Education in Scotland
|Cabinet Secretary||Mike Russell MSP|
|National education budget|
|Literacy (2005 est)|
|‡: Expenditure on Pre-school, Primary and Secondary education only.
#: 2004, All further and higher education institutions includes overseas students.
Scotland has a long history of universal provision of public education, and the Scottish education system is distinctly different from those in the other countries of the United Kingdom. The Scotland Act 1998 gives the Scottish Parliament legislative control over all education matters, and the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is the principal legislation governing education in Scotland.
Traditionally, the Scottish system at secondary school level has emphasised breadth across a range of subjects, while the English, Welsh and Northern Irish systems have emphasised greater depth of education over a smaller range of subjects.
Following this, Scottish universities generally have courses a year longer (typically 4 years) than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, though it is often possible for students to take more advanced specialised exams and join the courses at the second year. One unique aspect is that the ancient universities of Scotland issue a Master of Arts as the first degree in humanities.
State schools are owned and operated by the local authorities which act as Education Authorities, and the compulsory phase is divided into primary school and secondary school (often called high school). Schools are supported in delivering learning and teaching by Education Scotland (formerly Learning and Teaching Scotland).
There are also private schools across the country, although the distribution is uneven with such schools in 22 of the 32 Local Authority areas. At September 2011 the total pupil population in Scotland was 702,104, of which 31,425 pupils, or 4.5%, were being educated in independent schools.
Qualifications at the secondary school and post-secondary (further education) level are provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which is the national awarding and accrediting body in Scotland, and delivered through various schools, colleges and other centres. Political responsibility for education at all levels is vested in the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Education and Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Departments.
Inspections and audits of educational standards are conducted by three bodies: Care Inspectorate inspects care standards in pre-school provision; Education Scotland (formerly Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education) for pre-school, primary, education, further and community education; with the Scottish office of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA Scotland) responsible for higher education.
- 1 School years
- 2 School qualifications
- 3 Secondary school naming
- 4 Religious Schools
- 5 Vocational education
- 6 Music education
- 7 Universities
- 8 Scottish Gaelic medium education
- 9 History of education in Scotland
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Children start primary school aged between 4½ and 5½ depending on when the child's birthday falls. Scottish school policy places all those born between March of a given year and February of the following year in the same year group. Children born between March and August start school in August at between 5½ and 5 years old, and those born between September and February start school in the previous August at between age 4 years 11 months and 4½ years old. The Scottish system is the most flexible in the UK, however, as parents of children born between September and December can request a deferral for 1 year (not automatic, requires approval), whilst children born between January and February can opt to hold their child back a year and let them start school the following August. This usually allows those not ready for formal education to have an extra year at nursery school. (Funding is only available for children born in January and February).
Pupils remain at primary school for seven years. Then aged eleven or twelve, they start secondary school for a compulsory four years with the following two years being optional. In Scotland, pupils sit National 4/5 exams (previously Standard Grade or Intermediate exams) at the age of fifteen/sixteen, for normally eight subjects including compulsory exams in English and Mathematics. A Science subject (Physics, Biology or Chemistry) and a Social Subject (Geography, History or Modern Studies) were also compulsory, but this was changed is accordance with the new curriculum. It is now required by the Scottish Parliament for students to have two hours of physical education a week; each school may vary these compulsory combinations. The school leaving age is generally sixteen (after completion of National 4/5s), after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Higher and/or Advanced Higher exams.
A small number of students at certain private, independent schools may follow the English system and study towards GCSE instead of National 4/5s (Standard Grades), and towards A and AS-Levels instead of Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams. The International Baccalaureate has also been introduced in some independent schools.
The table below lists rough equivalences with the year system in the rest of the United Kingdom (For England and Wales, the equivalence given is for children born before 1 September; the equivalence for those born from September to February [December for deferred pupils] is given in brackets):
|Scotland||Age at start of school year||Age at end of school year||England and Wales||Northern Ireland|
|Primary 1||4 - 5||5 - 6||foundation (start age 4)||P1|
|Primary 2||5 - 6||6 - 7||Year 1||P2|
|Primary 3||6 - 7||7 - 8||Year 2||P3|
|Primary 4||7 - 8||8 - 9||Year 3||P4|
|Primary 5||8 - 9||9 - 10||Year 4||P5|
|Primary 6||9 - 10||10 - 11||Year 5||P6|
|Primary 7||10 - 11||11 - 12||Year 6||P7|
|S1 (First Year)||11 - 12||12 - 13||Year 7||Year 8 (1st Year)|
|S2 (Second Year)||12 - 13||13 - 14||Year 8||Year 9 (2nd Year)|
|S3 (Third Year)||13 - 14||14 - 15||Year 9||Year 10 (3rd Year)|
|S4 (Fourth Year)||14 - 15||15 - 16||Year 10||Year 11 (4th Year)|
|S5 (Fifth Year)||15 - 16||16 - 17||Year 11||Year 12 (5th Year)|
|S6 (Sixth Year)||16 - 17||17 - 18||Year 12 (lower sixth) then year 13 (upper sixth 17-18)||Year 13 (Lower sixth)|
Access to nursery, primary and secondary school
The age ranges specify the youngest age for a child entering that year and the oldest age for a child leaving that year. Children may start attending nursery as soon as they have passed their third birthday, and progress to Primary 1 in the August of the year in which they turn five. In general, the cut-off point for ages is the end of February, so all children must be of a certain age on 1 March in order to begin class in August. All parents of children born between September and February (i.e. still 4 years old on the school start date) are entitled to defer entry to Primary School if they believe their child is not ready for school. Only children whose birthdays fall in January or February will be considered for funding for a subsequent year at nursery, unless there are special circumstances. Children may leave school once they reach their statutory school leaving date; this is dependent on date of birth. For children born between 1 March and 30 September, this date is 31 May of their 4th year of secondary school. For children born between 1 October and 28 February, the last day of June is the first date they may leave school if they have a placement at college and the school have signed the health & safety forms.
Which high school the child goes to depends on the area they live in, known as the "Catchment Area" which has a specific high school which takes children. Parents can also apply for a placement request if they would like their child to attend a school outside their Catchment area and a panel will decide if the child is the most worthy (out of all placing requests) to take one of the spaces left after all children from the catchment area have been taken.
Curriculum for Excellence was launched in Scottish secondary schools from school session 2012-2013.
Progression in Qualifications
|National 3||National 4||National 5|
|National 4||National 5||Higher|
|National 5||Higher||Advanced Higher|
The vast majority of Scottish pupils take Scottish Qualifications Certificate qualifications provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Generally, most pupils take National 4/5s (previously Standard Grades,but some schools offered Intermediates instead) in S3-S4, and Highers in S5. For those who wish to remain at school for the final year (S6), more Highers and Advanced Highers (formerly CSYS) in S6 can be taken. Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 qualifications - were intended to be roughly equivalent to General and Credit Level Standard Grades respectively, but in practice (although may vary from subject to subject), Intermediate 1 was easier than General, and Intermediate 2 harder than Credit - can also be taken in lieu of any of the aforementioned qualifications.
Pupils can go to university at the end of S5, as Highers provide the entry requirements for Scottish universities where degrees are normally four years long; however, recently it is more common for students to remain until S6, taking further Highers and/or taking Advanced Highers.
All educational qualifications in Scotland are part of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.
Secondary school naming
There is not a set name for secondary schools in Scotland, but whatever they might be called, with just a few specific exceptions in mainly rural or island authorities, state secondary schools in Scotland are fully comprehensive and non-selective. Amongst the state-run secondary schools:
- 188 are nominally High Schools. These are spread across the country.
- 131 are nominally Academies. These are spread across the country but are in high concentration in North-East Scotland and Ayrshire. There are also three Royal Academies, in Irvine, North Ayrshire; Tain; and Inverness.
- 15 are nominally Secondary Schools (colloquially abbreviated to "secondaries").
- 14 are nominally Grammar Schools. Most of these schools were defined as grammar schools under a previous (now dissolved) system but their names remain. Popular areas for grammar schools are Argyll and Bute, East Lothian and South Lanarkshire.
- 13 are simply Schools. These schools cater for Primary as well as Secondary school children. They are found in rural areas or islands.
- 8 are Junior High Schools. These schools are found exclusively in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. They cater for school children from P1 to S4.
- 4 are Colleges. These include Madras College (in St Andrews, Fife), Marr College (in Troon, South Ayrshire) and St Joseph's College (in Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway).
Other schools include The Community School of Auchterarder, Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross; The Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, Western Isles; North Walls Community School on Hoy, Orkney Islands and Wester Hailes Education Centre, Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. All of these are, equally, fully comprehensive non-selective schools, differing only in designation from all other state secondary schools in Scotland.
The majority of schools are non-denominational, but as a result of the Education Act 1918, separate denominational state schools were also established. The vast majority of denominational state schools are Roman Catholic but there are also three Scottish Episcopal schools and one Jewish school. Roman Catholic school buildings, which had been built and maintained by the Roman Catholic Church, were handed over to the State under the Education Act. Since then, Roman Catholic schools have been fully funded by the Scottish Government and administered by the Education and Lifelong Learning Directorate. As part of the arrangement that brought Roman Catholic schools within the State education system, there were specific legal provisions made to ensure the promotion of a Roman Catholic ethos in such schools: applicants for positions in the areas of Religious Education, Guidance or Senior Management must be approved by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, which also appoints a chaplain to each of its schools.
Music Education is available at several levels. Formal music education begins at 4½ years and can progress as high as postgraduate studies. Music Education can take place within a Scottish Music school; through a music service or privately.
- University of Aberdeen is located in Aberdeen.
- University of Abertay Dundee is located in Dundee.
- University of Dundee is located in Dundee and also has a campus in Kirkcaldy.
- University of Edinburgh is located in Edinburgh, and also has a campus in Midlothian.
- Edinburgh Napier University is located in Edinburgh, and has campuses in Livingston and Melrose.
- University of Glasgow is located in Glasgow but also has a campus in Dumfries.
- Glasgow Caledonian University is located in Glasgow.
- Glasgow School of Art is located in Glasgow.
- Heriot-Watt University is based in Edinburgh but also has campuses in Dubai, Galashiels, Malaysia, and Orkney.
- University of the Highlands and Islands (or Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean) has 13 colleges and research institutions based on various campuses in the highlands and islands of Scotland.
- The Open University in Scotland is a distance learning university.
- Queen Margaret University is located in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh.
- Robert Gordon University is located in Aberdeen.
- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is located in Glasgow.
- Scottish Rural University College has campuses in Aberdeen, Ayr and Edinburgh.
- University of St Andrews is located in St Andrews.
- University of Stirling is located in Stirling.
- University of Strathclyde is located in Glasgow.
- University of the West of Scotland has campuses in Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton, and Paisley.
Scottish Gaelic medium education
Some schools in Scotland provide education given in the Scottish Gaelic language. They are mainly located in the main cities of Scotland and in areas with higher amounts of Gaelic speakers. Gaelic medium education is becoming increasingly popular throughout Scotland, and the number of pupils who are in Gaelic medium education at primary school level has risen from 24 in 1985, to 2312 in 2010.
History of education in Scotland
For information about the education system in Scotland in the past, see History of education in Scotland.
- List of schools in Scotland
- List of independent schools in Scotland
- Music schools in Scotland
- Association of Educational Development and Improvement Professionals
- List of further education colleges in Scotland
- Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (Scotland)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2008)|
- "Expediture on School Education in Scotland, 2006". Scottish Executive. 19 January 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
- Scottish Budget Spending Review 20§§, Scottish Government
- "Statistical Bulletin - Educational Series". Scottish Executive. 28 February 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
- Scottish Independent Schools 'Pupil Number Comparisons by Local Authority Area 2011/12' http://www.scis.org.uk/assets/files/2011%20Local%20Authority%20comparisons%20by%20region.pdf accessed 21 Feb 2012
- UKCISA - 404
- About Curriculum for Excellence, retrieved 2007-05-31
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 14 May 2012.
- Our Work - Bord na Gaidhlig