Education in Scotland



The Scottish school system is based on a 3–18 curriculum:

Key features of the Scottish system

Learners are entitled to a range of features at the different stages of learning. The entitlements are:


Between the ages of three and five, children in Scotland are entitled to funded pre-school education. Though provision varies, this usually means that, during term time, a child is offered five sessions of education a week, of about two and a half hours each. 

Primary school

Children in Scotland complete seven years at primary school (P1 to P7), with all curriculum areas generally being taught by their classroom teacher (some specialists, e.g. in music, modern languages, can also be used).

Children in Scotland must start primary school in the August term after their fifth birthday. This generally means that children start school when they are aged between 4.5 years and 5.5 years. Education authorities can make arrangements for children to start in the August when they are four, if they will turn five by the end of the following February.

Secondary school

Most children move to secondary school (typically a larger school taking pupils from several primary schools) between 11.5 years and 12.5 years. Pupils are taught by several teachers with specialist expertise in each curriculum subject or area. All subject teachers are responsible for teaching Health and Well-being, Literacy and Numeracy across Learning within their subject material. 

Children moving to Scotland from Year 7 in an English secondary school will generally be required to attend a Scottish primary school for up to one year (depending on the time of the move). Academic levels are similar and each case will be considered on its merits by the school and local authority. 

A child transferring from a Scottish primary school at the age of 12 (P7) will miss the first year of secondary education in England/Wales. Although standards in English and Maths are similar, the child may not have experienced specialised teaching in the areas of science or a modern foreign language. 

Children and young people are entitled to six years of secondary education (S1–S6): a broad general education (S1–S3) and a senior phase (S4–S6) during which the young person will build up a portfolio of qualifications. There are considerable consequences for the transfer of pupils between the systems between the ages of 14 and 16. If a change of school is unavoidable at that age, further advice should be sought from the relevant local authority.

Assessment at 16

Scotland has National 4 and 5 qualifications, followed by Higher and Advanced Higher.

Advice and information

Advice and information can be obtained from the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS), the appropriate Scottish Local Authority (there are 32 local authorities, each with responsibility for the schools in their area) or directly from the school. 

Additional information can also be found at:

Scottish Government

Tel: 0131 244 0645


Scottish Qualifications Agency

Scottish Council of Independent Schools


Eurydice provides information on and analyses of European education systems and policies, including those of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales:

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