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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/Old and New Towns of Edinburgh to become a classroom for every child in Scotland

Old and New Towns of Edinburgh to become a classroom for every child in Scotland


28th November 2019

Rebecca Leary

Image (c) Tom Duffin

Edinburgh World Heritage today launched a new educational approach for primary schools with the aim of making the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site a classroom for every 9- to 12-year-old in Scotland. Children will be able to experience Edinburgh during the time of Mary Queen of Scots, the Jacobites, and Robert Louis Stevenson not through on-line games and virtual reality headsets, but through simply walking through the city with their teachers and observing what’s around them.

The new materials and guidance for teachers, which consist of a range of trails, images, stories and follow-up tasks for children to complete, were developed after consultation with primary school teachers who consistently asked for an approach which gets children out and about in the city. There, they will be able to experience the history of the capital through people and places that make Edinburgh a renowned historic city. Three separate trails will engage children with broader themes in Scottish history, from the Reformation, through the Jacobite risings and the Scottish Enlightenment, and on to the industrial age of the Victorians.

By participating in the new programme, children will:

  • Visit the places associated with Mary Queen of Scots during her time in Edinburgh – including the picturesque close where her favourite white horse was stabled.
  • See the courtyard and tenement where David Hume and James Boswell lived and entertained
  • Stand on the spot where Edinburgh’s infamous Old Tolbooth stood, the ‘Heart of Midlothian’, and think about all the torture, execution and riot that took place there.
  • Imagine the sights and smells people would have experienced in places like Fleshmarket Close and Fishmarket Close
  • Stand where Thomas Guthrie established the first Ragged School for Victorian Edinburgh’s poor street children
  • Visit the places where Edinburgh’s two most famous football teams – Hearts and Hibs – were born.

The resources have been designed to help achieve Curriculum for Excellence outcomes. Children will develop an understanding of the history, heritage and culture of Scotland, as well as explore different types of sources and evidence, and learn how to link people and periods through time and place. Most importantly, the new approach aims to broaden children’s understanding of the world by learning about human activities and achievements in the past and the present.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, commented ‘we want every child in Scotland to feel connected and proud of their capital city – and understand how its history and heritage makes us what we are today. Teachers have told us that the best way to do that is to explore the World heritage Site on foot, and to see the places and hear the stories from our past. We hope that every young person in Scotland will have an opportunity to visit these wonderful places, and start a life-long passion for our culture and heritage’.

Councillor Ian Perry, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: ‘with the ‘E’ in UNESCO standing for ‘educational’ this is a perfect way of promoting the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site to primary school pupils across Scotland. As a former planning convener who helped shape the management plan for the site I’m delighted to see these resources being created to get our young people out and about in the city. The education pack ticks all the boxes for making sure children engage with their environment at a young age and develop a lasting interest in Scotland’s capital city’.

View the resources on our Learning page.

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