The History of Leith

November 3, 2010

The Administration of Education in Leith

From the Reformation down to the beginning of the nineteenth century the kirk session of South Leith was the education authority of the town, maintaining two schools—a grammar school for higher education
and a school for the poor where the children were taught to read the Scriptures. In 1806 the grammar school was transferred from the Kirkgate (where the accommodation had left a great deal to be desired) to the Links, where a new school, the High School, had been
erected, the necessary money having been raised by subscription among the citizens of the town. In 1848 the ” High School Trust ” was vested in the magistrates and council of Leith, along with the two ministers of South Leith. This Trust managed the school until 1872.
In that year the Scottish Education Act was passed, setting up in each burgh or parish a School Board, with power to impose rates for the upkeep of the schools.
The first meeting of the Leith School Board was held on April 22, 1873, its chairman being James Watt, provost of Leith. Mr. Watt held the position of chairman until his death in 1881. It was to this body that the High School was handed over. The School Board continued to control education in Leith until 1919, when their powers passed to a new body, set up by the new Education Act of 1918, and called the Education Authority.
Here it may be said that while the Act of 1918 set up county authorities to take the place of parish authorities, and thus made great changes in educational affairs in Scotland, the passing of the Act made very little change in Leith, which was one of five burghs that did not come under the county authority, but were allowed to form separate education areas.
The number of schools continued to increase in Leith from 1872 onwards, and so we find that in 1919, when the Leith School Board handed over its schools to the newly constituted Education Authority, these schools numbered no fewer than eighteen, exclusive of three
special schools—one in North Junction Street, for mentally defective scholars; one at Clarebank, for pupils whose health required special attention ; and the third at Ceres, Cupar Fife, for Leith children likely to be benefited in health by a stay in the country. Of the eighteen
schools, one—Holy Cross Academy—is an Intermediate School providing a three years’ curriculum in languages, mathematics, science, art, and other subjects; while two—Leith Academy and Trinity Academy—are Secondary Schools, providing a six years’ course for the Leaving Certificate, the passport to the University. Leith Academy, under a changed name, is the High School the School Board making the change of name in 1888.
The old building continued to exist under its new name until 1896, when it was demolished, having become altogether inadequate to meet modern requirements, and the present-day building erected on its site.
The Leith Education Authority had a short-lived existence. Just as the Amalgamation Act had combined the Town Councils of Edinburgh and Leith, and also their Parish Councils, so also it combined their
Education Authorities. The Education Authority of Greater Edinburgh consists of thirty-four members, seven of whom are Leith representatives. And now with the amalgamation of the two communities the story of Leith as a separate municipality comes to an end. The people of Leith had no wish to see their town lose its identity as a separate burgh, and on a plebiscite being taken showed by a vote of 26,810 to 4,340 that they did not wish amalgamation. But the union of 1920 is very different from that of the old unhappy days before 1833. The relation of Leith to Edinburgh then was one of serf to overlord. In this later union of 1920 Leith joins Edinburgh on equal
terms, and will co-operate with her for the good of the joint community with no less zeal than she worked for her own welfare when a separate burgh.

source-The Story of Leith-1922

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