West Coats Primary School
West Coats Primary School in Cambuslang on the south east fringe of Glasgow, Scotland was built in the late 19th century and is still an active school with over 400 children. In the 1990s an extension was added to accommodate the increasing number of pupils. It has several classrooms, a gym/dining hall and a Computer Suite. P6 and P7 recently performed with Scottish Opera at a performance on Friday 24 February 2006. The School has a website. The well-known boxer Scott Harrison went to this school. The school has recently enrolled in the Cashless Cafeteria system which is taking place throughout South Lanarkshire.
West Coats has always been, and by all accounts still is, an excellent school, with demand for places far outstripping capacity - even with the new extension erected in the upper playground (the erstwhile boys’ playground) over the last few years. Although given the pleasing conservative nature of the rest of the school (grey sandstone) this extension is perceived by many as a bit of a carbuncle, it appears to cut the mustard by alleviating what was a serious accommodation shortage brought about chiefly by the vast number of new private homes built over the last twenty-five years and partly by allowing into the school children from outwith the catchment area. Apparently this latter practice has often resulted in some children who should rightfully attend West Coats being refused places there and, in one case we’ve heard of, a parent had to go to court to get his children accepted.
But the time-honoured popularity of West Coats has not necessarily been due to what was prior to 1969, and may still be, a superior standard of teaching, or smaller class sizes, or anything else peculiar to learning. While such features could always have been valid considerations, it is far more likely that, apart from reason of living nearby, parents have consistently wished their children to attend West Coats since, serving mainly the ‘hill district’ of Cambuslang, it has acquired the reputation of being ‘posh’ and a huge cut above the competition, though not by any means as much as in the past. Nevertheless, I think it would be true to assert that, even today, most West Coats children come from affluent homes and, therefore, are probably more ambitious or ‘aspirational’ than children from lower down the social stratum. Accordingly it’s on the cards that West Coats pupils will be motivated far more by competition than pupils at neighbouring schools where the importance of doing well at one’s lessons is frequently not appreciated to the same extent. While this is a broad generalisation it is one that we think most teachers will agree with. The prevalent culture of a school’s principal catchment area determines its ethos more than any other factor, and West Coats is no exception.
Originally West Coats was a Higher Grade (or HG) school that pupils attended from age five to fourteen and left for the workplace. Later it became a primary school for children aged between five and eleven, or twelve, depending on when their birthday fell and when they had begun attending the school.
This is worth mentioning because, during the 1950s and 60s, it was commonly held that, under the Scottish education system, which has always been separate from those of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a child could not enter primary school until after his/her fifth birthday. Back then there were two annual intakes: one in August, for children who had already reached five prior to the start of the autumn term, and another in February for children who had become five in the intervening period.
However, it transpired that the ‘rule of five’ was a myth. A head teacher had considerable leeway regarding the precise age at which he/she accepted any child into primary school. So it often happened that some children, who would reach five after the August intake - often considerably ‘after’ - were accepted by some primary schools in August, while similar children living in the catchment areas of other primary schools were obliged to wait until February. Thus, by the time ‘younger’ pupils came together for first year at the local secondary school, they frequently found themselves amongst children who were up to ten months older which, by dint of puberty and all factors attendant, was often socially awkward for the younger children affected. It was equally awkward when more mature children finished up amongst a majority of those less mature.
So, due to convenience, and/or perhaps a wish to please pushy parents, some primary head teachers did not always consider the ultimate social implications of putting in the same years children whose ages differed quite widely. A ten month age gap during childhood is nothing compared to the same age gap in adolescence when developmental differences, both physical and psychological, become increasingly marked. Nature is quite capable of accentuating these differences on her own without assistance from society. At any rate, since the widespread practice of accepting children early was common at West Coats during the 1950s and 60s it is pertinent to this article.
One upon a time West Coats had a smart uniform comprising: blazers, white shirts or blouses, ties, grey flannel short trousers or gym-slips, grey themed jumpers with matching knee-length socks, and black shoes. Today’s uniform is rather different and may be seen by clicking here.
Eminent former pupils of West Coats include Robert Crawford, current Professor of English at St. Andrew’s University, and the late Duncan Glen, Professor Emeritus of Visual Communication at Nottingham Trent University. Whereas an eminent former head teacher of West Coats was Scottish poet John Buchanan, who reigned at the school somewhere around the period 1905-1919.