A Guide to Learning and Teaching in Scotland

Scotland is a wonderful place to both teach and learn, and the Scottish government are keen to encourage more students and teachers to come north of the border to take advantage of the possibilities on offer. This guide to learning and teaching in Scotland will tell students of all ages as well as teachers what to expect when they encounter Scotland’s education system.

The Scottish Education System

Scotland offers a top class education system with excellent facilities, high quality teacher and impressive research. Public schooling is free to every child living in Scotland, with the Curriculum for Excellence representing the standards to which all children will be taught. This curriculum provides the skills and knowledge for life and learning that all children require throughout their school life from nursery up to the time they leave secondary education. The main difference between the Scottish and English curriculums is that the CfE emphasises breadth of subjects over depth, whereas in the English system the reverse is true.

Primary pupils start school in P1 which is the equivalent of Reception in England and leave primary at the end of P7 which is the equivalent of the English Year 7. Children then progress to secondary education, or high school, where they will stay from S1 up to S6 which is the equivalent of the English years 8 to 13.

Qualifications are only taken during the last three years of secondary education, and the results of these examinations will qualify pupils to go on to either further or higher study. In England, children take GCSEs and A Levels, however in Scotland the examinations are called Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers. The majority of children will take their Nationals at the age of 15 and they can then choose to either leave school or to go on for another two years of study to take their Highers. Highers are required to enter university education, however if they take Advanced Highers, this is equivalent to a first year of university study and can therefore be used to apply to enter their chosen course in its second year.

As in England, colleges in Scotland offer vocational courses as well as fast track degree entry for young people aged 16 and above as well as offering school level qualifications for students of any age. When it comes to higher education, Scotland has more leading universities per head than virtually any other country worldwide and the greatest concentration of universities in the whole of Europe. 5 Scottish Universities have made it into the Times Higher Education Top 200 World Universities.

Most Scottish university courses have a four year duration, although students with Advanced Highers may be eligible to enter the course in the second year which leaves 3 years of study to complete. Some courses, such as veterinary studies, fine art and medicine are longer courses taking 5 or 6 years until graduation. Postgraduate courses are also available and may last for one or two years depending on the subject and qualification.

Teaching In Scotland

If you want to teach in Scotland, the path is somewhat different to teaching in England. If you have qualified as a teacher in a Scottish institution, it will be slightly easier to obtain a teaching job, however it is still possible to teach in Scotland as long as you have the necessary qualifications.

Primary teachers require a 4 year BEd qualification in Primary Education, or alternatively, a 1 year PGDE. Secondary teachers must have a degree in their teaching subject as well as a PGDE. Without a degree in their subject, teachers must take a BEd degree. Teachers who have QTS but neither a BEd or PGDE may still be able to teach as long as they hold a degree as well as having had 3 years of teaching experience.

Teachers in Scotland also have to be registered with the GTCS, which requires a fee to be paid. Applicants must also join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme. Newly qualified teachers are subject to a 1 year probation before they are fully qualified to teach. Scottish schools are inspected in just the same way as English schools are for standards, however the inspection body is different to that found south of the border.

The Independent Schools System In Scotland

Of course, Scotland also has many independent schools which offer an excellent standard of education to pupils of all ages. In order to teach at an independent school, it wasn’t necessary to be registered with the GTCS however changes have now been brought in to bring the system in line with the public requirements. Independent Scottish schools are inspected in just the same way as public schools.

Scotland is an excellent place to work and study, and although the system is a little different to that found in England, it is still extremely effective and is of the highest quality.