The Scottish Reformation resulted in major changes to the organisation and nature of education, with the loss of choir schools and the expansion of parish schools, along with the reform and expansion of the Universities.
In the seventeenth century, legislation enforced the creation and funding of schools in every parish, often overseen by presbyteries of the local kirk, like the former 1731 Adventure School in the Kirkton Graveyard.
Prior to the Education Act of 1872, schools were provided by the landowner, heritors, or proprietors of large industrial businesses such as Blantyre Mills. Not all children were provided with an education but the Act made education compulsory and established School Boards in every district whose remit was to construct schools in every parish in the country.
The Education Act of 1872 set up board schools for all children between 5 and 13. These were built in Scotland by over nine hundred school boards. It was the first national system of state education, overseen by the Scotch Education Board, and it was compulsory. This act marked a watershed in Scottish education and had an immediate effect on teacher training.
The existing parish and burgh schools were taken over by the state and managed by locally elected School Boards. The new system was co-ordinated nationally by the Scotch Education Department with the curriculum emphasising the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic (the three ‘Rs’). The churches and organisations made a crucial contribution to the new system by handing over their schools without charge to the School Boards. At this time the Free Church supported 548 schools across Scotland together with 584 teachers.
In Blantyre this meant the handover of the Parochial School at Kirkton and the handover of the Blantyre Works School.
Construction of 2 new schools in Blantyre commenced right after the Act and High Blantyre Public School and Stonefield (Low Blantyre) Public Schools replaced the former two schools.
By 1883 the school leaving age rose to 13. Pupils had a chance to progress to college, university or other training, via the Leaving Certificate set up in 1887.
From 1889, fees were abandoned and educational provision was free but many children left school at the earliest opportunity as they needed to earn money to help support their family. The Scottish education system underwent radical change and expansion in the 20th century.
In 1918 Roman Catholic schools were brought into the system, but retained their distinct religious character, access to schools by priests and the requirement that school staff be acceptable to the Church.
The school leaving age was raised to 14 in 1901, and although plans to raise it to 15 in the 1940s were never ratified, increasing numbers stayed on beyond elementary education and it was eventually raised to 16 in 1973. As a result, secondary education was the major area of growth in the inter-war period, particularly for girls, who stayed on in full-time education in increasing numbers throughout the century.
New qualifications were developed to cope with changing aspirations and economics, with the Leaving Certificate being replaced by the Scottish Certificate of Education Ordinary Grade (‘O-Grade’) and Higher Grade (‘Higher’) qualifications in 1962, which became the basic entry qualification for university study.
There are currently 5 Primary Schools – 3 non-denominational, one of which houses a unit for children with special needs and 2 Roman Catholic. There is 2 secondary schools Calderside Academy and the denominational John Ogilvie High in Burnbank, which is just outside Blantyre.
Pictured is Old Schoolhouse Lane at High Blantyre a few years back. These was the lane that has seen a couple of different schools over the centuries. This photo from 2007 shows the small grass area in front of Old Schoolhouse Lane, although it looks slightly different today. The rosebeds are gone, now grassed over and one of the tall pine trees is now heavily storm damaged. Looking at this photo, it was a time when the council actually trimmed the hedges every month, rather than the infrequent number of times it happens today.