Education (1793-present)

An educational unit was established by Royal Blind in 1793 providing rudimentary mental arithmetic and recitation of scripture lessons to compliment instruction in handcrafts. In 1875, the educational unit amalgamated with The School for Blind Children, founded by Mr James Gall in 1835, based at Craigmillar Park, Edinburgh.

Craigmillar Park

The amalgamation occurred shortly after the Education Scotland Act in 1872, establishing the first national system of state education in Scotland. Although the Act did not intend to include disabled children, there are records of blind children attending mainstream classes.

Children attending the privately run school at Craigmillar Park were provided with lessons in arithmetic, Braille printing, English, geography, history and recitation. Older children were provided with additional tuition in organ and piano playing.

Developing Educational Provision

The mid-twentieth century was a period of considerable development for the school. In September 1933, the school was completely reorganised to extend the provision of secondary education and accommodate pre-school children. As a result of rising pupil intake, a new classroom block was erected by 1939 and the school remained open during World War Two.

The post-war period witnessed a period of considerable development for the Royal Blind School:

  • In 1945, the school purchased Barrie House to provide a separate location for pre-school children.
  • In 1953, the school opened Muirburn House providing education to visually impaired children with serious additional handicaps in terms of speech, movement or comprehension.
  • In 1954, Drever House was purchased to provide additional facilities for the education of younger primary school pupils.

Such developments were perceived as a brave step forward for the provision of specialist schools following the Education (Scotland) Act 1945 which prescribed an integrative approach to mainstream education, including pupils with disabilities.

Morningside Campus

In 1987, it was decided to merge the Thomas Burns Home and Muirburn House in a new facility in Morningside, Edinburgh. The project was completed in 1991, officially opened by the President of the Institution and his wife, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. The educational facility in Morningside was named 'Canaan Lodge'.

Canaan Lodge was Scotland’s first purpose built school for pupils with multiple disabilities as well as a visual impairment (MDVI). The facility included five inter-connected houses, accommodating six pupils and staff, providing bedrooms, classroom, dining and kitchen area, relaxation and bathrooms.

The design encouraged pupils to develop independent living skills, within a safe environment, and establish rapport, trust and communication with fellow pupils and teaching staff. The facility also included a recreational sports hall, hydrotherapy pool, centres for speech therapy and physiotherapy, and a medical room. Sheltered play areas provided pupils an opportunity to explore their senses and develop an understanding of the natural world.

The Royal Blind School Today

Pupils at the Royal Blind School continued to receive education and care at Morningside and Craigmillar Park until 2014. In 2012 Royal Blind revised its education strategy in response to greater numbers of visually impaired pupils integrating into mainstream schools with the assistance of local authority special units for pupils with disabilities. This led to the two campuses merging and a major re-development of the school buildings in Morningside.

In August 2014 Craigmillar Park pupils joined fellow pupils at the newly refurbished Morningside campus. The re-developed school was officially opened by the charity's Patron, His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. Read more about the opening

Supporting mainstream education

In 2015, Royal Blind launched a new service, the Learning Hub. The Learning Hub shares the expertise of the Royal Blind School with teachers and other education professionals in mainstream schools who have visually impaired children in their classroom. The support is face to face, online and through seminars. Visit the Royal Blind Learning Hub website.