Chapter 1: Humble Beginnings
In 1872 Clydebank didn't exist. Certainly, there were some villages in the area such as Dalmuir, Duntocher and Hardgate. But Clyde Bank was just the name of the shipyard opened in 1871 by J&G Thomson.
Schooling was becoming an important matter in the early 1870s. Some of the parents among the yard workers wanted a school set up to give a basic education to their children. And soon there was such a school, opened in 1872 by Mrs. Pitblado in a small house at 13 Clydebank Terrace. This was the first school in Clydebank - but it had no connection with today's High School. It was an Adventure School, a small private school with one unqualified teacher.
In the same year as Mrs. Pitblado set up her Adventure School, parliament passed the education Act. All children aged 5-13 were to go to school to be given elementary (primary) education. The Old Kilpatrick School Board decided to set up a school in Clydebank.This school, the predecessor of the High School, opened in August 1873. It had 64 pupils and a staff of one, increased in the next month to two! The headmaster, Mr. John Fulton, had transferred to Clydebank from Shaw Street Presbyterian School in Liverpool. He was headmaster of Clydebank School until 1909 and during these years he saw many changes. More and more families came to the area to work in Thomson's shipyard and, from 1884, in Singer's factory.
The increasing number of people living in the area meant a town, Clydebank, could be set up in 1886. As for the school, the growing population meant a giant increase in the number of pupils. The 64 pupils had grown to well over 500 by 1886, over 1000 by 1890 and more than 1500 by the early 1900s. In turn, the number of teachers rose steadily from the 2 staff of 1873, to 8 by 1886, 20 in 1890 and more than 40 by 1906. The first building used by Mr. Fulton and his pupils was actually part of the old bothy or dining hall in Thomson's yard.
Chapter 2: The Evolution
The School Board opened the first purpose-built school in Clydebank in August 1876. This building on Kilbowie Road had room for 446 pupils. But within a dozen years this school too had become overcrowded and had to be replaced. A new school with places for 1500 pupils was built on the site on Kilbowie Road.
The new school, which opened in February 1888, was controversial. Everyone agreed a new school was needed, but at what cost? The final figure of £20 000 was £7000 more than had been expected.
School Board member, Reverend John Stark, had been the main supporter of building a bigger and better school. He got blamed for 'extravagance' and became so unpopular that, like Guy Fawkes, his effigy was burned on the town's streets! At about the time of Mr. Fulton's retirement in 1909, the School Board agreed to build an extension for the school. This was opened in 1911. But even then the school was still overcrowded.
When the school opened in 1873, Mr. Fulton noted in the school log that "the children are very backward...40 don't know their letters. Very few can work accurately a sum in simple multiplication or division. "As a result a great deal of effort had to be put into the basics of reading writing and arithmetic. Reports of HM Inspectors soon showed that this was being done successfully. As a result, government grants could be given which, along with small fees from parents, paid for staff wages and other school costs.
Mr. Fulton's successor, Mr. Frederick A. Watson, took over a school which was in a very satisfactory condition - with the exception of the problem of overcrowding which continued to worsen as the town's population rose. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 more and more workers were needed in local war industries. The school role rose to over 2800.
Following Mr. Watson's sudden death, aged 46, in December 1920, his eventual successor noted that he had been "killed by overwork." In February 1921 the existing school was divided into a primary school and Clydebank High School.
So Clydebank High School was brought into existence. It now had a new headmaster, Mr. (later Dr.) Andrew Cecil Paterson and new school colours of chocolate and gold. Its 1300 pupils were taught by a staff of 60.
But the old problems of overcrowding was still there. It got worse in the 1930s when Clydebank was badly affected by the depression. More and more pupils stayed on at school as very few jobs could be found, with the result that the school role rose to almost 1500 in 1932. Things got so bad that one class had to be taught in a storeroom! Soon after this the local authority decided that a new school building was needed and a site was found in North Kilbowie. By the middle of the 1930s the building of a new larger school began at Janetta Street - just at the time the school roll began to fall.Chapter 3: World War II Onwards
The most dramatic period in the school's history began when World War II broke out in September 1939. The authorities were sure that industrial Clydebank was a likely target for air raids, so they arranged for school pupils to be evacuated if their families wanted this. About 10% of High School pupils left their home town on the first of September, heading for quieter areas such as Rhu, Kirkintilloch and Dunoon. At the beginning of November 1939, 76 High School pupils in 4th, 5th and 6th year were moved with 8 teachers to Dumbarton Academy. However a lack of air raid shelters meant that classes were only taught for one half day a week.
Dr. Paterson retired in January 1941. After a short period under the direction of Mr. Andrew Paterson in 1941-2, a new headmaster, Mr. Martin McLaren, had to face great problems. The major German air raids on Clydebank in March 1941 had destroyed the old High School building in Kilbowie Road and badly damaged the building in Miller Street. The new building under construction in Janetta Street was damaged by a parachute mine, but was still used as a First Aid Post.
War time arrangements continued after 1945. Only when the new High School building on Janetta Street opened in September 1947 were all secondary pupils together under one roof. Dr. Thomas Davidson had taken over as headmaster when Mr. McLaren retired in 1946, and he too faced considerable difficulties, though of a different sort. By 1950, the new building was occupied by over 1300 pupils, but construction had not finished, and the old problem of overcrowding still existed. Not until April 1951 when the new dining hall was opened did 15 years of intermittent building work end.
The school role continued to rise in the 1950s, reaching 1461 in 1957. Huts had to be built in the playground to cope. By 1961 the High School had become a selective senior secondary school, taking only language pupils who were expected to go on to sit national certificate exams in 4th, 5th and 6th years. In 1964, Dr. Davidson retired. His replacement as headmaster was Mr. William Manning, a long serving member of the High School staff. following Mr. Manning's death after only four years, he was succeeded by Mr. John T. Robertson, at the beginning of a period of great change for the school.Chapter 4: Recent History
From 1972 the High School became one of four comprehensive schools in Clydebank. With the ending of the qualification examination, all pupils, no matter what their ability, were to attend the denominational or non-denominational secondary school established in their areas of the town. By 1974 the High School roll had risen to 1500 pupils, with a staff of over 100.
To cope with these numbers, a new extension was built. It took four years, to 1977, to complete the extension and then refurbish the old school building. With a decline in birth rate, the school roll began to fall from its maximum of over 1500 in the late 1970s and, at the same time, reductions were made in staff numbers. Mr. Robertson retired in 1984.
The new headmaster, Mr. Colin M. O'Brien, faced the problems and opportunities resulting from the continuing change in education, both locally and nationally in the 1980s and 1990s.
The school roll again began to rise after its low point in 1991. At about the same time, control over a large part of school finances was taken from the local authority and given to the school itself. Closer ties were developed with local business, improving understanding and giving pupils the opportunity to be prepared for the world of work.
Stronger links with parents were developed, ranging from parents' newsletters to the involvement of parents in the new School Boards. New subjects such as Computing were introduced. Mr. O'Brien left Clydebank High School at Christmas 1999 to focus on politics.Chapter 5: The New Clydebank High School
During 2006 is was proposed that Clydebank High School be the one non-denominational secondary school for pupils in the catchment areas of Clydebank High and Braidfield High and that Braidfield should close.
One of the reasons for the proposal is that West Dunbartonshire Council, in common with local authorities across Scotland, is experiencing a very large fall in its pupil population. According to the social and economic profile produced by the council's Policy Unit, the age band of the population that is predicted to show the largest fall is the five to 15-year-age band - which is expected to drop by 24.7 percent by 2016. This fall is reflected in a decline in the roll of schools at both the secondary and primary stages. There is already a very large over-capacity and this will rise in the coming years.
The maintenance of these unused places represents a considerable and unnecessary drain on resources, which could better be spent on materials, and experiences, which enhance children's education. As a school roll falls below a certain level it becomes increasingly difficult to provide a full and varied curriculum for its pupils. Given the current rolls of 395 pupils enrolled at Braidfield High and 1066 enrolled at Clydebank High, Braidfield was already facing problems in offering the full range of curricular and other experiences and activities normally available to secondary pupils.
August 2007 saw the closure of Braidfield High School. Braidfield staff and pupils joined Clydebank High School in a successful merger.
Pupils and staff will move into the new Clydebank High August 2009.