Who Do You Think You Are?



The ‘father of radar’ Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1892–1973) attended Brechin High School in Angus. This schedule is held by the National Records of Scotland. It is also available digitally from the Old Scottish website ( oldscottis­h.com)

If your relations lived in Ayrshire, there is some good news. David Law discovered the records of the Maybole Ragged School in his attic. He has transcribe­d them and created an index of 184 children who are featured. This can be explored for free

at maybole.org/history/articles/ maybolerag­gedschool.htm.

The 1870 Elementary Education Act establishe­d compulsory state education for children aged 5–13 in England and Wales, overseen by elected school boards. In 1883, the leaving age was raised to 14. However, fees for state schools were only abolished in 1892.

The Scottish equivalent, the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act, introduced a similar system in 1873. Most records of state schools originate from this date.

The Act also obliged the headteache­r of each of the new board schools to keep a daily logbook of occurrence­s at the school, particular­ly factors a"ecting pupils’ attendance (such as epidemics and severe weather) and sta" absences. Examples of logbooks can be found on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) website at scan.org.uk/knowledgeb­ase/ topics/schoollogb­ook.htm.

The new system was based around schools administer­ed by local school boards. Fees were kept relatively low because they were supported by local rates. It is the records created by these boards, as well as those created by the schools themselves, that we can use today in our exploratio­n of our relations’ educationa­l histories.

Online Resources

There are a number of online resources to help you identify the school(s) your ancestor is likely to have attended. Directorie­s and maps are freely available on the National Library of Scotland’s websites digital.

nls.uk/directorie­s and maps. nls.uk respective­ly, while the 1881–1911 censuses are available on ScotlandsP­eople ( scotlandsp­eople.gov.uk). Surviving minute books of school boards and later authoritie­s should be found in local archives. In this context, ‘minute books’ means the o!cial record of the boards’ meetings. The books usually begin with the date and place that the meeting took place, and a list of those who were present.

Some of the most useful genealogic­al records, for example admission and discharge registers and logbooks, may be retained by individual schools, or may have been passed on to town or regional archives. These records usually include details of the pupil’s name, birthplace, residence, their father’s name, and other biographic­al details.

Glasgow City Archives ( glasgowlif­e.org.uk/libraries/

city-archives) holds records for the most highly populated area of Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Records here include admission registers and logbooks of non-denominati­onal and Catholic state schools, as well as some private schools. However, records containing sensitive informatio­n (such

as the results of IQ tests in registers) remain closed for 50–75 years. Some of the records predate 1873, such as those of the Glasgow School for the Deaf and Mossbank Industrial School. There are no admission registers or logbooks online, but photos

of school buildings and classrooms are on the Virtual Mitchell site at mitchellli­brary. org/virtualmit­chell.

You won’t always find school records in local archives. Some may have been destroyed when schools closed, for example. Others may have been passed to NRS. The archive also holds school-inspection reports from the Church of Scotland, as well as for private schools such as Loretto ( loretto.com). Scotland’s oldest boarding school was founded in Musselburg­h in 1827. Other private schools founded in the 19th century include Fettes College in Edinburgh ( fettes.com), Glenalmond College in Perthshire

( glenalmond­college.co.uk) and St Leonards School for Girls in St Andrews ( stleonards­fife.org/our-school/history). A collection of historical photos and print material exists in the Fettes College archive, while Glenalmond has a dedicated archivist.

Greater Reforms

In the 20th century, the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act provided further reform, including state funding for Roman Catholic schools. In 1939 the school leaving age was raised to 15, although this only took e ect in 1946. Other useful collection­s at NRS are ‘Results of the Leaving, Senior Leaving and Scottish Leaving Certificat­e Examinatio­n Registers, 1908–1965’ (reference ED36) and ‘Results of Senior Leaving Certificat­e Examinatio­n Results During the War Years, 1940–1945’ (ED40). These records have been indexed by the genealogic­al site Old Scottish, where you can also see images:

However, one thing to bear in mind is that most pupils were not entered for the School Leaving Certificat­e. An investigat­ion by the Scottish Council for Research in Education in the 1920s discovered that only 12 per cent of each year’s cohort gained the certificat­e.

Most pupils were not entered for the School Leaving Certificat­e

 ?? ?? 1 2 6 3 4 5
1 2 6 3 4 5
 ?? ?? Boys at Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, watch their teacher in a woodworkin­g class held on 10 June 1935
Boys at Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, watch their teacher in a woodworkin­g class held on 10 June 1935

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