What grades are Secondary Education?

Secondary education in Scotland

Takes up to 6 years, covering the ages 11 to 18, from S1 to S6. It is not compulsory after the age of 16, the age of majority in Scots law.

In Scotland, students transfer from primary to secondary education at either 11 or 12 years old. Pupils usually attend the same secondary school as their peers, as all secondaries have 'intake primaries'. Pupils either attend a Roman Catholic, or non-denominational school according to their or more commonly their parents' beliefs. Pupils in Scotland attend the same secondary school throughout their education; there are no sixth-form colleges in Scotland.

The first and second years of secondary school (abbreviated to S1 and S2) is a continuation of the Curriculum for Excellence started in primary school. After which students choose which subjects they wish to study with certain compulsory subjects such as English and Mathematics for S3 and S4. These are called National 1-5 which take two years to complete with an exam at the end of S4.

After these qualifications, some students leave to gain employment or attend further education colleges, however nowadays most students study for Highers, of which five are usually studied. These take a year to complete. After which some students decide to apply for university or stay on for S6, where other Highers are gained, or Advanced Highers are studied. Due to the nature of schooling in Scotland, undergraduate honours degree programmes are four years long as matriculation is normally at the completion of highers in S5 (age 16-17), which compares with three years for the rest of the UK. As well as instruction through the English language education Gaelic medium education is also available throughout Scotland.


S3 and S4 S5 S6
Standard Grade (Foundation level) or Access 3 Intermediate 1 Intermediate 2
Standard Grade (General level) or Intermediate 1 Higher
Standard Grade (Credit level) or Intermediate 2 Advanced Higher

The vast majority of Scottish pupils take Scottish Qualifications Certificate qualifications provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Generally, most pupils took Standard Grades (but some schools offered Intermediates instead) in S3-S4, and Highers in S5. For those who wish to remain at school for the final year (S6), more Highers and Advanced Highers (formerly CSYS) in S6 could be taken. Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 qualifications - were intended to be roughly equivalent to General and Credit Level Standard Grades respectively, but in practice (although may vary from subject to subject), Intermediate 1 was easier than General, and Intermediate 2 harder than Credit - can also be taken in lieu of any of the aforementioned qualifications.

Pupils can go to university at the end of S5, as Highers provide the entry requirements for Scottish universities where degrees are normally four years long; however, recently it is more common for students to remain until S6, taking further Highers and/or taking Advanced Highers.

New Qualifications[edit]

From 2013/2014, Intermediates 1, 2 and Access 1-3 ceased to be in use. These qualifications have been replaced by National qualifications. These are designed to fit in with the Scottish Government's "Curriculum for Excellence" system newly implemented in schools.[1]

National 3 National 4 National 5


  1. "A World of opportunity: A Guide to Education and Training in Scotland". Edinburgh: Scottish Government. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
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