A world-renowned woodworking school is vying to attract students away from academia and into vocational training.

The Chippendale International School of Furniture, in Haddington, East Lothian, opened 34 years ago.

Its founder, Anselm Fraser, 62, retired in the summer but it is being taken over by a chip off the old block – his son, Tom.

The 32-year-old became deputy head five years ago and spent the previous five years working in marketing.

The school uses Scottish timber and mostly hires Scottish tutors, but the range of topics taught on courses varies from looking at how the Ancient Egyptians used wood, to bringing in a Canadian wood bending specialist to speak to students.

Graduates can rent a bench on the school premises and are able to get assistance from tutors as well as timber at below market rates.

Some go on to start their own businesses, with one graduate setting up a company that makes furniture out of whisky barrels.

Tom Fraser said: “I think there is far too much of a drive to get every single student into university from high school.

“A lot of people go through university for years with crippling debt and no better idea of what they want to do upon graduation.

“I think we need to change the way we talk about education in schools. Our school can be an alternative but it is about letting people know that we exist.

“What we are trying to do is to create a course that is as relevant as possible to the current market.

“It is about being as flexible as possible and evolving every year to give our students the best chance of making a successful business.”

His father, who set up the business in 1985, said: “I sat doing nothing for three weeks and got very bored, so I am renovating an old farm building to be able to house future students.

“The business side for us here is as important as the woodworking skills our students acquire.

“Marketing is everything to be able to build a successful business. It is very important to understand how to bring the customers in.”

Not all students are school-leavers, however.

Some are people looking to switch careers, including Fiona Gilfillan, 52, who gave up a job in IT to study instead.

Ms Gilfillan, from Tranent, East Lothian, took on beginner and intermediate courses before committing to a nine-month professional course.

Since then she has taken on commissions, and joked she “appeared to have become” a table maker.’

She said: “You could say it was a bit of a midlife crisis as I approached 50, but I had the money and just really wanted to do something creative with my life.

“I had a little bit of experience beforehand but since completing the courses I am looking forward to setting up my own woodworking business.

“I have had a couple of commissions since graduating and jobs repairing damaged furniture.

“At the moment I am designing a large coffee table for a client as he could not get the design he wanted. It appears as though I have become a table maker.”

The school’s first student is still closely involved in the business and Alan McGovern, 50, from Dunbar, was the first apprentice to be hired in 1985.

Mr McGovern said: “We started off in a workshop no bigger than a small community hall. It was just myself, Anselm and one student of his.

“Watching the premises evolve and grow is something to be extremely proud of. It is mad to think I have now been with the school for 35 years and through our doors.

“I think it is a testament to Chippendale that both Anselm and I, and the first ever student, all have successful careers to this day in woodworking.”