IF YOU grew up in Glasgow, the odds are good that you received at least some of your education in a school board building.

Schools like Abbotsford (1879), Washington Street (1890) and Martyrs (1897) were all built by the School Board of Glasgow, the largest in Scotland.

The Board was created by the Education (Scotland) Act 1872 which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. The Act made education compulsory for all children aged between five and thirteen years old. Close to a thousand school boards were created which were legally required to provide a school place for each child in its area. The Act became the catalyst for a massive building and training programme throughout the country to supply the schools and teachers required.

The records we hold at Glasgow City Archives reflect this extraordinary investment. Those for Glasgow (established 1873) are particularly illuminating since it was a pioneer in many areas from its administration and introduction of teacher training to the architecture of its schools.

The Board had fifteen elected members. Elections were triennial, votes were secret and women as well as men could vote for, and stand in election as, school board members. Glasgow elected several female board members including Grace Chalmers Paterson (born 1843) who served for more than two decades. She was also the first principal of the Glasgow School of Cookery.

The task before the newly created Board was enormous. It was now responsible for educating almost 90,000 children within the city. However, with only two hundred existing schools available for the purpose, there was a shortfall of almost 30,000 places. Clearly, more schools were needed. An intensive building programme began with an ambitious target - thirty new schools. This was achieved within a decade and eventually more than 70 new schools were built, the last being Bernard Street in 1916.

Several significant Glasgow schools are among the roster.

Abbotsford Public School in the Gorbals, c1970. Pic: Glasgow City Archives

Abbotsford Public School in the Gorbals, c1970. Pic: Glasgow City Archives

Arguably the most famous is Scotland Street, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Board was unusual in Scotland as it engaged private architects to design its schools rather than rely solely on its own employed architects as other boards did.

The approach was not without its drawbacks. Mackintosh’s relationship with the Board was tumultuous at times as he chafed against a strict design remit and was even admonished for diverging from the agreed plans.

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Yet, if the Board hadn’t favoured private architects, iconic Scotland Street School and other architecturally diverse school buildings would never have been built.

The Board was wound up and replaced by the Glasgow Education Authority in 1918, marking the end of forty-five years investment and an architectural legacy still evident in the city today.