Leith Academy

Leith Academy is a state school in Leith, Edinburgh. It currently educates around 900 pupils and around 2,800 part-time adult learners.[1] Mike Irving has been acting head teacher since August 2017.[2]


It is one of the oldest schools in Scotland, with its founding usually credited to 1560, though there are records of a Leith grammar school as early as 1521 ("maister of the gramer scule of Leith").[3] To begin with the school was under the control of the kirk session of South Leith Parish Church. It remained so until 1806. It is not known where the school met until 1636 when records make reference to meeting in Trinity House. The school met there until 1710 when, after a disagreement about rent, the kirk session decided to move the school to King James hospital which stood on what is now South Leith Parish churchyard.

In 1792 the kirk agreed to a purpose-built building for the school. The building, by Robert Burn, beside Leith Links, was completed in 1806. The school changed its name to Leith Academy in 1888. The Leith Links school was demolished and replaced by a new building opened in 1898. In turn, due to continued growth in the number of pupils, by 1931 a new building was required and the school on the Duke Street site was built. The Links building is now used as Leith Primary School. The Duke Street school was used as part of Queen Margaret University College and has been (2014) converted to flats. The school's current building, off Easter Road, was completed in 1991 after much campaigning by staff, students and parents.

The school was founded by South Leith Parish Church, and strong links remain to this day, with the school's annual Christmas assembly being held there.


The current Leith Academy building was completed in May 1991. The building incorporated the design principles of “planning for change” developed by the OECD Programme on Educational Building (PEB).[4] It features an innovative design based around a "Main Street" leading from one end of the school to the other with all departments and facilities leading off it. The Main Street has a glass roof and is lined on either side by plants which looks like a jungle. The school has a swimming pool that can be seen through windows on the right of the main street. These plants were featured on the BBC Television programme The Beechgrove Garden.[5]

Notable former pupils

Grammar School

Notable former staff

  • Peter Comrie FRSE (d.1944) mathematician, Rector 1922-33
  • Dr John Mackie FRSE (d.1955) maths teacher then rector, 1933-53[8]
  • J K Rowling (b.1965) bestselling author of the Harry Potter series, foreign languages teacher 1990s.
  • John W Tait FRSE (1862-1932) rector for over 20 years including the First World War[9]


  1. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0042/00420794.xlsx
  2. "Secondary schools - Leith Academy". The City of Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  3. "Extracts from the Records: 1521". British History Online. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  4. "An Innovative School Revisited: Leith Academy and the projects that followed" (PDF). PEB exchange. OECD. 2004.1 (51): 14. February 2004.
  5. "Creates Healthy Working Environments - Testimonials". In-Plants. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  6. "Tom Patten". Heritage.imeche.org. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  7. "Real Lives - D-Day landings hero celebrates 105th birthday". The Scotsman. 6 September 2008. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008. Jock attended Leith Academy before starting work as a stationer and nib maker in 1917.
  8. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  9. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.

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