Those were the days

As Glasgow's Scotland Street School celebrates its centenary, an exhibition puts it in the context of 500 years of education. Elizabeth Buie reports

This year not only marks the centenary of Scotland Street School but also provides a launch pad for a series of events celebrating various aspects of educational history.

One of the main events is Glasgow Schools - Then and Now, a photographic exhibition at the Scotland Street School Museum, covering more than 500 years, from when the old Glasgow grammar school, built beside the High Street, near the cathedral, was founded in 1460 and gifted to the city fathers. At the other end of the time line is Keppoch Campus, completed in 2004, an amalgamation incorporating a Catholic primary, a non-denominational primary, a pre-five nursery, a special school and a family centre.

This fascinating march through time offers examples of how some issues have come full circle, such as the emphasis on healthy school meals, fresh air, exercise and good nutrition. Other photographs show the huge gulf between past and present, notably the provision for children with special needs, or "crippled children" as they were known.

The pictures, culled largely from the city's Mitchell Library, show the progression of the schools that existed before the 1872 Education Act: church schools, parish schools, schools such as Hutcheson's Grammar (originally a charity hospital school) and those which were part of the Old Ragged School movement, or industrial schools, for the very poor. There were private venture schools; the more undesirable schools which were set up at the top of staircases or down in basements in areas of disrepute; and factory schools, which allowed children to split their day between education and work.

Other photographs recall the days when some older pupils were directed towards vocational skills - boys to trades such as tailoring; girls to housewifery skills - while the more bookish were channelled into academic schools.

The exhibition, which runs until October 30, also illustrates evolutions in school design, ranging from the bold, clean lines of Charles Rennie Mackintosh at Scotland Street School to the more traditional design of a central well and glass skylight windows.

The original open air loggia design of Dennistoun Public School (now St Denis's Primary) is seen to have evolved in new-build designs to allow pupils to line up outside under shelter in wet weather.

Strathblane school, outside the city, took in pupils from a wide area, many of them suffering from tuberculosis, and placed its emphasis on open air education. Some walls could slide back to expose classes to the fresh air.

The densely populated areas of Glasgow tended to build three-storey schools, but as they became more depopulated, single storey new-builds became the norm. Modular schools were first built by the Bristol Air Company in the post Second World War years, when it needed to diversify from aircraft manufacture. There are several examples in Castlemilk, built from the same template with aluminium and asbestos.

"We will be asking people to put down their recollections of their school buildings and how they used them," says Alison Brown, Glasgow Museums'


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