300 YEARS and still going


Scottish Charity SC000270

Created by Compass Business Services Ltd - Amended December 2019

1709 - 2009

1709 - 2009


The SSPCK (Scottish Charity Number SC000270) was formed by Royal Charter in 1709 for the purpose of founding schools “where religion and virtue might be taught to young and old” in the Scottish Highlands and other “uncivilised” areas of the country.  Their schools were a valuable addition to the Church of Scotland programme of education in Scotland, which was already working with support from a tax on landowners to provide a school in every parish.  The SSPCK had 5 schools by 1711, 25 by 1715, 176 by 1758 and 189 by 1808 with 13,000 pupils attending.  At first the SSPCK avoided using Gaelic with the result that pupils learned by rote without understanding what they read.  In 1741 the SSPCK introduced a Gaelic-English vocabulary.  Then in 1767 it brought in a New Testament with facing pages of Gaelic and English texts.  This was more successful as the language of instruction in Highland schools was changed from English to Gaelic.

The expansion of the Society was only possible by the generous and sometimes large accessions of capital.  The Society was also prepared to adapt to the needs of the population.  In the second charter by George II of 1738 the Society was empowered over and above the purposes of the original patent “to instruct pupils in husbandry, housewifery, trading, manufacturing or manual occupations”.  Included in the original aims of the Society was propagating Christian knowledge overseas.  This aim has never been lost sight of as is the case still today.

The Education Act of 1872 abolished the old management of parish schools and introduced the school board system, which transferred the responsibility of education to the state.  The Society that had played such a notable part in education in the Highlands and Islands, had to divert its energy elsewhere.  Two thirds of the Society’s capital was transferred to the Highlands Trust for educational work and one third was retained by the Society for its own educational activities.

The Society was reconstituted and revitalised in 2009 on its 300th anniversary with a launch at the General Assembly and marked by competitions for best prayer and hymn.

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (more commonly known as SPCK), its bigger and older sister, is the oldest Anglican mission organisation and was founded in 1698.  Like the SSPCK, the movement was part of that confidence, creativity and sense of adventure that marks the Age of Enlightenment.  The Society was accordingly founded to encourage Christian education and the production and distribution of Christian Literature. Nowadays the SPCK is however best known for its books.

Click here if you want to know more about the SPCK, our English cousins.