Welcome to Scotland – a guide for Service personnel and their families in Scotland (updated 2022)

Provides practical information to service personnel and their families on topics such as housing, education, healthcare and employment.


Scotland’s schools are welcoming places where we want all children to achieve their potential. Education in Scotland is organised differently to the rest of the UK. This section will help you understand you and your children’s entitlements in Scotland’s schools.

You can find further information regarding school education in Scotland on our Parentzone website at

‘Forces Children’s Education’ includes lots of information about the Scottish education system and the geography and education resources available, along with a guide on understanding the Scottish education system. More information can be found at and the guide can be accessed via

Early Years Learning and Childcare

The Scottish Government and Local Authorities fund early learning and childcare. This means that it is free of charge for eligible children.

Currently, if your child is three or four years old, you can get up to 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare a year.

Some two year olds can also get the same amount of funded early learning and childcare depending on whether you meet certain eligibility criteria, which you can find at: Once your child qualifies for early learning and childcare, they will stay eligible.

You can get funded hours for different types of registered early learning and childcare, such as a nursery (local authority or privately run), childminder or playgroup. Contact your local authority to find out more about the sessions and providers available to you and to find out how to apply.

You can find out more information at

School Age and Stages

There are differences in the ages children start school across the UK. A summary of the age ranges in Scottish Education can be found on the third page on

Scotland provides free school education for all children from the age of around four and a half years old, up to the age of 18. Depending on when their birthday falls, some children can start before they are four and a half. Scotland has different enrolment and school entry dates than other parts of the UK.

Children start in Primary 1 and move up to the next class each year through to Primary 7. All children in Primaries 1-5 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. You can find full information on applying for all school places and placing requests in ‘Choosing a school – a guide for parents’ at

Term Time

Term dates will vary depending on your local authority area. You can find term dates at

What Will My Child Learn?

All children aged 3 to 18 in Scotland learn through the Curriculum for Excellence. Scotland’s curriculum seeks to educate the ‘whole child’ so that they achieve their potential through being successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

The secondary school curriculum has two phases – the broad general education (S1-S3) and the senior phase (S4-S6).

As part of the Developing the Young Workforce programme, children and young people have a variety of opportunities to learn and develop skills for the world of work.

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 qualifications can viewed at

A parent-friendly guide to Curriculum for Excellence has been produced by the National Parent Forum for Scotland (NPFS) and can be found at

My Child Needs Extra Support

In the first instance, discuss your child’s needs with the school, including any formal support plans (like a HCPC) previously in place. They will be best placed to provide information and support for your child. If you do not know which school your child will attend, you can check catchments based on your posting at

Additional Support for Learning (ASL) in Scotland is different to Special Educational Needs & Disability in England (SEND), but your child will still receive support if they need it.

Additional Support Needs (ASN) are broadly defined, including those which might impact on children from Armed Forces families, such as transitions, interrupted learning and dealing with separation and loss. They can be of short or long-term duration and occur for a variety of reasons. ASN in Scotland includes needs defined as SEND in England.

We also have a Scottish advice service for additional support for learning, where you will find useful information about when your child might be entitled to extra support. This can be found at

The Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) also provide support and assistance to families moving schools for a child with additional needs. More information can be found at

Careers Advice in School

Skills Development Scotland is Scotland’s Career Service. They support young people from the P7/S1 transition stage right through their school journey, including at key decision times such as options choices. They offer one-to-one discussions, group work sessions and drop-ins.

This unique national school support is available to all young people in Scotland, with more intensive support offered to young people with additional support or learning needs, military children and those who are care experienced.

Independent Schools

As well as local authority education, parents may consider enrolling their child in an independent school. All independent schools in Scotland are registered, with their details available online at:

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. You can find out more about the Care Inspectorate online at

Boarding schools in Scotland differ, and may offer the Curriculum for Excellence or another curriculum. However, all independent schools are inspected by Education Scotland in the same way that local authority schools are. If you are considering enrolling your child at an independent boarding school, you are encouraged to make contact with the schools you are interested in, seeking a copy of the school’s prospectus in order that you can be better informed about what each school offers.

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) are a useful source for more general information on independent schools. SCIS is a charitable body which represents most of Scotland’s independent schools. You can visit for more information.

Parental and learner involvement

As a parent, you are entitled to be involved in the life and work of the school and to be engaged in your child’s learning. When your child joins a school in Scotland, you automatically become a member of the school’s “parent forum”. As a member of the school’s parent forum you can also join the school’s Parent Council which is a way for parents to have a formal role in influencing the life and work of the school.

Schools also have arrangements in place to gather learners’ views throughout their education, via pupil councils or other methods.

Further Education

Further education includes courses that are below the Higher National Certificate (HNC) level. These courses are taught in either secondary school or colleges and include:

  • Academic courses below HNC level.
  • Courses that do not lead to formal qualifications e.g. independent living skills.
  • Courses on basic skills such as reading, writing and numeracy skills.
  • Work-related courses, such as Scottish Vocational Qualifications.

Colleges are responsible for assessing an individual’s criteria for funding, you should therefore enquire within your chosen college, and further information can also be found on the Student Information Scotland website

Higher Education

Higher Education in Scotland includes courses of study which are at a HNC level or above. Individuals can take these courses at college or university and there is no age limit. Higher education courses range from:

  • HNC
  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE)
  • Diploma of Higher Education (Dip HE)
  • Undergraduate Ordinary Degree
  • Undergraduate Honours Degree

If individuals are students in Higher Education, they may be entitled to financial support from our Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

You and your family are entitled to support from SAAS if you were ordinarily resident in Scotland before you enlisted to the services or meet the ordinary residency criteria.

If you are not entitled to support from SAAS you will still be able to access support from your home UK funding body.

You can find more information on Higher Education funding for members of the Armed Forces and their families at or by calling SAAS direct on 0300 555 0505.

Community Learning and Development (CLD) and Adult Learning

CLD supports primarily disadvantaged or vulnerable groups and individuals of all ages to engage in learning, with a focus on bringing about change in their lives and communities. Community Learning and Development includes:

  • youth work, family learning and other early intervention work with children, young people and families,
  • community-based adult learning, including adult literacies and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL),
  • learning for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the community, for example, people with disabilities, care leavers or offenders,
  • community development (building the capacity of communities to meet their own needs, engaging with, and influencing decision-makers),
  • volunteer development, and
  • learning support and guidance in the community.

If you want to find out more about community learning and development activities, contact your local authority. More information on CLD can also be found at



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