian Council. Some evening classes, mainly in basic computing skills, are also available at Preston Lodge High School.
Traditionally, adults attended classes in Edinburgh to gain work-related qualifications such as City & Guilds certificates and for general further education needs. During the 1970s-early 1990s, as residents within Lothian Region, people from Prestonpans paid standard fees. Since devolution of Lothian into four regions, East Lothian residents must now pay higher rates to attend these classes.
The Centre for Lifelong Learning was opened at Alderston House in Haddington c1996. This centre is intended to provide East Lothian residents with access to a range of classes, both practical and theoretical. However, as Prestonpans residents must take three buses to reach Alderston House, it is therefore, to all intents and purposes, unavailable to parish residents dependent on public transport.
For the majority of the period, pupils in Prestonpans have been supported by the standard countywide system of grants and bursaries for school and further/higher education. A number of countywide private educational trusts also existed, including the Schaw Trust, specific to the parish. In the past, these trusts were not widely publicised and it was mainly schools, not individuals, who applied to them for funding for school activities. Moreover, it was believed by some that these trusts prioritised the needs of pupils in private, fee-paying institutions rather than those in genuine need. In 2000, these trusts were taken over by East Lothian Council and subjected to more rigorous procedures in terms of their administration, management and application procedures.