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Compulsory Education

Pre-school
Even before they enter the school system proper, children can get an enjoyable and useful grounding in pre-school nurseries. All local authorities provide free nursery schooling for those who want it. The classes, which are run by qualified nursery teachers with the help of trained nursery assistants, are either full or part-time. The fee-paying sector too provides nursery schooling, should you want to take advantage of it. As an alternative to nursery schools, some councils, churches and occasionally parents run playgroups – usually for fewer hours. The other option if you’re working and need to be away from home is childminders – qualified, officially registered babysitters.

Glasgow’s Childcare Information Service, offers free, comprehensive, confidential and up-to-date information on a range of services across the city for children 0-18.

Glasgow Childcare Information Service
GCC Education Services, Wheatley House
25 Cochrane Street
Glasgow G1 1HL
44 141 287 5223
44 141 287 5190(fax)
EducationChis@glasgow.gov.uk

Primary School
From the age of five, all children attend primary (elementary) school. You’ll have to register them before they start – contact your local primary school for details. The day normally runs from about 9am until 3:15pm and children learn basic skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, geography and a foreign language. After seven years, at about 11, they move up to secondary school.

You should enroll your child at a school before February of the year they should start school. You are entitled to a place in your catchment area school, but if you want your child to go to another school you will need to make a placing request to your education authority. Each local authority sets its own priorities for dealing with placement requests. For example, it may give priority to placement requests where:

  • your workplace is near the school; or
  • your childcare is near the school; or
  • the child already has a sibling at the school; or
  • the child has attended the school’s nursery; or
  • there is some other good reason for the child to attend that school rather than their catchment area school.

Although you have a right to make a placing request, the local authority does not have to agree to it. Very often, schools are oversubscribed and it is not possible to get a place. If your child does not get a place initially, the education authority will usually put your child on a waiting list and they may still get a place before the school starting date. For more information about catchment areas and placement requests see www.parentzonescotland.gov.uk and to find out information about specific schools, see www.scottishschoolsonline.gov.uk.

Secondary School
At secondary (or high) school, children receive a broad education until their third year, after which they start to study towards national examinations. At the end of their fourth year, they take Standard Grade examinations, giving them internationally recognized qualifications in their chosen subjects. Although pupils can leave school at 16 if they wish, most go on to take Higher exams, covering a broad range of subjects. Children can take as many Highers as they like, though most settle for about six. The grades they achieve will be a critical factor in their options for college or university.

In the year before your child moves up to secondary school, the local authority will write and inform you that your child has a place in your catchment area school, and that you can make a placing request if you wish your child to go to a different school. It will also inform you of the processes for doing so. You must make your placing request in writing.

Types of school
Most of Scotland’s schools are non-denominational, though parents can send their children to denominational (usually Roman Catholic) state schools, if they wish. You also have the option of sending your children to one of a range of internationally respected fee-paying schools. Most are day schools, though some do offer boarding. As an alternative to Highers, some fee-paying schools offer A-levels – the pre-university exams normally taken in England – alongside the Scottish curriculum. Fees can often be paid in installments and if you’re sending more than one of your children to the same school there may be a discount. All Scottish schools, state-run and fee-paying, are regularly inspected by the Scottish Education Department.