450 years of education in Leith

Posted by in July's Magazine

One of the oldest schools in Scotland, Leith Academy, will celebrate its 450th anniversary this year. We spoke to Jack Simpson, the head teacher at the school, who told us how the school planned to com- memorate this significant birthday, and what it meant to them to have such a long and proud history of educating generations of Leithers for over 400 years.

As well as the school crest having been updated across school sweat shirts and ties, Leith Academy is very much focusing on the rich diversity of the school community by holding ‘Embrace Diversity’ shows and workshops throughout the year. They have also created a special banner that has been made up of all of the flags that represent the various origins of the pupils, which are also reflective of the Leith Community as a whole.


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“If you look at the very beginnings of Leith Academy, the school has always been rooted in its own community. It started in South Leith Parish Church, where it was set up specifically as a community school.” Jim tells us, adding, “I’m constantly amazed as I’m always speaking with people I meet in Edinburgh or Leith who have a connection with Leith Academy.”

An open day or open evening in Oc- tober is to be planned inviting current and former students, some of whom may never have visited the new building which Leith Academy has oc- cupied, on Academy Park, since 1991. “ We’re offering the opportunity for old students to come back and see what happens in 2010 that didn’t happen in 1940, for example. If anything, we continue to serve the community even more than before.”

The repatriation of the Leith Flag – which we have written about in The Leither before – is also something that the school community would like to see brought back to Leith for the school’s 450th year. A petition has already been signed and they are hoping to take it to the Deputy Lord Provost, Rob Munn, who has a keen interest in this issue.

Finally, a ‘Memory of Leith Academy Book’ is planned for later in the year, where former pupils, and head teachers will be asked to contribute.

In summing up the enthusiasm for their anniversary year, Mr Simpson concludes: “The whole school is involved in marking our 450th anniversary. But we’d be a lot more excited if the council was just as excited. In 1960, when we celebrated our 400th anniversary, they threw us a party and even gave the school a long weekend.”

The Leither always enjoys a good party, so fingers crossed. That just leaves us to wish all those at Leith Academy a happy 450th anniversary! Louise Storie

Some interesting facts:

  • Although Leith Academy’s founding date is 1560, the earliest references to the ‘grammer scule of Leith’ goes back as far as 1521.
  • In 1560, Leith Grammar School, as it was then, was placed under the control of the Kirk Session of Leith Parish and remained there until 1806.
  • The first mention of the school’s location is Trinity House in 1636. It was then moved to the King James Hospital which stood in the present grounds of South Leith Church. It was eventually deemed ‘unhealthy for the boys’, and the Kirk Session agreed to build the new Leith High School on Leith Links. It was built in 1806 changing its name to Leith Academy in 1888. Increas- ing numbers of students resulted in the building of Leith Academy in Duke Street in 1931. This is now Leith Primary School.
  • The Leith Academy we know today was opened in May 1991 and is now regarded as one of the finest school buildings in Europe.

If you are a former pupil or teacher of Leith Academy and would like to add your memories, or even get involved in The Leith Academy Council, please get in touch by contacting the school office.

Tel: 0131 554 0606, Email: admin@leith.edin.sch.uk

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