Secondary School

What's Different?

What happens at Primary?

You study at primary school for 7 years starting at the age of 5 and finishing at the age of 11/12 years old, going through P1 to P7. Throughout these years you will complete online informal assessments in P1, P4 and P7 to assess literacy and numeracy.

What happens at Secondary?

You study at secondary school for 6 years going from S1 through to S6, in which S1-4 are compulsory, but S5-6 are optional. There are different types of assessment in secondary school but in S4 you will complete Level 4 and 5 National Qualifications, in S5 you will complete Highers, and in S6 you can continue to complete Highers and have the option to also complete Advanced Highers.

What Subjects will I study?


Your school will follow the Curriculum for Excellence with a range of subject based on different areas, and your teachers will decide what subjects and content you will specifically learn. Here are some examples of areas you will study and what you can learn in each…

  • Social studies- You will develop an understanding of the world, values, and the environment, with a particular focus on historical, social, geographic, economic and political changes in Scotland.
  • Technologies- You will use different tools and technological equipment to explore and problem-solve in a range of contexts, to help prepare you for what is to come in the society and economy you will grow and work in.  Religious and moral education- You will explore religions and belief groups to understand each of their values, culture, and place in the world. This will mean you can better understand you own place and become aware of personal values and beliefs that shape communities and societies.
  • Mathematics and numeracy- You will learn how to think critically, problem-solve and assess risks to make informed decisions. This will help you with key life skills everyday such as money management, time and making measurements.
  • STEM- STEM stands for Sciences, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics, and this area helps to integrate the knowledge across disciplines through specific project-based learning.
  • Languages- You will continue to learn an additional language from the one you use at home, the schools can choose from: French, German, Spanish, Italian Gaelic, Urdu, Mandarin or Cantonese, but you will also be given the opportunity to learn a third language too.
  • Expressive arts- This can include art and design, dance, drama and music, which gives you the opportunity to perform and present to different audiences and use your imagination to become inspired and creative.
  • Health and well-being- You will learn how to plan and make choices for a healthy mind and body, which will help you cope with the uncertainties of life and build meaningful relationships with yourself and others.
  • Sciences- You will study the physical world by inquiring, investigating and observing to establish facts which can be used to understand how the world works and think about applications for the future of society.


You will get the chance to choose your own subjects for your National 4 and 5 qualifications. You usually choose around 6 subjects, which are based on personal interest, strength in certain areas and courses you might want to apply to in Higher Education.

English and Mathematics are compulsory subjects that you have to sit, and your school might have others, so check with your teachers.


You get the chance to narrow down your subjects again in this optional phase of secondary education for your Highers and Advanced Highers. You usually choose around 5 Highers in S5 but can choose to add more subject Highers in S6.

In S6 you can also choose to study Advanced Highers from the subjects you passed at Higher in S5, usually students take around 3 Advanced Highers, if they choose to do so.

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