Dawson Park School

In the 1920s the County Education Authority had established classes at Burngreen School in Kilsyth, Camelon School, Larbert Village School and Craigs School in Stirling for the “educable and remedial treatment of physically defective and mentally backward children.”  It considered a central school to concentrate provision and expertise but nothing was done.  In 1930 the County Council took over education and the project was taken up and finally came to fruition on 9 November 1936 with the opening of Stirlingshire’s first special school for these children at Falkirk at a cost of £25,000 by Mr C. E. Horsbrugh, Convener of the County.  For long known in the planning stage simply as the “New Remedial School at Falkirk” it was agreed that July to call it “Dawson Park School.”

The site chosen was to the east of Dawson Park in Bainsford with access off Haugh Street.  It extended to nine acres, though in the first phase only five were used.   The plan of the school was on the double hollow square principle in one storey, and was so arranged that the two departments were entirely separate, ensuring that the pupils of the one had no contact with the pupils of the other.  The buildings were in brick and roughcast with a rustic brick base and slated roofs.  Open-air principles were observed by providing open corridors to the classrooms giving access to the two courts each laid in concrete with grass plots in which there were ornamental fish ponds complete with fish and central fountains.  The classrooms faced due south, and the windows of the practical rooms facing the open courts were made to fold, throwing the rooms open in fine weather when desired.  In the south wing there were six classrooms, two each for infants, juniors and seniors, and each with seating accommodation for 30 pupils.  There were also two rubber-floored rest rooms, each equipped with 20 comfortable beds, and a myopic room for 20 pupils, the purpose of which was to serve the particular needs of children handicapped by defective eyesight. In the north wing there was a dining-room; a kitchen equipped with a gas combination suite comprising an oven, a steamer and a hotplate and two gas boilers; a server with a gas-heated hot-closet; and a large gymnasium with special apparatus suited to the requirements of the pupils.  This wing also housed the headmaster’s room and two staffrooms with lavatories and stores, and a janitor’s room and switch room, as well as the heating chamber with fuel store.  The east and west wings were laid out in similar fashion, the one having a manual workshop and the other a needlework and crafts room.  Each wing had a domestic science room, cloakrooms and lavatories for boys and girls.  In keeping with the times the school had a clinic block, common to both departments.  This had a medical inspection room, a nurses’ room and doctor’s room.  A nurse was employed as a member of the staff.  There was also a bathroom with three shower baths, one ordinary bath and W.C.  A cleaners’ room, waiting hall, and two shelter sheds completed this part of the school.  A bright and attractive colour scheme was adopted with the furniture painted to harmonise.  The heating was by low pressure hot water generated by two automatic coal-fed boilers, and a domestic system of hot water to all basins.  The buildings throughout were lit by electricity.

Illus 2: 1950/51 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The Catholic Church insisted that its children should have a separate facility but this was refused.  Instead, it was agreed that religious instruction in accordance with the approved Diocesan syllabus would be given by Catholic members of staff.

The approved estimated cost of constructing and furnishing the school had been £24,131 19s 10d, but the actual cost was only £23,205 6s.  This was just as well because within a year it was found that the local climate was not conducive to open corridors and made running the school impracticable.  The cost of enclosing the corridors was put in the region of £700.  The school had opened with great fanfare and soon the roll increased as pupils were bussed in.  Then, at the end of September 1939 it was requisitioned by the Air Raid Precautions as a Medical Centre for the area.  As well as the doctors, R3 (rescue service) and Y3 (ambulance) depots, used it as their headquarters.  By the end of the year two of the classes from the school had been transferred to the Iron School at Dennyloanhead and the remainder attended the Northern School.  From Dawson Park School, Dr Leitch, the personnel of the Y3 First-Aid Depot, and local people, held special exercises on practical and realistic lines with simulated bomb casualties.  The expected air raids did not materialise and in August 1943 most of the pupils were able to return to Dawson Park School which continued as a medical centre with most of its activity centred on the evenings.  Some parents refused to let their children attend because of the potential for cross-contamination from scabies patients and the like.  The senior pupils who did attend dug up the grass and planted vegetables as part of the war effort.  After the war the air raid shelter was converted into a tool store.

Illus 3: The Teacher using the Multi-tone
(Falkirk Herald 22 February 1947, 4)

Technology was harnessed in the teaching aids and in 1947 a Multi-tone system was installed.  Instead of gesturing and shouting down an ear trumpet the teacher now spoke normally into a microphone and the children with partial hearing listened through earphones fitted to the desks.  Each desk had a control panel with two knobs so that the pupils could adjust the volume and frequency to their own requirements.  The teacher could talk to each pupil individually or, by the flick of a switch, to all of them.

As time went on greater provision was made for these children elsewhere and when a new head teacher was appointed in 1969 he was also responsible for the occupation centres at Torwood and Rossvail.  In 1972 Windsor Park School opened for deaf children.  Numbers at Dawson Park School continued to grow and two mobile classrooms were erected.  By 1995 it was evident that the days of Dawson Park School were numbered and parents protested with banners and placards.  Carrongrange School opened in August 2000 replacing Dawson Park School which was subsequently demolished and developed for housing.

1936David Bain194294, 113
1942Donald Macintosh1947
1947Miss Margaret M George1969
1969Cyril Mutch

Sites and Monuments Record

Haugh StreetNS 8880 8207

G.B. Bailey, 2023