Rossie Through the Years

Rossie has a long and proud history of providing care to the most vulnerable children and young people in society.

Rossie dates back to 1857 when it opened its doors as a Reformatory, aiming to help young people become useful members of the community and to prevent reoffending.

Over the past 160 years, Rossie has evolved into a child-centred place of safety and wellbeing, with its services continuously developing to meet the needs of the young people who live with us. We strive to establish and maintain relationships with young people and their families, through our committed staff and underlying values.

Have a look at our timeline filled with images and milestones over the years.


Colonel Macdonald, who owned the Rossie estate, donated land for a new Reformatory for 10 boys at Rossie, with the aim of ‘reclaiming’ young offenders.

It was one of 12 reformatory schools in Scotland and consisted of a dining hall, school, kitchen, teachers’ rooms, residential areas, baths, lavatories and a shoemaker’s shop. Nearby was a white walled shooting lodge occupied by the superintendent with rooms for visiting directors.


The new MacDonald wing for up to 65 places was built from stones gathered together by Rossie boys from a quarry within its grounds.


Rossie was described by the Dundee Courier and Angus as “a large, substantial and pleasant building looking forwards the sunny south, commanding a beautiful and extensive prospect of fields and woods.” They highlighted the purpose of the Reformatory stating that it was threefold – to keep young people away from a hostile home environment, to help them recover from and discourage criminal activity, and to provide them with training to become functional members of society.


Rossie Reformatory’s Original Site Plan.

Rossie site map 1898


Rossie became an ‘Approved School’ and was renamed ‘Rossie Farm School’. New legislation abolished the existing system of reformatory schools, bringing into place ‘Approved Schools’ to help care for children who had been neglected or were in trouble. By this time Rossie accommodated up to 70 boys aged between 14-18 years.


Chief Constables expressed concerns after hearing about the number of runaways from Approved Schools. In response to this, the Scottish Office offered money to any school prepared to build and run a secure unit for the more unmanageable young people. In the first 100 years, 3000 boys had passed through the doors of Rossie.


Rossie became the first secure unit in the UK, accommodating up to 25 boys. The beds you see here came from the SS Queen of Bermuda, after it was scrapped in 1966.


New laws brought ‘Approved’ schools under the control of local authorities. As a result, Rossie became a ‘List D’ school.


Rossie started to admit girls, establishing Rossie as a mixed gender school. A new school reception area and game hall are built.


The original training school was demolished and in its place, a new education facility was established. This has enabled Rossie to deliver the full curriculum to its young people. 


150th anniversary or providing care and education to vulnerable young people.

Rossie 150th anniversary stamp


The old residential facility was demolished and Rossie opened a new residential building. This enabled the organisation to offer graduated ‘stepping stones’ of care and support in order to respond to the varied needs of the young people.

2016 Onwards

Rossie accumulates multiple national awards and accreditation for its work. Awards include the ‘Investors in People’ and ‘Investors in Young People’ Silver Awards, the ‘Nature of Scotland’ Award and the ‘Get Set Beacon School’ Award, among others. Most recently, we have been awarded two major Scotland Excel Awards, one for Workforce Development, and one for Innovation. Our school is also on the way to becoming a fully Rights Respecting School recently gaining UNICEF’s ‘Rights Respecting School’ Bronze Award. Our CEO was also awarded “Professional of the Year” 2018, by the Association of Scottish Business Women for her leadership of the organisation.

Click here for more information on our awards and accreditation.

Who we help

At the heart of this work is unconditional positive regard for each individual young person and a very strong commitment to fostering nurturing relationships 

– HMie Report 2018

Young people

We support our young people through all aspects of their stay, while giving them hope for the future. Find out more (takes you to the ‘Information for young people’ page) if you’re a young person looking for more information.

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Parents & Carers

We ensure parents and carers are involved in their child’s care plan as much as possible. Find out more (takes you to the ‘Information for Parents and Carers’ page) if you’re a parent or carer looking for more information.

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We work with our partners to provide a bespoke service to each of our young people. Find out more about our partners.

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Rossie Young People’s Trust