In 1887 the curriculum was reorganised “to meet modern requirements.” The girls were to receive a “thoroughly sound English Education in all its branches.” Special attention was to be paid to French, German, and Music, and Cookery was introduced. For the boys there was to be a Classical and a Modern Side, alternatively called a University and a Commercial Side—the latter to equip boys thoroughly for “a mercantile career.” Emphasis was laid on the value of Physical Training for both boys and girls. The girls were to have Drill and the boys Drill, Fencing and Gymnastics. French and German were to be begun earlier and the “Initiatory Classes”— formidable language—were to be “more conversational than grammatical.”
Until the end of this period, and for several years after it, girls’ names hardly appear in the Classics and Mathematics Prize Lists. They were, it seems, discouraged from pursuing these studies too far. In Mathematics they seem to have been restricted to Arithmetic, although in 1881 a girl appears among the prizewinners in Algebra for the first time, and gets an “Extra” prize, but there is no girl in the Senior Mathematics Prize List till 1892. The Classics girls appear as prizewinners in the first and second Latin classes as early as 1878 but infrequently thereafter till 1888. In 1893, the year of Mr. Gemmell’s accession, the Prospectus states firmly: “Parents should note that for subsequent examinations in English and French some knowledge of Latin is of great service to girls.” In the same year, Malcolm McCaskill was the first winner of the three principal school prizes, the Brown Prize for Classics, founded in 1853 in memory of Dr James L. Brown, Rector of the Grammar School from 1823-1847, the Stewart Gold Medal, awarded to the Dux, instituted in 1856, and the Campbell Prize for Mathematics, dating from 1863. No girl won the Brown Prize till 1916 when it was won by one of the first girls to take Greek, but nineteen girls won the Stewart Prize before that date, and, starting in 1898, five had won the Campbell Prize, three in succession in the years 1913-15.
Until 1887 the school opened at 9 and closed at 3, younger pupils coming at 10. There was an interval of ten minutes every hour and a break of half an hour between 11.45 and 12.15. Only those living near the school could run home for lunch: the others had to use the school canteen. There were no organised games, but cricket, football, and prisoners’ base were played in the playground, then very much larger than now, extending indeed up to the present Drill Hall. It must be remembered, too, that the Academy consisted till 1888 of the “twelve spacious and well-aired classrooms with teachers rooms etc. and a large hall” which made up the original building. The Prospectus of 1887 refers grandly to the Playground as the Park (it is so designated till 1907), but a former pupil of the period avers positively that there was very little grass. However this may be, the Cattle Show and Highland Games took place there annually for several years and the former event, held during the term, was a notable cause of truancy.