Royal Blind School

43 Canaan Lane


EH10 4SG

Tel: 0131 446 3120

Fax: 0131 447 9266



A History of the Royal Blind School

The founding of the Royal Blind School

The School for Blind Children at Craigmillar Park was founded in 1835 by Mr James Gall, an Edinburgh printer, to provide specialised educational support.The school then grew in 1875 from the amalgamation of the educational unit of the Royal Blind Asylum. By this time the curriculum had extended to cover arithmetic, Braille printing, English, geography, history, recitation and even the elements of geometry, while older children were given instruction in organ and piano playing.


The new century saw a move into higher education with the presentation of students for recognised diplomas in music and the creation of a link with the University of Edinburgh, extending the range of professional opportunities.


In September 1933, the school was completely re-organised to extend the provision of secondary education and to give pre-school children separate accommodation. By 1939, a new classroom block had been erected and the school continued to function during the war.


The end of the war in 1945 saw another positive step being taken with the purchase of Barrie House to provide a separate location for pre-school children – an aspect of education then on the threshold of development. This decade of advance also saw attention focused on the needs of children out with the education service.


With the opening of Muirburn House in 1953, the Royal Blind School moved into the difficult and challenging field of provision for children who were not only visually impaired but had serious additional disabilities relating to speech, movement or comprehension.

In 1954, Drever House was acquired to give separate space to the younger primary children.

All this reflected the demands on the school, in terms, not only of numbers, but the increasingly extended curriculum and the extra-curricular and recreational activities of the school. Resident and day pupils alike were encouraged to extend their horizons and to participate fully in school life. This was achieved by the skills of a large number of highly trained and dedicated staff. This approach has continued throughout the ensuing decades.


Over time it became clear that enhanced facilities were needed for pupils that were blind with additional disabilities. In 1987 the Canaan Project was launched to re-locate the school for children with multiple disabilities at Muirburn House along with the Thomas Burns care home to a new site in Morningside. 


In September 1990 the first children arrived at Canaan Lodge, which was Scotland's first purpose built school for children with a visual impairment and multiple disabilities. The campus was built with residential facilities and an environment that focused on learning independent living skills, self reliance and maximum stimulation. 


In 2012 the Royal Blind School revised its strategy in response to falling pupil numbers. Single disability blind children and young people with little or no additional support needs are today mostly catered for in mainstream schools and special units in their home areas. 

The Board of Royal Blind took the decision to merge the two campuses, which led to all pupils being educated and cared for at the Canaan Lane campus in Autumn 2014. The Craigmillar Park campus (pictured above) closed its doors to pupils for the last time in June 2014. Read more.

The school offers the highest quality provision to meet the needs of children and young adults with a visual impairment. Weekly residential and day placements for pupils are available for pupils from throughout Scotland and the UK. 

The school is inclusive, supporting pupils across the full ability range. Provision includes:

  • Units, courses and clusters up to Advanced Higher Level
  • Programmes of study for those with Additional Support Needs (ASN)
  • Programmes of study for those with Multiple Disabilities and a Visual Impairment (MDVI)
  • Specialist training
  • A range of therapies
  • Residential respite.


Sharing our expertise with others

In 2015 Royal Blind launched a new service, the Learning Hub, to provide support to educators of children with visual impairment in mainstream schools. The Royal Blind Learning Hub provides face to face support through outreach services and seminars, as well as free online learning materials for teachers. Visit the Royal Blind Learning Hub website.