Queen Margaret's
P.N.E.U. School

29 India Street, Edinburgh




Winnie Lisowski

Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland

Thank you to Winnie Lisowski for sending me:

     a)  her recollections and  a photo of her class at St Serf's School AND

     b)  her recollections below of Queen Margaret's P.N.E.U. Primary School.

Winnie wrote:


Queen Margaret's
P.N.E.U. School

Does anybody have any Photos?

"As well as being a pupil at St Serf's school, I attended a Private school at India Place for a couple of years.

It was  Queen Margaret's P.N.E.U. (Parent's National Education Union) Primary School.

I wish I could find some photos of that school.  At least, one photo of the school has survived.  I posted it on the 'Friends Reunited' web site, some time now."

Winnie Lisowski, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland:  August 18 2015

Winnie Lisowski added:

Queen Margaret's P.N.E.U. School

"I believe that Queen Margaret's P.N.E.U. School was at 27 India Place*.  It was very small.

One of the teachers was Miss Kerr.  I'll try to remember the names of others.

Winnie Lisowski, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland:  November 29 2015

*   Please see also Recollections 2 and 3 below in which Diana
Maxwell tells me that the address was actually 29 India Street

Peter Stubbs:  27 April 2016


If you know of any photos of the P.N.E.U. school, please email me to let me know, then I'll pass on the news to Winnie.

Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  29 November 2015




Diana Maxwell

Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Diana Maxwell who told me:

Queen Margaret's P.N.E.U. School

"I've written an article about Queen Margaret's PNEU  School.  It was at 29 India Street, Edinburgh.  I attended that school from 1960 to 1966.

Here is a class photo taken at the school in 1966."

Queen Margaret's PNEU Primary School:  a small private school at 27 India Place, Edinburgh

© Reproduced with acknowledgement to Diana Maxwell

Diana Maxwell, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland:  31 March + 13 April 2016

Here are the names of the pupils and headmistress in this photo.

Article about the School

Thank you to Diana Maxwell for also sending me a copy of the article that she has written about the school.

Unfortunately, I was not able to open the article that Diana emailed to me.  If I can manage to open it, I'll add details to the EdinPhoto web site.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  15 April 2016



I've now managed to open the article sent to me by Diana.  I enjoyed reading it, and have included some lengthy extracts from it in Recollections 3 below.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  24 April 2016




Diana Maxwell

Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Diana Maxwell for allowing me to reproduce the extracts below from the article that she has written about the PNEU schools.

Please note that Diana retains the copyright on the extracts below.

Diana wrote:

The Parents' National Educational Union
Schools in Edinburgh

"In the 1950s, there were three Parents' National Educational Union (PNEU) schools in Edinburgh:

1. Queen Margaret's PNEU School  1940s to mid-1950s:  100+ pupils
 Darnaway Street, later re-located to 29 India Street.

2. Mrs Fisher's PNEU Nursery & Primary School   Belgrave Road

3. PNEU Primary School   3 Cluny Gardens.

By 1970, all 3 schools had closed."

The Parents' National Educational Union
Schools in Britain

"There were well over 50 Parents' National Educational Union schools at that time, mostly in England, where only three remain today.  These schools followed the Charlotte Mason educational methods and their teachers trained at the Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside.

They were all girls' schools following the same curriculum, term exams and uniform with blue, white and brown striped ties.  All the pupils wore the school badge with a skylark flying upwards and the PNEU motto: "I am, I can, I ought, I will." encircled it, with 'Parents National Educational Union School' at the top.

Charlotte Mason firmly believed that girls should aim for the stars (like a skylark) and her education methods should give them the confidence and the ability to get there..

PNEU schools adopted a gentle approach to girls' education, encouraging harmony and understanding - both inside and outside the classroom.  PNEU girls had a good relationship with their teachers and socialised with girls from all age groups."


Charlotte Mason

"Charlotte Mason invested her life in improving the quality of children's education.  Her ideas initially led to one of the primary methods of home schooling, the education of children at home and abroad by parents or professional tutors, rather than in a public or private school.

Charlotte Mason was born in Bangor, Wales.  She was an only child and was educated at home by her parents.  She enrolled in the Home and Colonial Society for the training of teachers and earned a First Class Certificate.

She taught for more than ten years at Davison High School, Worthing.  During this time, she began to develop her vision for "a liberal education for all", a generous and broad curriculum for all children, regardless of social class.  ...

The Parents' Education Unionwas formed and quickly expanded.  In 1891, Charlotte Mason moved to Ambleside, in the Lake District, England, and established 'The House of Education', a training school for governesses and others working with young children.  In 1892, 'The Parents' Education Union' added the word 'National' to its title.  ...

After her death, the training school became 'Charlotte Mason College' and the headquarters of 'The PNEU' "

Teaching Methods

"Probably the best known of Charlotte Mason's methods is her use of living books instead of dry, factual textbooks.

Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style which is 'alive' and engaging.

Textbooks were allowed if they meet that criterion and are not written in a manner which would insult the child's intelligence.  Living books were used with as many subjects as possible.  ...

Charlotte Mason advocated short lessons for younger children, growing progressively longer as the child matured.  Elementary-age children's lessons were no longer than 15 or 20 minutes on one particular subject.  In this way, the habit of full attention was encouraged and children received a broad and varied education."

Here are examples of teaching methods for a few of the classes that Diana refers to:

" -  Spelling: This involved giving the pupil a sentence or passage to study until she was sure she knew all the spelling, capitalisation and punctuation.  The teacher would then dictate the passage to her, one phrase at a time.  The teacher would watch and any misspelt words were corrected immediately.

-  Art: ... Great ideas of men and women of history were revealed in their works, whether paintings, writings or music.  An appreciation was taught through Picture Study, which introduced the child to the works of a great artist one at a time, allowing her to look at it undisturbed, then she was asked for a narration of what she had observed.  Music was taught in much the same way, by listening to the works of great composers.

-  Nature Study: ... in Primary Schools, one afternoon a week was devoted to spending time outdoors.  For nature study, children took along a sketchpad to draw and label the different aspects of nature they observed.  Regular nature study paved the way for meaningful science instruction.

-  Mathematics:  Charlotte Mason emphasised the importance of children's understanding of mathematical concepts before ever doing any paper and pencil equations.  They were encouraged to think through the whys and wherefores of solving word problems such as how mathematics applied to life situations.

-  Literature: Poetry was an integral part of daily life in Charlotte Mason's schools.  However, poetry was not presented in order to be analysed, criticised, and told what to think about it.  Poetry introduced the child to great ideas ...  .  The pupils over 12 years also studied two Shakespeare plays a year memorising passages for end of term exams.

-  English Language: Since Grammar is the study of words, not things, Charlotte Mason thought it a difficult concept for young children to grasp.  She recommended postponing the formal study of grammar until the child had reached the age of ten. ...

-  Bible Study: Charlotte Mason recommended that the Bible was read every day ...

-  History:  History was considered most relevant to children through the use of living books, biographies, autobiographies and narration.  In addition, Charlotte Mason students kept a 'Book of Centuries' which was similar to a personal time line in a notebook.  They added people and events to the pages as they studied about them.

-  Geography:  Just as history was the story of what happened to a person, geography was the story of where he was and how his surroundings affected what happened.  Geography was taught through living books with maps to supplement.

-  French:  Charlotte Mason ... students learnt French as a second language  ...  taught in a living setting.

Charlotte Mason chose new books each year, for each grade.  Her PNEU schools never re-used curriculum  She believed in finding the very best books, using her very high standards, to continually fill her students' minds with ideas and exposure to the world."

'Parent's Review'


"In Edinburgh from 1899, parents who  were regular subscribers to the 'Parent's Review' (the monthly magazine of Home-Training and Culture which was edited by Charlotte Mason) had established organized meetings in Edinburgh.  ... This led to a PNEU school being established in Edinburgh, possibly in Miss Frances Blogg's house .  It would only have had about a dozen girl pupils initially."

Memories of my Education

Mrs Fisher's PNEU Nursery and Primary School

"I attended Mrs Fisher's PNEU Nursery and Primary School, Belgrave Road, Edinburgh from the age of three-and-a-half until I was five years old in 1955, when my family moved to Aberdour in Fife.

Mrs Fisher's school consisted of one class room in the large front room of her house.  There were about 15 children, mostly girls.   There were possibly three boys in the nursery class and two assistants.

Mrs Fisher's pupils wore a PNEU Uniform which consisted of:

-  a brown blazer and beret with the PNEU badge

-  a brown skirt

-  a PNEU blue, white  and brown knitted scarf.

I remember learning to read and write, including numbers, before I was five.  I also remember drawing and designs before being taught letters.

I still have a mat which I made at this  school. I was happy there and am still friends with another former pupil (Lillah) who also went on to Queen Margaret PNEU School."

Memories of my Education

Queen Margaret PNEU School Edinburgh

"I travelled from Aberdour by train to attend Queen Margaret's PNEU School from 1960 to 1966.

-  The Headmistress was Miss Janet Smith

-  Her deputy was Miss Ida Moffat.

In 1960, there were about 100 pupils ranging from nursery to 18 years old.  Boys were admitted to the Nursery section only."

The uniform consisted of:

-  a blue blouse

-  a PNEU tie of blue, white and brown stripes

-  a grey skirt or gymslip for younger pupils

-  a blue and white striped dress, in summer

-  a grey cardigan with grey blazer with PNEU badge,
or grey tweed coat with a PNEU blue, white and brown scarf, in winter.

In the summer, we wore a panama hat, and in the winter a grey tweed hat, both with a blue, with and brown ribbon around it and the school badge.  The senior girls were allowed to replace the hat with a grey beret with badge.

We were proud of our uniform and thought it the best in Edinburgh, but perhaps we were biased!"


"The school was in the middle and basement flat at 29 India Street, Edinburgh.  This was Miss Smith's house.  Her living room and bedroom were on the ground floor.  Pupils used her kitchen and bathroom.

She was a lovely lady who seemed to me to be a very old lady.  She had to be in her 70s!  She was very proud of 'her girls' and always saw the best in them.

Miss Moffat also appeared elderly, but was possibly in her 60s.  She was more formidable than Miss Smith.  When we were younger we were quite frightened of her at first, but she, too, was a kindly spinster who lived for 'her girls'.  ... 

-  Miss Smith taught  the girls aged 9-12 years.

-  Miss Moffat taught the girls aged 12 to 14 years.

We had special teachers for:

French:  Miss Kinman

Maths:  Mr Hygopian

-  English:   Mr Hardie

Art:  Miss Parkington

Geography:  Mr Gibb

History:  Mr Gibb

Biology:  Mrs Duff

-  Music:   Mrs Bruce

Sports:  Mrs Stewart

Class Rooms

"There were roughly 6 to 8 girls in each form:

-  There were four class rooms on the first floor. 

-  The Assembly Hall on the ground floor was used for nursery pupils.

-  The kitchen was also used as a Biology class room.

-  Miss Smith and Miss Moffat each had a large class room where they taught three forms.  They were always teaching somebody. 

This gave us a very good opportunity to learn to concentrate, although it was often hard not to listen to the more exciting lessons of another form, rather than finish an English exercise. ... ."

The School Day

"The school day started at 8.50am with Assembly. 
This consisted of:

-  a hymn

-  announcements

- the Lord's Prayer

-  a roll call

followed by deep breathing exercises or jumping on the spot before classes began.

Mornings were devoted to the more academic subjects.

Midway through the morning, Mrs Stewart took us up to Queen Street Gardens for PT (Physical Training).  This consisted of  relay races and occasionally rounders.

Afternoons were a time for hockey, netball or tennis in the summer, or enjoying an orderly 'crocodile' to the Botanical Garden, Inverleith Park or the Edinburgh Art Galleries.

We then returned to school for an hour in the afternoon to study Shakespeare, Singing, Art or Music Appreciation, before going home at 3.45pm."


"Up to the age of 14, when we started studying for the London GCE 'O Level', examinations,  Bible Study was the first lesson of the day.

We had to memorise a chapter from the Old testament, one from the New Testament and a Psalm, to be recited as part of the twice-yearly examinations.   ...

We were taught

-  French (starting at 10 o' clock)

-  Latin (starting at 11 o' clock)

-  Ancient & Modern History.

I also remember the history drawings , where we would copy illustrations of historical artefacts which taught us more about the period, captured our interest and gave us practice in accurate copying.

We studied Geography, Citizenship, Music and Art Appreciation - Constable, Rembrandt, Monet, etc.  Some of their works remain vividly in my mind.

We also studied Science and had nature walks to the Botanic Garden and pond.

Teaching Methods

"Narration was one of the main PNEU methods of teaching which differed from other schools.

At the start of a lesson, we would be asked to narrate what we had learnt at the last lesson on the subject, and when the lesson finished we were asked to narrate what had just been learnt by deciphering the knowledge and putting it in our own words.  We took this in turns decided by the teacher.

This was an excellent way to train the memory to stay attentive and not daydream.  ...  The teachers were friendly and gave us great encouragement. Comparisons were never made between the pupils.  We were not discouraged from enjoying subjects that we were not good at.

Twice yearly, we would sit the PNEU examinations which were set at the PNEU headquarters at Ambleside for all PNEU schools, as we all followed the same curriculum.  Our examination papers were marked by an external examiner at Ambleside.  Their reports did not have percentages or marks as such, but a word assessment, such as 'excellent', 'good' or 'fairly good'."

Teaching Methods

"We had fun at Queen Margaret's PNEU school too, putting on plays like 'Toad of Toad Hall' at Adam House in Chambers Street, and the unforgettable Elizabethan Fair, where we performed Morris Dancing and sang songs from Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream', which I still remember  ... .

We went on summer outings to such places as Traquair House and the Borders.  I can still see Miss Moffat taking off her stockings to cross the stream!"


"The teachers were very trusting.  I travelled from Aberdour, Fife, by train each day with another girl, Ann, who was in my class.  We were often late as we dallied to school, and always blamed the trains.  On one occasion we said that a cow was on the railway line, and they believed us!

When Ann and I heard that the Beatles were coming to Edinburgh to play at the ABC in 1965, we raced up at lunch time and actually met them as they arrived in a taxi and were locked out. 

We could hardly wait to get back to school to tell everyone.  We even told the Headmistress, Miss Smith, and Miss Moffat.  They did not have the heart to admonish us, so they rejoiced with us."

Uniform Inspections

"Miss Moffat  and Miss Smith were very strict about uniforms.  Every so often, they would carry out a 'Beret / Hat Inspection'.  Miss Moffat would stand outside the Locker Room as each pupil passed by, one by one, with a beret or hat on.

Little did she know that half the school went out with the same beret on, as it was passed through the Locker Room window.  As the last pupil caught the beret flying through the window, Mis Moffat had walked into the Locker Room, just in time to witness this crime.  She was horrified.  'You deceitful girl!' she cried."

School Trip

"When I was 16, I was one of twelve Queen Margaret pupils who boarded  the school ship, 'Devonia', to Greece, Italy and Turkey with our games mistress, Miss Stewart, in charge.  What an exciting trip.

We travelled by train to Gatwick, then flew to Venice to meet the ship.  I don't think there was one of us who had been abroad before.  We  toured the Acropolis, Pompeii and the temple of Diana in Ephesus  -  all places that we had read about at school in Ancient History."

PNEU Education

"Our PNEU education was unique and enjoyable.  We were expected to do our best, to learn, to concentrate and to be polite  -  always to try and never to give up.  We were often reminded of the PNEU motto:

 'I am, I can, I ought, I will.'

together with the skylark on our badge, flying upward throughout life.  This education established good study habits in us which were a great help in later studies.

We were treated as intelligent persons and, in being given well written and interesting books, were encouraged to love learning for its own sake, thus beginning the process of life-long learning.

Charlotte Mason firmly believed that girls should aim for the stars, and that her PNEU education methods should give them the confidence and the ability to get there and become 'La Crème de la Crème'."

Diana Maxwell, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland:  17, 18,  20,  21 April 2016
 ©  Diana Maxwell




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