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School Admission Registers
  School admission registers are an important source of information on individual pupils in Scottish schools in the late nineteenth century and twentieth century. For more information about admission registers and frequently asked questions in Scotland's archives about them see below.



Pupil Information
The 1872 Education (Scotland) Act set up a system of local schools controlled by elected local authorities (initially school boards) and funded partly by local rates and partly by pupil fees. From 1873 onwards head teachers kept admission registers. These contained information about the child's school career, in a type of register which was fairly standard throughout Scotland, but whose information value depends upon the thoroughness of individual head teachers. Usually the columns in an admission register allowed entries to be written about the following for each pupil:
name, date of birth, date of admission to the school, date of leaving school, reason for leaving (and name of other school, if transferred to other school), name of last school attended, name and address of parent or guardian.

Confidential information
Sometimes admission registers contain columns for entries concerning exam results, class marks, annual attendance figures, and (after for the second half of the 20th century) IQs. If a head teacher has filled in these columns the admission register may be closed for public access for a period of 30, 50 or 75 years.

Incomplete records
However, it was left to the head teacher to fill in whichever columns he or she thought fit, and, typically, admission registers contain good details of the child joining the school , but incomplete information in the other columns. Often it is not clear whether a pupil completed a full education (the head teacher was supposed to record the date of leaving and the reason for leaving, including the child attaining the statutory school leaving age, but in a large number of cases this was not done). This is often frustrating for former pupils who are required by emigration authorities, employers or higher education bodies to provide evidence that they received a standard education.

Custody of records
In most areas of Scotland admission records are still in the hands of the schools themselves. In many cases records disappear when schools close. Some schools have simply destroyed historical records, at the whim of head teachers, over the years. In the 1980s and 1990s some local authority archives attempted to preserve school records for their areas by systematically approaching schools to ask for the transfer of school records to archives (for details see FAQ1 or FAQ3).

Image 1
image of school admission register
School admission register (reproduced by kind permission of Ayrshire Archives, reference CO3/10/7/46/13).

Alison Lindsay (National Register of Archives for Scotland); Robin Urquhart (SCAN)


Frequently Asked Questions

1. I require evidence that I attended school for higher education/emigration/employment purposes. Where can I find this?

2. Are school admission registers a good source for family history or biography?

3. How do I find out where the school records of a pupil are, if I don't know the name of the school he or she attended?