Welcome pack for New Scots

The New Scots vision is “For a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive”.


Education is devolved to the Scottish Government, and Scotland has its own curriculum which is designed to provide learners with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need for life and work. It is the right of every child, and also a legal requirement, for children to be provided with a school education. All children under the age of 16 are legally required to attend school.

An education authority has a duty to provide full-time education for children aged 5 to 16. The duty of the local education authority to provide full-time education also applies to a child who is temporarily living in the area unless the parents have chosen to home educate.

Early learning and childcare (ELC)

All 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for 1140 hours of free early learning and childcare (ELC) per year, funded by the Scottish Government and local authorities. That works out at about 30 hours a week if you use it during school term-time, or around 22 hours a week if you use it year round. A nutritious meal is included with funded ELC.

About a quarter of 2 year olds are also eligible for 1140 hours of free ELC. A 2 year old can receive funded ELC if they are looked after by a local council, or subject of a kinship care order or a guardianship order, or if their parent or carer is receiving certain benefits. Find more information about funding eligibility for 2 year olds.

Local authorities must make a mandatory amount of early learning and childcare available for eligible pre-school children in their area. These rights belong to all children and young people, including those who are displaced, refugees and asylum seekers.

You can access funded ELC at nurseries, childminders, or playgroups – or a mix of these. It just depends on what's available near you. You do not need to use the full 1140 hours.

Local authorities are responsible for providing funded ELC to eligible children within their area. Each local authority has its own application process.

If you are interested in your child receiving funded ELC, contact your local authority to find out when and how to apply, or to get more information about the range of providers in your area. Your local authority can also provide information about the funded ELC offer for 2 year olds.

See the local authority contact details for ELC.

See more information on ELC in Scotland on the Parent Club website.

School age and stages

All parents have a legal responsibility to educate their children which they can fulfil either by sending them to school or by home educating them. Read more about the choices available.

Scotland provides free school education for all children from the age of around 5 up to the age of 18. Scotland has different enrolment and school entry dates than other parts of the UK. Children usually start school between the ages of 4 ½ and 5 ½, depending on when their birthday falls, and can either apply for a place in a school in their local catchment area or at another school. Read a guide on how to apply for a school place.

Children start in primary 1 and move up to the next class each year through to primary 7. All children in primaries 1 to 5 receive free school meals.

Children move up to secondary school automatically after primary school (aged 11 or 12 depending on when they started school).

Your local council is responsible for providing school education in the area you live. Find more information on applying for all school places and placing requests.

Term time

Term dates will vary depending on your local authority area. Read more information on school term and holiday dates.

What my child will learn

All children aged 3 to 18 learn through Curriculum for Excellence. The curriculum places learners at the heart of education. This is so that they achieve their potential through being successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

Education is provided by early learning and childcare settings, primary schools (generally ages 5 to 11) and secondary schools (generally ages 12 to 18). Scotland's curriculum includes two broad stages.

  • the first stage is age 3-15 and is called the 'broad general education'. This stage covers the early years (nursery and early learning and childcare), primary school (primary 1 to 7) and the first three years of secondary school (S1 to S3).
  • the second stage is called the senior phase and covers the final three years of secondary school (S4 to S6) when students can study for a range of awards and qualifications. Most young people will continue to learn in school, but, depending on learners' needs and aspirations, there may be collaborative opportunities to study courses at a college or another higher education provider.

The curriculum is designed to provide a variety of pathways for learners to develop and demonstrate their skills and knowledge, preparing them for continuing on to further education, higher education or employment.

Further information about the curriculum in Scotland is available on Education Scotland's Parent Zone website.

Parent-friendly guides to Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) have been produced by Scotland's National Parent Forum. Called Nutshells, these include CfE in a Nutshell and Senior Phase in a Nutshell.

Schools, in collaboration with colleges and employers, have the flexibility to offer a range of experiences to meet the needs of all learners. Young people can also study a range of national and vocational qualifications and awards, including Nationals, Highers, Advanced Highers, Foundation Apprenticeships and Skills for Work courses. Further information on Scottish qualifications can be found on the Scottish Qualifications Authority website. Comparative information of qualifications across the UK and Ireland can be viewed at Qualifications can Cross Boundaries and apprenticeships.scot.

The first step is to contact your local authority to find out about the education provision available in your area.

The Bridges Programme can also offer support with education and qualifications. The Programmes supports the social, educational and economic integration of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and anyone for whom English is a second language.

My child needs extra support

All children and young people need support to help them to learn and achieve at school and in ELC settings. Sometimes children and young people will need extra help to get the most out of their education A child or young person is said to have additional support needs if for any reason, they need more, or different support, to what is generally provided to children of the same age.

There are many reasons why a child or young person might need additional support to reach their full potential at school or in ELC settings. Support is provided to help children and young people overcome barriers arising from:

  • learning environment
  • family circumstances
  • disability or health
  • social or emotional factors

This does not just apply to children and young people who have long term difficulties or a medical diagnosis. Some children may need additional support all the way through school whilst others may only need support for a short time.

If you think that your child needs extra help with their learning, you should speak to their school or the education authority.

You can also access advice from Enquire, the national advice and information service on additional support for learning. Enquire have a free, confidential helpline that can provide information and advice on specific circumstances.

Children who are aged between 12 to 15 can access information, advice and support about additional support for learning and their rights to support from My Rights, My Say.

Help with the cost of sending children to school

Free school meals

All children in primary 1 to primary 5 will get free school lunches during school term-time if they attend at a local council school. Your financial circumstances do not matter.

After primary 5, your children will still be eligible to get free school meals if you are in receipt of any of the eligible qualifying benefits. See full details about eligible qualifying benefits for free school meals. You should also check your local council's website as the eligibility criteria might be different in some local council areas.

Support during school holidays

Also, if you are in receipt of eligible qualifying benefits for free school meals (such as Universal Credit) you might also be eligible to receive support from your local council during school holiday periods. Support for eligible families will normally be given through:

  • direct cash payments into your bank account
  • supermarket or shop vouchers
  • local council food package deliveries directly to your home.

Your local council can give you further information about how this support is delivered in your area.

The school holiday periods covered are the summer, Christmas and Easter holidays and also the mid-term holidays in October and February. Please check with your local council to see if you are eligible to receive this support.

School clothing grant

Local councils will pay school clothing grants to eligible families once every school year. If you are eligible to receive the school clothing grant, you will be given £120 for each child in primary school and £150 for each in secondary school. The eligibility criteria for the school clothing grant is set locally by councils. You can check the eligibility criteria in your local council.

If you unsure whether you will be eligible to receive the school clothing grant, please contact your local council directly to check.

Independent schools

As well as local authority education, parents may consider enrolling their child in an independent school, also known as a private school. Independent schools charge fees to cover costs, although financial assistance, bursaries and scholarships may be available. All independent schools in Scotland are registered and you can see their details online.

The independent sector includes boarding schools, where children and young people stay at the school, either full-time or perhaps only for part of the week. Where a school provides boarding, it is registered with, and inspected by, the Care Inspectorate.

Further and higher education

There is a range of higher education institutions in Scotland. These include further education colleges and universities who offer flexibility in different methods of study, including full-time, day release, evening, block release or on an open learning basis. See information on different levels of courses available. Courses are available at a range of levels including:

  • National Certificate modules or clusters of modules
  • General Scottish Vocational Qualifications
  • National Qualifications including project-based national courses and cluster units
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • degrees

You can find out more about the qualifications on offer by visiting the Scottish Qualifications Authority and clicking on the 'Qualifications' link at the top of the page. There is also information about apprenticeships, a paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experiences. Alongside on-the-job training, apprentices spend at least 20% of their working hours completing classroom-based learning with a college, university or training provider which leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

Eligible full time students resident in Scotland – including EU resident students – pay no tuition fees. Some part-time students may have their fees waived. If students are taking a course at HNC level or above they should apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for help with funding.

You can find more information on being a student in Scotland in the Student Information Portal.

For more information on how degree grades achieved abroad compare to the UK's grading scale, please see the following link: International Degree and Qualification Equivalents | GRB UK national agency for international

Community learning and development (CLD) and adult learning

Community learning and development empowers people to make positive changes in their lives and in their communities. The focus of CLD in Scotland is;

  • improved life chances for people of all ages, through learning, personal development and active citizenship
  • stronger, most resilient, supportive, influential and inclusive communities

CLD helps tackle inequality and delivering social justice. It includes youth work, community based adult learning, including literacies and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and community development.

They provide young people, adults and families with an alternative trusted relationship so that people can access non-judgmental support to re-engage in education, in employment or in their community.

ESOL learning equips people whose first language is not English with the communication skills necessary to contribute and integrate economically, culturally and socially. Learning ESOL in the community provides a relaxed space where learners can learn English, have a better sense of belonging in the community and less sense of isolation.

Learning is driven by the learners and their needs and often provides essential language skills that will help people establish a new life in a new country as quickly as possible.

Community-based ESOL is delivered in a variety of ways;

  • by local authorities
  • third sector organisations
  • colleges
  • community-led organisations

If you want to find out more about community learning and development in your community, contact your local authority. Read more information on Community Learning and Development.

You may be able to gain a qualification in ESOL in your community. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) provides a comprehensive range of ESOL qualifications to meet the needs of ESOL learners, from complete beginner to university entrance level. There are three ESOL literacies units specifically designed for candidates, who are not literate in English, or have little or no literacy in their first language. ESOL learners are also able to gain accreditation for their learning at all levels. This supports transition to other education courses or employment.

Education Scotland

Education Scotland is an agency of the Scottish Government. The website provides comprehensive information about education in Scotland. It also provides resources for parents, signposting to other agencies who can provide help, and learning resources to support mental health and wellbeing.


Email: ceu@gov.scot

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