School records and sources: research guide 8
The John Gray Centre’s collection of school records dates largely from the setting up of school boards following the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872. This opened formal education to all children, and placed local control and funding in the hands of school boards.
The records generally relate to schools that are now closed, with current records of individual schools remaining with the schools. Coverage is patchy and in many cases records have simply not survived. Please contact the John Gray Centre to find out the availability of information on a specific school.
Please note: data protection restrictions can apply to some school information. Staff can provide further information on this.
School Records comprise:
1) Admission registers
These have not changed much over the years and record information probably already known about an ancestor, such as name of the child, date of birth, address, name of parent/guardian, together with date of admission and date of leaving the school.
2) Log books
These are diaries compiled by the head teacher, recording daily events – attendances (or non-attendance due to infectious diseases, bad weather, farm work and estate work etc), subjects being taught, inspector visits, school accommodation, and special events such as prize giving and holidays. Some log books predate the 1872 Act and begin in the 1860s: Cockenzie School (1867); North Berwick High (1868); Stenton School (1868); Dunbar Grammar School (1872); St Mary’s School, Haddington (1872). The names of teachers may occasionally feature in log books.
Whittinghame School, 18 Nov 1918, School closed in the afternoon: ‘in consequence of the signing of the Armistice Terms and the end of hostilities in the Great War’.
Dunbar Public School, 18th Feb 1915: ‘it has been decided to use slates again owing to the scarcity of paper’.
3) School board minute books
These record information on the school management and finance, and the appointment of teachers.
4) County council education committee minutes
These record aspects of overall management including policy, finance, school appointments etc.
For information pre-1872
For centuries, education in Scotland was provided by burgh or parish schools, attended by boys from all social classes, with most information on the schools within the general burgh minutes.
Heritors were the landed proprietors of the parish, and were formerly liable for the payment of public burdens connected with the parish, including the provision of schools in the parish. Surviving heritors’ minutes may include items specifically relating to education, or may have references to the provision of a school, schoolmaster and schoolhouse.
Statistical accounts – 1790s and 1840s
These detailed descriptions of the economic and social conditions in each of the Scottish parishes, written by the local Church of Scotland minister, often include brief references to contemporary educational provision.
Barker, Ralph W. Village School: the story of education in Pencaitland. Pencaitland Amenity Society, 1994.
Easton, Drew. A Short History of Fisherrow School 1678–2004. East Lothian Council, 2002.
Easton, Drew. Memories of Fisherrow and Fisherrow School. East Lothian Council, 2004.
East Lothian District Council. Longniddry primary school 1931–1981. 1981
East Lothian Council. Holt School: Whittingehame.
Educational Institute of Scotland of Scotland, Annual Congress. North Berwick, 1934.
Fergie, John. Stories and Pupils’ memories including a brief history of education at the parish school. Bramble publishing, 2011 (reproduction).
Grant, James. History of the Burgh Schools of Scotland. Collins, 1876.
Hely-Hutchinson Almond. Loretto 1862–1903. Edinburgh: Neill & Co., 1903.
Mackenzie, Robert Jamieson. Almond of Loretto. London: Archibald Constable, 1906
Martine, John. Reminiscenes of the Royal Burgh of Haddington. Edinburgh, 1883.
Statham, Craig. Lost East Lothian. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2011.
Stewart, Frank. Loretto One-Fifty: the story of Loretto school from 1827 to 1977. Edinburgh : William Blackwood 1981
Turnbull, Michael. Abbey Boys: Fort Augustus Abbey Schools. Perth, 2000