Education in Scotland

Scotland is the home of first-class, world leading education, which is available to all! We use a national curriculum (Curriculum for Excellence) to emphasise inter-disciplinary learning, skills development and to encourage personal achievement in young people. It is used from nursery, all the way through Year 3 in Secondary School. This is followed by a senior phase of learning in the last 3 years of Secondary School.

After completing your early education you can choose to continue your education in one of our colleges or universities. Scotland’s universities are amongst the best in the world, offering wide range of degrees in areas such as life sciences, medical research and many more. Our college courses lead you straight into employment within specific industry. Colleges also allow fast track degree entry to the university.

Choosing a new school for your children can be a very daunting experience when moving to a new Country. You can either choose from local, council schools or private and boarding schools. Find out more information about both types of school below.

Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum for Excellence (CFE) is intended to help children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century, including skills for learning, life and work. Its purpose is often summed up as helping children and young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

The CFE has two stages:

The Broad General Education – has five levels (early, first, second, third, fourth) from the early year to the end of S3

The Senior Phase – from S4 to S6, The senior phase is designed to build on the experiences and outcomes of the broad general education, and to allow young people to take qualifications and courses that suit their abilities and interests.

There are eight main curriculum areas:

  • Expressive arts
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Languages (including English, Gaidhlig, Gaelic learners and modern languages)
  • Mathematics
  • Religious and moral education
  • Sciences
  • Social Studies
  • Technologies 

The most important ones, being the responsibility of all staff are literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)

Council Schools

Within Scotland the process of enrolling your child into an appropriate council school can be very straight forward and doesn’t require you to have lived in the country for any particular length of time.

Council Schools in Scotland are provided and maintained by a local education authority. There are Primary Schools and Secondary Schools that children can attend.

Primary School – A school for children between ages of 5-12 (P1-P7)

Secondary School – Also known as High School or Academy - A school for children between ages of 12-18 (S1-S4 with optional S5 & S6)

Finding a School

There is a fair choice in council schools around Scotland. There are two different ways to enrol your child to school:

Council’s Catchment area – your child will be allocated to a school that is near to your home address, any child who lives in this area is given a place at the local school. Most Scottish councils publish catchment area maps on their website.

Enrolling your child to a school out with the Catchment area – you have the right to request a place in a council school that is out with your Catchment area, if the school has free places, your request must be granted. If there are no places at the school, the Council does not need to grant your request.

Private Schools/Boarding Schools – you can choose to send your child to a Private or Boarding School. These are not run by your local council and usually have a fee you need to pay to enrol your child.

Private Day and Boarding Schools

There are over 70 different Private Schools and Boarding Schools you can choose from in Scotland. These are represented and promoted by The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) ensuring parents are provided with impartial information, advice and guidance, as well as keeping independent schools abreast of educational developments, training opportunities and legislative change thus enabling the independent school sector to make a worthwhile contribution to the development of education in Scotland.

Boarding School

Boarding School is a School where students live and study, school provides accommodation and meals for pupils during term time. All 19 boarding schools in Scotland are situated in safe, spacious and idyllic surroundings – all within easy reach of major Scottish cities, airports, the sea and the hills. They offer a purposeful learning environment, high quality teaching, consistently good exam results, lots of opportunities to learn outside the classroom and excellent pastoral care.

There are two types of Boarding Schools – Preparatory & Junior Boarding School and Senior & “All through” Boarding Schools.

Preparatory & Junior Boarding Schools are usually between the age of 7 to 13.

Senior & “All through” Boarding Schools are usually between the age of 11 to 18.

You can choose from Girls Only, Boys Only or co-educational schools.

Schools can accept applications throughout the year, but applications to start the next academic year are usually received no later than the previous December.  Students are usually admitted to Scotland’s boarding schools after an assessment which is done to gain an understanding of each individual’s educational needs.

To apply or to find out more about individual schools’ application process visit the Scotland’s Boarding Schools’ webpage.

The cost of attending a Boarding School in Scotland varies from school to school and can be anything between £7,000 to over £32,000.

Private Day School

A Private Day School is an independent School supported wholly by the payment of tuition fees. The difference between a Day School and a Boarding School is that the Day School does not supply accommodation and meals for pupils during term time.

To apply or to find out more about individual schools’ application process, visit the Scottish Council of Independent Schools website.

The cost of attending a Private Day School varies from school to school and can be anything between £3,000 to over £26,000.


Further Education in Scotland 

Once your child is 16 and preparing to leave school, there are many opportunities available to them. They can choose from applying for a degree at a University or further their education in one of Scotland’s colleges.

Your child can choose whether they want to study full-time or on a part-time basis. Most institutions in Scotland offer both options. Part-time courses usually include day release, evening, block release and open learning basis.

Entry requirements will vary for each course but most courses require some previous education qualifications although there is help for people with very little previous educational attainment.

Courses and Qualifications 

Courses are available at a range of different levels:

  • National Certificate modules (NC)
  • General Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ)
  • National Qualifications (NQ)
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • Degree (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate etc)

More information regarding above can be found on Scottish Qualifications Authority website. SQA is an organisation whose role is to accredit and award qualifications to students.

Applying for higher education 

To search university courses in the UK and to apply for full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges you need to visit The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). UCAS is an organisation that processes applications for courses.

Financial Help

Full-time students, who are resident in Scotland – including EU residents – may be eligible to pay no tuition fees. Some part-time students may have their fees waived.

Student Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) is an organisation that helps with funding. You can apply for SAAS if you are studying a course at HNC, HND or a degree level.


To find out more information, please visit the Parentzone Scotland website or the Scottish Government Website