‘We were made into real teachers’

This year marked the end of an era as Jordanhill College of Education closed after almost a century at the heart of education in Scotland. It has, however, left a lasting legacy
21st December 2012, 12:00am


‘We were made into real teachers’


Douglas Blane reports on the pioneering work of David Stow, what was achieved at the building named after him, and what life was like for former students

It’s the silence that is most noticeable since Jordanhill closed. The college was rarely noisy. But it was always bustling, with young women and men moving briskly from one class to another, their arms full of books and papers, their heads with plans and pedagogies.

Weeds now sprout in the car parks and the windows of the telephone kiosk outside the refectory are smashed and gone. But the buildings are still impressive, especially the David Stow with its red sandstone walls and high windows, dominating the lawns and playing fields of the campus that has been training Scotland’s teachers since 1921.

“I first went to Jordanhill in 1968,” says former lecturer Marion McLarty. “It was a formal place then, very conventional. Young women were not allowed to wear trousers and there were no first names. The principal, Henry Wood, used to drift about wearing his black academic gown and smoking a large curved pipe.”

From its origins, which can be traced to Britain’s first training college for teachers, founded by David Stow in 1837, Jordanhill College of Education was socially orthodox yet educationally radical. The varied curriculum and sympathetic contact with children advocated by Stow differed greatly from the “authoritarian school regime of the past,” writes Marjorie Cruickshank, author of A History of the Training of Teachers in Scotland (1970). “It was very much in contrast, also, to the stark regimentation of the new monitorial system with its reliance on child instructors” that had taken hold temporarily in England.

Some of Stow’s ideas were surprisingly modern, says Glenda White, who lectured at Jordanhill in the 1970s and 1980s, and researched the silk merchant and educational pioneer for her PhD.

“His attitude to children was revolutionary. He would never use corporal punishment. He didn’t believe in prize-giving. He said it was kindness that would make children want to respond.

“Stow understood childhood as a discrete period in human development, to be acknowledged and respected by adults and enjoyed by children. Whatever age group they were going to teach, his students had to finish by teaching infants. That’s where you really learned your craft, he believed.”

Stow remains an inspiration for many of the staff at the University of Strathclyde’s school of education - the successor to Jordanhill - says Amanda Corrigan, course leader for the new BA in primary education. “I feel the connection strongly. I look at Stow’s bust every morning on the ground floor as we take the lift. We moved into the city campus before it did and people kept asking when it was going to arrive. It is a big deal to us.”

Salient events in Jordanhill’s timeline (see panel, page 19) include the right to award its own qualifications in 1959 when it became a “college of education”, the rapid expansion during the next 15 years, at a time of teacher shortage, to a peak student population of 3,713 in 1975, the beginning of the BEd degree for primary teachers in 1984, and the admission of men for the first time to the primary teachers’ course in 1967.

“There were 12 men on the course in my year, who were taught in a separate section for some classes but with us for others,” says Mrs McLarty.

“The lecturers didn’t know what to do with these mostly mature men who were rather unorthodox. I remember two of them standing on the flat roof of the refectory scattering cherry blossom on everyone and shouting `Happy spring!’”

Forty-four years later the refectory building is still there, but the male primary teaching students, while still in the minority, tend to be younger and perhaps more reflective.

“I enjoyed my whole time at Jordanhill,” says Paul Campbell, one of the final cohort of BEd graduates this summer. “Of course there were difficult times in terms of workload and content. But you got on with it. There was a good balance.”

Barriers to learning, tackled in second year, presented both academic and personal challenges, he says. “We looked at how you, as a teacher, could create barriers for a child. An example that sounds obvious - but was a big deal when they first made me think about it - is children’s behaviour. I had been assuming it was something they brought into class and you managed. Jordanhill got me thinking about the causes of behaviour and how the teacher has a huge influence on how pupils behave.”

Student satisfaction - and sometimes dissatisfaction - will no doubt continue in the new city-centre location, which has, says Amanda Corrigan, “gorgeous facilities for students, with an education resource centre, huge labs with hundreds of computers, and brand new furniture and carpets.” But there is also some unhappiness at what the University of Strathclyde has done to Jordanhill.

It was always a pioneering place, says Iain Smith, dean of the faculty of education from 2001 to 2007. “Jordanhill pioneered the idea that teachers should, as well as being educated and knowledgeable, be trained as teachers. That remains a contested idea, although not in Scotland.”

Twenty years ago Jordanhill was faced with a difficult choice, he says. It could apply for degree-awarding powers of its own or join one of the new universities or an established university, namely Glasgow or Strathclyde.

“Glasgow turned us down, so we went for Strathclyde. In retrospect, I think we were mistaken. We could not have stayed free-standing. But we should have treated a national and regional teaching mission as more important than international or research pretensions.”

The advantages of the merger - and the move from Jordanhill campus - are clearer for Graham Donaldson, former head of HM Inspectorate of Education and author of Teaching Scotland’s Future. “I do have a fondness for the location, both as a former student and lecturer. But Jordanhill was very clearly separate from the University of Strathclyde.”

Removing that separation benefits the individual teacher and the education system as a whole, he believes. “Colleges were brought into the universities to make sure future teachers did not have a narrow vocational training. That aspect is important, but so is broadening them as educated people - which means taking their studies outwith the school of education.

“If more primary teachers had done modern languages as part of their degree, we’d be in a much stronger position in the primary schools now. The same is true of science and maths.”

Much has changed in the 91 years since Jordanhill began, and even more in the 175 years since David Stow opened the first purpose-built institution in Europe for the training of teachers. But its legacy is assured.

“The building for the Dundas Vale Normal Seminary is still there,” says Glenda White. “Take the subway to Cowcaddens and go and marvel at the achievement of a carpet manufacturer.”

David Stow completely changed how future teachers were educated, says Amanda Corrigan. “A lot of the things he believed, we still believe today and use in our teaching here. We are very aware of our legacy. We know we are walking in big shoes.”

The closure of Jordanhill was a threat hanging over the final cohort of BEd students for much of their time there, says Paul Campbell. “It didn’t happen, so we were starting to think maybe it wouldn’t happen. Those of us doing postgraduate courses were looking forward to going back to Jordanhill. We never can now.”

A History of the Training of Teachers in Scotland by M. Cruickshank, The Training System, Moral Training School and Normal Seminary for Preparing School Trainers and Governesses by David Stow, bit.lyUDOTZd

Memories are made of these

Margaret Kyle, Jordanhill student 1936-38

“I spent a year in school in Greenock working as a teaching assistant before completing my two-year course at Jordanhill. The headmaster of the school I worked in was a tutor who oversaw my practice. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Jordanhill and have many happy memories. I particularly enjoyed the dances that were held in the assembly hall of the Stow Building. I had a pie and chips every day for lunch, which cost fourpence. Students at Jordanhill in the 1930s were made into real teachers.”

Marion McLarty, Jordanhill student 1968-71, senior lecturer educational support 1993-2010

“I didn’t enjoy Jordanhill as a student. It was stuffy and old-fashioned. The 1960s didn’t come to Scotland until the 1970s. But I loved it as a member of staff. A few years ago when I was rushing to a class I passed a member of the cleaning staff, a man using a floor polisher. I remember thinking Sir Henry would be turning in his grave - a woman member of staff wearing trousers and a man cleaning the floors.”

Graham Donaldson, Jordanhill student 1969-70, head of HMIE 2002-10

“Alasdair Nicolson, one of the fathers of modern studies, was the head of a department that was setting up the new subject in Scottish schools. That was exciting for me. One piece of advice I remember getting, which shows how times have changed, came from a history lecturer. He said that as teachers we should always wear rubber-soled shoes so pupils couldn’t hear you walking up behind them. It’s not advice I took as a teacher, but it stuck in my memory.”

Peter Peacock, Jordanhill student 1970-73, Scottish Executive minister for education and young people 2003-06

“The grandeur of the red sandstone facade, the elevated position, the openness of the grounds, the tree-lined drive. The refectory providing cheap bridie, chips and beans as my staple diet. The folk-club buzzing with new acts. Demonstrating against the Vietnam war, combining the opportunity to say something important with lying on the grass in the sun. Long hair and flairs. Hours in the library seeking to understand.”

Jordanhill timeline

1828: Opening by David Stow of Drygate Infant School, where organised teacher training in Scotland began.

1837: First training college for teachers - Dundas Vale Normal Seminary - founded by Stow.

1921: Jordanhill opens for teacher training.

1931: Scottish School of Physical Education established at Jordanhill.

1959: Jordanhill becomes college of education with power to award qualifications.

1963: School of Speech Therapy established.

1964: Start of youth and community courses.

1967: Start of social work courses. Men admitted to primary diploma course.

1984: BEd degree course for primary teachers begins.

1993: Merger with the University of Strathclyde.

2012: Jordanhill Campus closes.

Full timeline in Teaching the Teachers: The History of Jordanhill College of Education by Margaret Harrison and Willis Marker.

Photo: The David Stow Building. Photo credit: University of Strathclyde Library, Archives and Special Collections

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