Education in Scotland visual postcard.

If you are considering a posting to Scotland or have recently relocated there, you may be interested to learn more about the education system and support available to Service families. Read on for a brief summary of the Scottish education system and insights and tips from a family that have recently relocated to Scotland. 

Education in Scotland is devolved, meaning that overall policy and regulations are set by the Scottish Government.  However, responsibility for the delivery of adequate and efficient educational provision rests with each of Scotland’s 32 councils acting as education authorities. All state schools in Scotland, with one exception, are run directly by local authorities. All secondary schools are comprehensive, and schools do not use the 11-plus or any other test of academic attainment to manage entry requirements. The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence covers education from 3-18 years and places learners at the heart of education, looking at the whole child.  

Early Years 

Early learning and childcare (ELC) is a generic term used to cover the full range of early education and childcare available in Scotland including nurseries, childminders and family centres. Children in Scotland between the ages of three and five are offered 1,140 hours per year of free, non-compulsory ELC (around 30 hours a week in term time) and certain eligible two year olds may also receive ELC funded by the Scottish Government. 

Primary School 

The Children and Families Directorate have produced a guide on Growing up in Scotland: early experiences of primary school which includes details on entry to school. Depending on their date of birth, children in Scotland usually start primary school between the ages of 4 ½ and 5 ½ years old. Every child has a right to a free place at school and guidance is available on choosing a school for your child. Scottish primary schools go from Primary 1 (P1 – the equivalent to Reception in England) to Primary 7 (P7 – the equivalent to Year 7 in England).  

Secondary School 

For most practical purposes, in Scotland, secondary school is compulsory until the age of 16. These years are called Secondary 1 (S1 – the equivalent of Year 8) to Secondary 4 (S4 – the equivalent of Year 11) and pupils then have an option of 2 further years of study (S5-S6). Qualifications for secondary students in Scotland include Nationals (usually taken by students in S4 and a similar level to GCSEs), Highers (usually taken by students in S5 and are similar to the old AS levels in England) and Advanced Higher qualifications (usually taken by students in S6 which is roughly equivalent to Year 13 and which are similar to A Levels).  

Support for 16+ Learners 

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is the national skills body and they deliver Scotland’s careers services in schools, in high street SDS centres and online. Careers advisors work in partnership with every state school in Scotland and deliver career guidance to students from S1-S6. SDS advisors also offer expert career information, advice and guidance to customers of all ages. 

Guidance for students from an Armed Forces background considering applying to higher education institutions is available from GOV.UKUCAS and the Service Children’s Progression Alliance 

Funding for Education 

The RAF Families Federation website has information on support for children from an Armed Forces background including charitable organisations who are able to award financial grants to eligible Service children to support with educational costs. 

University students may be able to get help paying for university tuition fees and living costs and each nation of the UK has its own funding agency. Mobile Service families living in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) considering applying to university will usually apply for funding to the nation where the Serving member lived at the time when they joined the Armed Forces. The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) has information on the eligibility criteria and funding process for students applying for funding from the Scottish funding stream and Student finance: GOV.UK has information on student finance for students applying from different areas of the UK.  

Getting It Right For Every Child 

Getting it right for every child (known as GIRFEC) is the national approach which aims to ensure that all the people supporting a child work together seamlessly to give children the right help at the right time. Scotland does not offer the Service Pupil Premium, however the GIRFEC approach helps services provide high quality support to children (0-18 years) and their families when it is needed, including a point of contact for children and families to go to for initial support and advice. Staff use the wellbeing wheel to assess children’s wellbeing, to identify what’s good in a child’s life and whether there are any areas where they need support.  

In Scotland, the term Additional Support Needs (ASN) is used instead of Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND), but the definition of ASN is broader than SEND and therefore includes many more children. Children are supported according to need and don’t need a formal diagnosis to access support. It is presumed that the ASN of a child will be met within mainstream schooling and support will be offered there and ASN staff are available to every school in Scotland. However, the needs of some children and young people may be better met in a specialist setting and there are over 130 special schools in Scotland, entry to which is subject to thorough assessment processes within which the parents and child are key partners. 

The Education Advisory Team (formerly known as CEAS) are able to offer information, guidance and support regarding children’s ASN / SEND and Enquire is the additional support for learning advice and information service for parents in Scotland. 

The Lived Experience 

You can read a recent article where one family shares their lived experiences, having recently relocated to Scotland. 

Useful Links and Resources  

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