The Schools of Grangemouth Parish

The urban settlement at Grangemouth came about as a result of the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal in the 1780s.  Until 1880 the town lay within the parishes of Bothkennar, Falkirk and Polmont.  Consequently it did not have a parish school of its own as each of these three parishes already had a school near to its church and the older centres of occupation.   Such parochial schools were paid for by the heritors or feudal superiors of the parishes and for the town of Grangemouth that was the Dundas family whose head became the Earl of Zetland.  From an early date the family provided a school for the port town in houses that it made available.  Then in 1827 it paid for the construction of a bespoke school building and endowed it to cover the cost of teachers’ wages.  It catered for the vast majority of the school children, though a small number of adventure schools were run for short spells.

Grangemouth did not have its own parish at the time of the passing of the 1872 Education Act.  This meant that it did not automatically qualify for a school board.  The leading citizens of the town were fully alert to this situation and at an early stage agitated to get such a board established.  The newly elected school boards of Falkirk, Bothkennar, and Polmont were approached and readily consented to cut off from their districts the parts belonging to them within the burgh of Grangemouth.  These, with the approbation of the Sheriff, were immediately formed into a separate School District.  The Earl of Zetland’s School was handed over to the Grangemouth School Board to become Zetland Public School.

Grangemouth School Board appointed Alexander Black of Falkirk as its architect in March 1874, thus avoiding many of the problems faced by other boards of hiring one whenever the need arose.  One of his first tasks was to repair the two houses connected with Zetland School which were then rented out.  Almost immediately Zetland School was repaired and augmented, and Dundas School was erected in the heart of the new town that was rapidly developing to the east.  That town grew at a phenomenal rate and it was all that the Board could do to keep up with the increase in the school population.  Over the following years, new schools were built on green-field sites to the east – the Grange School in 1896, the Infant School in 1904, and the High School in 1909.  Meanwhile, in 1900 Polmont, Bothkennar and Grangemouth School Boards were amalgamated under the Grangemouth Parish School Board.

Up until April 1910 the system adopted in Grangemouth was that the children began in the Infant School and remained there until they reached the first Standard.  They were then passed on to Dundas School and were taught there until they reached the fourth or fifth Standard.  The children then passed on to Grange School, where their course was completed.  Those continuing after the end of compulsory attendance proceeded to the High School.  In the case of Zetland School, the children in the old part of the town remained in that school until they reached the fourth Standard and were thereafter transferred to Grange School.  This system was condemned by educationalists of the time and so two possible alternatives were investigated.  The first was to divide the burgh into catchment areas, allocating one school to each.  However, legally so long as accommodation remained in any of the Board’s schools it had no authority to prevent the attendance of any of the burgh children at that school.  Past experience demonstrated that this led to overcrowding at one school whilst its neighbour was under-utilised.  The second option was to allocate one school for girls and another for boys.  Zetland School, after reconstruction, could supply the wants of the old town with the children carrying on right to the qualifying class and then transferring to the new high school in Carronflats Road for the higher branches of education.  The statistics added up:

Dundas School279311
Grange School (to qualifying class) 127112
Infant School ready for transfer    5265
Zetland School, to empty present iron building4533

As a result Grange School became a girls’ school and Dundas was for the boys.  This separation of the sexes between schools made Grangemouth unusual in Scotland.

By 1929 the growth of Grangemouth appeared to have stalled and it was suggested that the Infant School could be abolished, making Grange and Dundas School mixed schools and adapting the Infant School for older pupils.  This time change took longer and the resumption of expansion called for a rethink.

In the mid-1930s the Stirling Education Authority, now responsible for Grangemouth, announced a super plan involving the construction of several new primary schools in the suburban housing to the south as well as a secondary school to the east.  This action plan was delayed first by the economic depression and then by the Second World War.  Thereafter the schools slowly came on tap – Beancross Primary School in 1958, Moray Secondary 1958, Sacred Heart 1962, Dundas Primary 1962, and Bowhouse Primary School in 1966.  A new building for Grangemouth High School in Tinto Road opened in 1971.

Between 1974 and 1988 Grangemouth operated two of its schools as middle schools – the only two such in the whole of Scotland.  Grangemouth was the only area of Scotland where experimentation in a three-tier education system was tried.  It was first mooted by Stirlingshire Education Authority in the late 1960s when local authorities were invited to indicate how they intended to restructure their secondary education systems along comprehensive lines.  In August 1975 the scheme was fully realised.  Abbotsgrange Middle School and Moray Middle School catered for over 1700 pupils.  Six primary schools offered education for pupils up to the age of 10 (that is, classes P1 to P5).  The two middle schools catered for pupils between 10 and 14 years old, taking what had previously been the final two years in the primary school (P6 & P7, pupils aged 10–12) and the first two of secondary education (S1 and S2, aged 12–14).  Classes in these schools were renamed M1 to M4.

Falling rolls in schools across the area put the middle school experiment at risk and following consultation, rather than merge the two smaller middle schools, Central Regional Council decided to end the three-tier system.  In July 1988, Moray and Abbotsgrange Middle schools closed.  At the same time Dundas and Grange Primary Schools were closed, and Moray re-opened as Grangemouth Primary School taking pupils from P1 to P7.

The following schools are included in the inventory for Grangemouth:


Porteous, R.1994Grangemouth’s Modern History, 2nd ed.
Robertson, D.J.1968The Grangemouth/Falkirk Regional Survey and Plan.

G.B. Bailey, 2023