Moray House School of Education and Sport

Part 3: Teacher Training at Moray House: 1848 onwards

Teacher Training at Moray House: 1848 onwards

The establishment of the Free Church of Scotland had a significant impact on education and teacher training in Scotland.

In 1843 a major controversy in the Church of Scotland led to the Disruption. 470 Ministers from the General Assembly, more than one third of the total, left to set up the new Free Church of Scotland. Fundraising enabled many Free Churches to be established across Scotland.

Following the Disruption over 400 teachers in church schools joined the Free Church. The Superintendent of the Edinburgh Normal School and Sessional and, Thomas Oliphant (1840-1846), together with all his students except seven joined the Free Church. At first the school had to take temporary accommodation in Carruber’s Close off the High Street before it moved to the rooms under the Music Hall entered from Rose Street. To provide permanent accommodation the Free Church drew up plans for a new Normal School in Spittal Street, but before the foundation stone could be laid it was realised that the funds available would be insufficient to complete the building work.

The Free Church of Scotland's schools

At this time the buildings in the Canongate known as Moray House came onto the market. In October 1846 the Free Church, through it’s Education Committee convened by Dr Candlish, acquired Moray House and its grounds for £2,862. The house had to be adapted to its new purpose including a new extension built on the north east side of the gardens. The total cost of the project amounted to £8,600. The Privy Council of the government contributed £3000 towards the cost and the rest was defrayed, as Dr Candlish reported, by ‘the more wealthy and more generous members of the [free] church.’ The Free Church of Scotland’s Normal and Sessional School opened on 13 September 1848 with the Rector, James Fulton (1847-1855) leading the children and students down the High Street to their new premises in the Canongate. This was to be the start of over 150 years of teacher training based at Moray House.

The school followed the pattern of the time with a large ‘model’ school and an associated Normal School for those students training as teachers. The student teachers were usually personally recommended and certificated by a local minister and had to be able to pay their fees. The Edinburgh Normal and Sessional School was co-educational non -residential, although at first the majority of student teachers were men. A Diploma was introduced and awarded after a minimum of one year’s attendance. Students had to pass an examination conducted by members of the church’s Education Committee. Moray House’s first diplomas were awarded in 1850. However, this arrangement was later replaced by examinations and Certificates organised by the government.

With the loss in 1843 of its staff and most of its students the Church of Scotland’s teacher training arrangements faced a period of uncertainty. However, the General Assembly’s Education Committee made it clear that “they will be able still to carry into execution the plan both for the establishment of the Glasgow Normal School and the erection of a Normal School in Edinburgh….”. The plans for the building of the new school in Johnston Terrace were put into effect and the Church of Scotland Normal and Sessional School was opened on 19 May 1845.

Government involvement and the national teacher-pupil scheme

The increasing role of the government in teacher training is reflected in the Council of Education’s Minutes for 1846 introducing a national pupil - teacher scheme. Schools could select from their most promising thirteen year old students those most likely to be able to undertake an apprenticeship of up to five years duration. During the day they would follow the school’s curriculum and then receive additional instruction outside school hours on the art of teaching from staff appointed for this purpose. The most able students, selected through a competitive examination, were awarded a Queen’s Scholarship. Successful male students were awarded a grant of £25 and female students two thirds of this. These grants supported their maintenance at the Normal School. The school’s curriculum at this time was a broad one and included subjects such as drawing and music. At the end of their course the students would take an examination in both general and professional subjects conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectors. The achievement of a Leaving Certificate carried with it an enhanced salary funded by the government.

Whilst not initially welcomed (‘it assumed a child could do two exacting things at once’), the pupil - teacher scheme, especially for elementary school teachers, was an improvement on the previous monitorial model, guaranteeing a minimum level of personal knowledge and achievement of recognised teaching skills. Certificated teachers were able to organise and teach the large number of children in sessional and subscription schools.

The Normal Schools were funded by the government for the number of teachers they produced and the Free Church Normal Schools, in particular, responded positively to the increasing need for more teachers at this time. By 1857 the number of students in Scottish Training Colleges (Normal Schools) had increased to over 500, with a third of these women. A positive HMI Report on the Free Church Normal College at Moray House in 1858 noted that two large lecture rooms and the three class rooms had recently been opened to accommodate this increase in student numbers.

The success of students in their final examinations depended in part on the knowledge and skills of the teaching staff. In 1853 the government introduced payments to those Normal School lecturers who could pass an examination in a designated subject. On passing they would be paid an additional £100 on top of their £150 salary. There was some concern that ‘lecturer’ implied a concentration on academic work rather than on the practical training. However, James Sime, Rector of the Edinburgh Normal School (1855-1864), reassured doubters:

" Lecturers lecture and also show students how to impart knowledge…"

James SimeRector of the Edinburgh Normal School

In 1858 the regular curriculum of the Normal Schools was extended to two years by regulation, with training ending in December instead of June. To qualify for their ‘parchment’ students, in addition to their Leaving Certificate, had to undertake a further two years of work teaching in a school. The final grade obtained depended on both their examination performance and the report of the HMI on their schoolwork.

This new system of teacher training began to have a major effect on Scottish education. Newly qualified and certificated teachers were sought after and reasonably well paid. Their training gave them a wider knowledge than many parish schoolteachers previously and this in turn enabled them to teach a broader curriculum to children. The link with the churches was also lessening with increased government funding and the abolition of the need for teachers to sign the Confession of Faith.

In 1864 Maurice Paterson was appointed Rector of Moray House, a role that he performed with distinction until he retired in 1907.

Teacher Training and the Church of Scotland

The Disruption of 1843 resulted in a period of uncertainty for the Church of Scotland’s teacher training in Edinburgh. However, the General Assembly’s Education Committee made it clear that ‘they will be able still to carry into execution the plan both for the establishment of the Glasgow Normal School and the erection of a Normal School in Edinburgh….’ The plans for the building of the new school in Johnston Terrace were put into effect and the Church of Scotland’s Normal and Sessional School was opened on 19 May 1845. The cost of the project was £8,500 of which the government contributed £4,000. However, within ten years the new premises had proved inadequate and an additional building was opened in 1879 in Chambers Street. The original Johnston Terrace accommodation was converted to a practising School, with 638 pupils in its first session.

The Rev Manson acted as Rector until 1845 when the Rev. George Davidson was appointed. He served until 1853 at which time the Rev. Dr. James Currie became Rector. After a long and successful tenure Currie retired in 1886. He was much respected by his students and a Currie Club was established in his honour together with an annual Currie memorial prize. Peter Mackinlay followed as Rector (1886 - 1903) and finally Alexander Morgan was appointed in 1903.

Following the establishment of the Edinburgh Provincial Committee (EPC) in 1907 Alexander Morgan became the first Principal of the united Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre. Both the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland agreed to pass all their training assets to the new EPC: buildings, land and equipment. The Church of Scotland’s women students in Edinburgh transferred to the Moray House site in 1907, whilst the male students went at first to Johnston Terrace before transferring.

The Early Curriculum of the Free Church of Scotland Normal School Edinburgh

The earliest record in the Moray House Archive is the Progress Register dating from 1849/50. This Register lists the men and women students who were undertaking the then diploma course.

The entry for each student in 1849/50 includes the following information:

  • Attendance: number of times absent
  • Attention to Studies: comment such as regular/occasionally/absent
  • Religious Knowledge: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • English Reading: written comment
  • English Spelling: number of spelling errors plus a comment
  • English Grammar and Composition: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • Geography: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • History: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • Penmanship: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • Arithmetic: Mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • French: mark out of 100 plus a comment (not every student studied this subject)
  • Vocal Music: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • Drawing: A+ to C plus comment
  • Algebra: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • Geometry: mark out of 100 plus a comment
  • Trigonometry: mark out of 100 plus a comment

Papers and answers at examination - mark out of 1200

Skill in Teaching: comment such as: promising/considerable/fair

General Conduct: comment such as exemplary/correct/becoming

Some students were awarded a Diploma whilst others continued to next session.