Spott | Education

Until 1969 there was a primary school in the village, which served the parish. Depending on the number of children, this was either a one or two teacher school. The school had two rooms with the toilets in the playground, and the schoolteacher’s house was adjoining. From the early 1960s, Spott school was just one of several small rural schools that the Scottish Education Department sought to close. In 1962, there were just 31 pupils on the school roll:

The general condition of the school buildings is unsatisfactory, and the accommodation inadequate and below modern standards

ED 48/1650 (25 October 1962) 3

The numbers of children decreased until in 1969, the school was closed. Thereafter, primary aged children had to attend West Barns Primary School. Throughout the period, children over twelve went to Dunbar for secondary schooling. In 1946, a taxi brought children from the outlying parts of the parish to Spott school and others to Dunbar; the taxi driver was Oliver Todd. In 1951 this was replaced by a school bus.

A five year old’s recollection of her time at Spott school 1949-50: Kate’s Story

When I was 4½ years old, Mum, Dad and I went to stay at ‘The Halls’. Here I will spend the next year of my life. It is early summer 1949 and Mum is going to work for Mrs Jeffrey in The Big House. Dad works away from home, so there is great excitement when he comes home at the weekends. We live in a little tied cottage and our neighbours are the other farm workers and their families. For me, this is a good place to be, days spent playing in the wood or beside the burn with the other children, helping Mum or making the ‘Magical’ trip in Dad’s car down the hill and across the ford (thrilling), through Spott and on to Dunbar and the seaside. Then I begin school!

It is late summer when I begin school; the picture I have of those early schooldays is hazy now, but here and there little shafts of light shine through. Every morning I’m up early, still half asleep I struggle to get dressed for school. On goes the navy skirt, hand knitted jumper, socks and shoes. Mum brushes my hair and ties it up with ribbon in a bow. (How I hate it) This wakes me up; I slip on my gabardine coat, put my bag on my shoulder, have I remembered my beloved reading book? – Yes! Okay I’m ready to go. I join the other children and climb aboard the bus, which takes us to Spott school.

School is one large room and we only have one teacher. For lessons we are split into classes according to age. I am in Primary 1, the baby class. Mornings are very busy. [I] have much to do learning to count, to read and to write. It’s hard work and I am happy when it’s playtime. Dinner time is a vague memory, what did I eat I wonder? The day moves on, the afternoon is long, the other younger children have gone home, but I must wait in class until the older children finish because that is when the bus comes to take us home. Sometimes I wish I could find a comfy spot to curl up and doze for I am still very young.

As I look back on those days, two vivid learning experiences come to mind. One day at playtime I’d gone out of the school grounds, down a path in the field outside the boundary wall. Ahead of me I could see a group of older boys yelling and shouting. I stopped to watch them from a distance. One boy stood out from the rest, I could see he was frightened and crying, the others were jeering at him. I was too afraid and so I ran away – the dark side of life! The other experience was a happy one. It’s the afternoon and I am sitting at my desk, teacher is with the older children at the opposite side of the room. They are talking about elephants. I listen and my imagination is stirred. I pretend I am a wild elephant, I put pencils in my ears (I imagine this will give me big floppy ears) but they fall out so I push them up my nose, now I think I will have huge tusks, now I really am a wild elephant! The rest of the children notice and laugh, the teacher is less amused. Secretly I am filled with pleasure, I have discovered how to make others laugh and of course be the centre of attraction. Sadly I left Spott school in the summer of 1950. Was I happy there? Happy enough I feel.

Catherine Alison McLeod (b1945)