Tranent | Education

Ross High | Primary School | Pre-school | Social inclusion Partnership | St Joseph’s | Elphinstone

In 1946 the school leaving age was raised, putting more pressure on Tranent’s already overcrowded Junior Secondary School. Temporary huts were pressed into service, though the Haddingtonshire Courier retrospective for the year observes that the numbers involved seemed small. The Junior Secondary, or Tranent Public School as it was also known, provided secondary education, although those wishing to take their Higher Leaving Certificate had to attend Preston Lodge School in Prestonpans. St Martin’s Catholic School also had a secondary department up to 1968 (Haddingtonshire Courier 1968 May 24). It is now a Catholic primary school with a roll of 213 pupils at the September 2000 census

Work on a purpose-built secondary school began in 1950, to accommodate 650 pupils at a cost of £200,000 (Haddingtonshire Courier 1950 December 29; 1953 December). Ross High School was formally opened October 1954, cost £325,000 and was named for George Ross, local councillor, preacher and member of Tranent Methodist church who had lobbied for the school for many years. The design of the school reflects the agenda of the 1945 Education (Scotland) Act, which stressed development of the student in all areas including physical education, health, school meals, playing fields and out of school activity.

After the opening of Ross High School, the old public school was used as primary school until largely destroyed by fire in 1958. It was reported in the Haddingtonshire Courier that the fire fighters were regaled with meals from nurses and helpers – the very meals ‘the school children would have eaten had not the fire interfered with their curriculum’. This was but one of a number of fires in Tranent’s major buildings.

The public school fire was, according to the Haddingtonshire Courier, a means to an end for the people of Tranent. ‘For years they had hoped for a new school – the one just destroyed was over 80 years old – but until now their hopes never looked like being fulfilled’. Temporarily primary education continued scattered all over the remaining buildings, the infant school and Ross High, until the new school, situated to the east of the infants school in Sanderson’s Wynd, opened on 29 April 1964. It marked a return to its starting point, for it had shared premises with the infant school until its move in 1954 to the former junior secondary site. The infant school, for five to seven year olds, had been used in the war as an ARP Gas Cleansing Station, and remains in its original building to this day, with a roll of 260 in the September 2000 census.

In 2000, Tranent Primary School was a non-denominational school catering for primary 4-primary 7 age group; a total of 373 pupils were taught in 12 mixed ability classes, 29-33 pupils in each. It boasted a gym, central library, computer suite with 16 networked PCs and a resource centre. A music room was also used for drama and other activities. Each classroom had an Applemac computer or PC. A well-resourced learning support centre and a support base gave additional support to pupils with moderate to severe and complex learning difficulties; some came for 1:1 or small group teaching, and were otherwise supported in their mainstream classes by special needs auxiliaries and/or extra resources. Many of the P7 pupils helped in the playground and some were learning sign language (Makaton) or helping with pupils with special needs (

In 2000, Ross High School was a mixed comprehensive for 11-18 years with 896 pupils. The roll at one time reached well over 1000 (1139 in 1980) and an extension had been built in1969. Head teacher Helen O’Rawe was appointed March 1999. There was a staff of 68, 45 men and 23 women. ‘Our ethos’ says the school web site in 2002 ‘is based on a deep caring of young people harnessed by firm support’. The HMI Inspection of May 1994 reported that attainment in standard grade examinations was slightly below the national average, but that ‘the school made a very significant contribution to many aspects within the local community’.

Much energy has been put into pre-school education. A directory for 1983-4 entitled List of Services for Under 5s makes reference to Tranent Nursery School, Alexander Street for pre-school children over three years, with places for 120 children. 40 children attended each session. A pre-school educational home visitor was attached to the school. The Tranent pre- school toy library was located in the Medway hut. A mother & toddler group met at the Playcentre, Church Street and the Tranent Playgroup catered for 3-5 year olds. A playbus facility was launched at Elphinstone in 1978.

The Tranent Social Inclusion Partnership, set up in 1999, is one of 47 such partnerships funded by the Scottish Executive across Scotland. Most are concerned with overall regeneration, but Tranent’s is what is known as a thematic SIP, targeted at youth and community and therefore working closely with Ross High School. In its second annual report (Tranent SIP, 2001), it recorded that the level of performance by second year pupils (measured as the percentage attaining or exceeding level E) rose from 44% to 54% for reading, from 19% to 25% for writing and from 20% to 40% for mathematics. In 1998-9 the average number of unauthorised half-day absences per pupil was 35; in 2000-01 the level had dropped to 32.

St Joseph’s Home, Meadowmill

St Joseph’s home and school for young offenders closed in the spring of 1998. East Lothian Council uses the 19th century house as an equipment store but in the grounds is now a young people’s support unit run by East Lothian Council and the Dr Barnardo’s organisation. St Josephs’s had been the property of the De La Salle Roman Catholic order – monks, who wore robes and were called ‘brothers’.

St Joseph’s operated as a ‘List D’, or ‘approved’ school and accommodated Catholic young (male) offenders – in its earlier days it was also used to accommodate orphans as well as offenders, the intention being to provide a ‘home’ for such ‘troubled’ youngsters. The De La Salle order had other homes in Scotland, and, in recent years there have been allegations of brutality and sexual abuse against the inmates, including here at St Joseph’s. Locally these allegations were met with complete surprise, as the brothers are remembered as being polite, respectful people (miscellaneous newspapers; Turnbull, 1991 p9).


The decline in younger families has been reflected in the village school’s population. There have been times when there were only two classes, although three is the norm; however in the boom years of the early 1970s there were four. The roll fluctuated between 25?50+, and for the last decade was 40-54. The position of the school is not wholly dependent on demographic changes in the village, as under educational reforms parents have for some 15 years had the right to send children to schools not necessarily in their catchment area. Pupils from outside Elphinstone attend here and vice?versa. There are three teachers at the moment.

At the time of an HMI inspection in 1991 there were two classes and two full time teachers, including the head teacher, plus a part-time temporary teacher to free up the head’s time. They were supported by visiting specialist teachers of music, learning support, and art; the roll was 41 – 19 in the primary 1-3 class and 22 in the primary 4-7. The primary 1-3 teacher had served for 19 years but the previous ten years had altogether seen a high turnover of teachers, with five different faces.

The building (dating from 1924) comprised two classrooms, a general purposes room including a small library area, school office, and a hall used for dining, music, physical education and assemblies. Classroom space was cramped; heating and ventilation variable and there was a draughty play area of grass and tarmac. Resources were limited except for environmental studies. There were good community contacts with parents, the local policeman, school chaplain, and local pensioner lunch club; and links also to the pre school playgroup (HMI Inspection report 1991).

A new school was talked about from the early 1960s; it was to be combined with a village hall and other amenities to revitalise the village. Recently with new houses being planned and a projected population growth there are proposals for an extension to the school, including sports facilities. In 2000, around 20 pupils were attending Ross High Secondary School.