By Bobby Grierson
Scottish education has always been held in high regard and the history of education in the Cumnock area is a good example of how this came about.
In the early 1600s it was planned to set up a school in every Parish and although it took almost two centuries for this to be realised – things were not at a standstill. The earliest mention of a school in Cumnock being 1625. It is not known exactly where this was situated, but it was somewhere close to the Parish Church. In early Cumnock maintaining standards of education was the responsibility of the Church and the Parish Heritors Committee. Annual examination of school and pupils would be held by the Parish Minister and one or two neighbouring clergymen. Later control of schools and school affairs passed into the hands of school boards, members of which had to be elected. Increasing population and the rise in school rolls meant that schools became overcrowded.
Early records show in the 1830s the Parish School and the town jail occupied the site of the present day Clydesdale Bank in the Square. This operated alongside several private and church schools. By the 1840s the school needed to expand and a new Parish School was erected at Broombrae by the Heritors Committee and opened in 1847.
Parents were expected to pay for school fees and some examples from this era are given here: Reading 3/-, Writing 3/6d, Arithmetic 4/, Latin 6/- all per quarter. Some bequests were granted to educate poorer children by the Marquis of Bute and Charles Duncan a local benefactor.
In 1872, after the passing of the Education Scotland, Cumnock moved to a system of state-sponsored, largely free schools and education was now compulsory from five to thirteen. In 1873 Old Cumnock School Parish Board was formed and control of schools and school affairs passed into their hands. Due to the rise in school rolls preparations were made for a rebuilding scheme and to design two large new schools, at Garrallan and in the town.
Garrallan Parish School on the Skares Road was opened in 1874 and served mining and farming families. Three sites were considered for the town school, Greenmill Holm, Car Road and beside the old school in Barrhill and in 1876 a “fine, new school” was opened further up from the old school on Barrhill Road. This was Cumnock Public School and many Cumnockians would master the “three Rs” under its roof. The pupils from the old parish school and the Free Church school at Ayr Road moved in to the new building. At this time there was two joint headmasters at the new school.
In 1886 a Roman Catholic Primary School, St John’s opened in Bank Avenue with 99 pupils. In 1888 a Leaving Certificate Examination was introduced and in1890 school fees were abolished, creating a state-funded national system of free basic education and common examinations.
Around 1895 a new brick-built school was opened at Skares to serve the children of the miners rows. Meanwhile in Cumnock, between 1895 and the early 1900s the school accommodation again became woefully inadequate and a new infant block was built behind the public school in the playground and plans for a new school on the grounds of Hillside House opposite were made. In 1909 Hillside House was purchased by the school board and converted for use as a school – it opened in 1911. It soon became too small and a large extension was added which became Cumnock Academy in 1926. Hillside House itself was demolished and a new wing was added 1939.
With the raising of the school leaving age in 1947 and more pupils staying on, the secondary roll swelled and by 1948 the school had reached 1,443 making Cumnock Academy the biggest school in the county – the infant and primary buildings alongside the old and new extension of the Academy, and even the old parish school were full to capacity. In 1952 new plans were laid and the foundations were laid for a new primary school at Greenmill Holm at Ayr Road. Glaisnock Rural Junior Secondary School opened at nearby Glaisnock House in 1952.
The new Greenmill primary school opened in 1954 then extended. With the centralisation of secondary education Cumnock Academy now had to accommodate all pupils over the age of twelve years from the Cumnock and New Cumnock areas. It again became very overcrowded.
The increase in Cumnock Academy’s population was due partly to the town itself continuing to expand. New houses had been built at Netherthird, Craigens, Logan and Barshare and in 1961, the new St Conval’s secondary school was built on Auchinleck Road.
In 1965 plans for a new Academy were approved and a start was made with the building of the new school around the Greenmill Primary site. The two schools swapped locations in 1969 – causing much confusion at the time. The Social and Recreational Wing was added in 1971.
A new St John’s Primary School was opened at Barshare in 1974 and Barshare Primary School opened in 1976. Hillside School for children with complex learning needs was opened at Barshare in 1992.
Knockroon Learning and Enterprise Campus
The Scottish Government commitment and vision for the national school estate resulted in the development of a new school estate strategy, Building Better Schools: Investing in Scotland’s Future which was published in 2009. This document set out national and local government’s shared vision, aspirations and principles for the efficient and effective management of the school estate.
Considering the key aspirations of this strategy, and the wider implications of East Ayrshire Council’s own Transformation Plan and vision for delivery of Curriculum for Excellence in schools, it was proposed to seek public comment and to bring forward proposals which would see the establishment of a new Enterprise and Learning Campus which would include provision for Early Childhood, Primary, Special, Supported Learning, Secondary on a single Campus in the Knockroon/Broomfield area.
Based on projected rolls for the schools provided by the Government it was estimated that the Affordability Cap for the Council element of the campus would be approximately £63.500m. The East Ayrshire Learning Campus – Knockroon will be the biggest capital project ever undertaken by East Ayrshire Council.
The new Campus will incorporate:
- Barshare Primary School, Supported Learning Centre and Early Childhood Centre
- Greenmill Primary School and Early Childhood Centre
- Hillside ASN School
- Auchinleck Academy
- Cumnock Academy and Supported Learning Centre
East Ayrshire Council is committed to delivering an inclusive learning environment where state-of-the-art facilities are provided for its children, young people and members of the community. A further focus on health and wellbeing should ensure this commitment extends to the outdoor facilities and the plan is to provide enhanced leisure and recreational facilities for all members of the community who currently use the existing Broomfield site.
Children and young people, staff, parents and the local community will play a significant role in developing the design for the campus. They have been invited to work with the design team and senior officers to ensure the design of the campus reflects the educational aspirations of the Council, takes into account the requirements of the local community and is informed by the natural heritage and architecture of the surrounding area.
Subject to completion of all necessary consultations and procurement procedures, construction is planned to begin in 2017, with a planned opening scheduled for 2019.
Since the 1840s Cumnock school overcrowding had been a major problem that has persisted over the years – It remains to be seen if these issues will now be successfully resolved in 2019 – almost 170 years later.
Public School Class Roll from 1882