Education in Scotland

Education in Scotland

Infobox Education
country name = Scotland

agency = Scottish Government
leader titles = Cabinet Secretary
leader names = Fiona Hyslop MSP
budget = n/a
budget year = 2007-08
primary languages = English and Scottish Gaelic | system type = National
established events = Compulsory education
established dates = 1872
literacy year = 2005 est
literacy total = 99
literacy men = 99
literacy women = 99
enroll total = 1,452,240
enroll primary = 390,2602
enroll secondary = 322,980
enroll post-secondary = 739,0003
attain secondary = n/a
attain post-secondary = n/a
footnotes = 1Expenditure on Pre-school, Primary and Secondary education only []
22005 []
3 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 other parts of the United Kingdom.Traditionally, the Scottish system 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 at secondary school level.

Following this, Scottish universities generally have courses a year longer 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.

The majority of schools are non-denominational, but as a result of the Education Act 1918, separate Roman Catholic state schools were also established. Catholic schools are fully funded by the Scottish Government and administered by the Education and Lifelong Learning Directorate. There are specific legal provisions to ensure the promotion of a 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.

Qualifications at the secondary school and post-secondary (further education) level are provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority 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

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 the National Guidelines and National Priorities by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Inspections and audits of educational standards are conducted by three bodies: Care Commission inspects care standards in pre-school provision; 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.

School years

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 at five years old and those born between September and February start school at age four-and-a-half. The Scottish system is the most flexible in the UK, however, as parents of children born between September and February can opt to hold their child back a year and let them start school when they are five-and-a-half; 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 Standard Grade exams at the age of fifteen/sixteen, sometimes earlier, for normally eight subjects including compulsory exams in English, mathematics, a foreign language or Gaelic the nation's domestic, unwidely spoken language, a science subject and a social subject; 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 standard grade), after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Intermediate or Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams. Increasingly, students in S3 & S4 are able to take Intermediate courses, as these have become more popular and are more closely linked to highers. A small number of students at certain private, independent schools may follow the English system and study towards GCSEs instead of 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. Please note that the years are approximate as a school year is defined differently in the separate systems:

In Scotland, there is no equivalent of the Sixth form colleges; S5 and S6 are always part of Scottish secondary schools. S5 and S6 are optional, and in the Scottish system are a chance to study additional Intermediate, Higher or Advanced Higher courses, further helping teenagers access university education.

Access to nursery, primary and secondary school

Note that the age ranges specify the oldest 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. However all parents of children born between September and February (e.g. 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. However, 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 it is 31 May of their 4th year of secondary school. For children born between 1 October and 28 February it is the last day of the December term of the school session in which they are 16.

Pupils thus transfer to Scottish secondary schools at age 12, a year later than elsewhere in the United Kingdom, in England and Wales Year 7 is normally the first year of secondary school.


Since 2004 work has been in progress on an education reform programme, which is to produce a new "Curriculum for Excellence" replacing existing guidance. [ [ About Curriculum for Excellence] , retrieved 2007-05-31]

chool qualifications

The vast majority of Scottish pupils take Scottish Qualifications Certificate qualifications provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority also known as the SQA for short. Generally, most pupils take Standard Grades in S4, Highers in S5 and S6 and, for those who wish to remain at school for the final year, more highers and Advanced Highers (formerly CSYS) in S6. Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 qualifications - were intended to be roughly equivalent to General and Credit Level Standard Grades respectively, but in practice, Intermediate 1 is 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 at least four years long; however, the norm is for students to remain through S6, taking further Highers, or moving to the Advanced level. Those who wish to go to university in England, or intend to study popular courses such as Medicine or Law, are often required to take a sixth year.

All educational qualifications in Scotland are part of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.

econdary school naming

There is not a set name for secondary schools in Scotland. Amongst the state-run schools:

* 188 are "High Schools". These are spread across the country.

* 131 are "Academies". These are spread across the country but are in high concentration in North-East Scotland and Ayrshire.

* 15 are "Secondary Schools" (colloquially abbreviated to "secondaries".

* 14 are "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.

* 3 are "Colleges". These are Madras College, St Andrews, Fife; Marr College, Troon, South Ayrshire and St Joseph's College, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway.

Other schools include The Community School of Auchterarder, Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross; The Nicholson Institute, Stornoway, Western Isles; North Walls Community School on Hoy, Orkney Islands and Wester Hailes Education Centre, Wester Hailes, Edinburgh.


*In Aberdeen:
**University of Aberdeen
**The Robert Gordon University
**Scottish Agricultural College
*In Dundee:
**University of Dundee
**University of Abertay Dundee
*In Edinburgh:
**University of Edinburgh
**Heriot-Watt University
**Napier University
**Queen Margaret University
**Scottish Agricultural College
*In Glasgow:
**University of Glasgow
**Glasgow Caledonian University
**Glasgow Graduate School of Law
**Glasgow School of Art
**University of Strathclyde
*In Orkney:
**UHI Millennium Institute
**Heriot-Watt University
*In Inverness:
**UHI Millennium Institute
*In Stirling:
**University of Stirling
*In Paisley:
**University of the West of Scotland
*In St Andrews:
**University of St Andrews
*In Ayr:
**Scottish Agricultural College
*As distance learning:
**The Open University in Scotland

History of education in Scotland

For information about the education system in Scotland in the past, see History of education in Scotland


* [ Silicon Glen, Scotland - Intro to Scottish Education]
* [ - Searchable directory of educational establishments and courses in Scotland]

See also

*Gaelic medium education
*Association of Educational Development and Improvement Professionals
*Comprehensive school
*School Board
*Education in England
*Education in Northern Ireland
*Education in Wales
*Education in the United Kingdom
*List of further and higher education colleges in Scotland
*English medium education#Scotland

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