Early on the morning of June 3rd 1983, the first, fresh-faced, newly appointed staff of the new High School could be seen walking purposefully along Lanark Road West, stopping only to ask,
Twentyfive years on and Balerno High School has developed into a strong, dynamic and integral part of the community; but the school was a long time in coming.
“The teacher has had especial difficulties to deal with. For two years fever has been very common in the town and the teacher is now recovering from illness. The teacher is clearly enthusiastic but there were signs of lack of firm discipline and it is questionable whether boys of 12, 13 or 14 can be easily placed under the care of a female teacher… Should any member of the staff fail to a great extent, the grant to the school will be reduced.”
No, this is not a tabloid expose of Balerno High School in the 1990s, but a copy of the Inspector’s Report for St. Mungo’s School Balerno, year ending 31 October 1882.
The first record of a school in Balerno refers to one set up in 1814. Its purpose was to teach English and the three Rs. There were 75 pupils and the teacher was paid £25 per year. In 1872 elementary education became compulsory and a new school was needed. In 1877 what is currently the ‘annexe’ was to become Dean Park Primary School and the red brick building, now Jigsaw Nursery School, was the teacher’s house. Balerno was also served by St Mungo’s Episcopal School and all local historians are indebted to the log book kept by the intrepid teacher through the 1880’s which gives us such a vivid picture of life in the village in the late 19th century.
“Wet and windy all week. One child was blown into the Water of Leith but was fortunately rescued. One child was bit by a dog.” (October 1878)
“Class exams had to be postponed. So many children absented themselves for potato picking.” (September 1884)
In Ratho, the old school building is still visible and the traditions of village education are still well served by Ratho Primary School.
However, as the educational needs of older children grew so did the problem of where to send them.
Until the 1970s, secondary education involved Balerno, Ratho and Kirknewton children travelling long distances. With the rapid population growth in the Balerno area (c.1000 people in 1960, c.15000 in 1995) the campaign for a local high school gained momentum.
“I am absolutely horrified, flabbergasted”
These were not comments concerning the quality of education in Balerno; rather they concerned the saga of the building of Balerno High School, a story that ran and ran. With plans drawn up for a £4,600,000 community school and builders prepared to go ‘on site’ in April of 1980, the Edinburgh Evening News reported a “shock rethink” as late as January of 1980 which would “examine the consequences of not proceeding with the project”. The Council even considered the feasibility of expanding places at ‘nearby’ Currie and Firrhill High Schools.
However, common sense prevailed and Balerno High School was eventually opened to pupils from first to third years in August 1983. During its relatively short history Balerno High School has developed a reputation for high quality teaching and learning.
The dedication and determination of the Balerno High School Action Group and the Balerno branch of the Resident’s Association should be acknowledged and applauded. Their long struggle was, without doubt, very worthwhile.