S4 – S6 The Senior Phase

Curriculum for Excellence is divided into two phases: the broad general education and the senior phase. The senior phase takes place from S4 to S6 in schools and includes ages 16 to 18 out of school. It is the phase when a young person will build up a portfolio of qualifications and continue to develop the knowledge, skills, attributes and capabilities of the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors

It is designed to provide the breadth and depth of education to develop flexible and adaptable young people with the knowledge and skills they will need to thrive now and in the future. It aims to support young people in achieving and attaining the best they possibly can.

Curriculum is defined as the totality of all that is planned for children and young people from early learning and childcare, through school and beyond. Children’s and young people’s learning should be planned for and experienced across the four contexts.

All young people in Scotland have an entitlement to a senior phase which:

  • provides specialisation, depth and rigour;
  • prepares them well for achieving qualifications to the highest level of which they are capable;
  • continues to develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work;
  • continues to provide a range of activities which develop the four capacities.
  • supports them to achieve a positive and sustained destination.

Fourth Year

In s4 pupils follow courses leading to National Qualifications. In most cases pupils will continue with the same subjects they studied in S3, however, some will start new subjects after the Learning Review at the end of S3. Pupils will do a national qualification in one subject from each of the following areas:


  • English
  • Expressive Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Modern Languages
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

In addition to this, the elective column will allow pupils to do one additional subject e.g. a second modern language, science or expressive arts subject.

Flexibility of choice will allow some pupils to follow an alternative curriculum in some areas e.g. skills based courses in partnership with college, work experience and vocational training.

Pupils will sit National Qualifications in all of their subjects at the end of S4.

Year 6 at work in business studies.

Fifth and Sixth Year

S5 and S6 pupils will specialise further depending on their potential career path, the pupils will select 5 options from he 8 subjects they studied in S4. Pupils will have a course progression plan that will support them through National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher. Additional “intensive” courses e.g. photography , engineering skills, Enterprise and Leadership will also be available as National Qualifications. A number of National Progression Awards (NPA) are also available.

In S5 and S6 pupils will experience a wider range of learning experiences such as:

  • In school provision;
  • Partnership arrangements with other schools and colleges;
  • Community, youth work and voluntary work
  • Work experience;
  • Student centred learning.

Pupils will sit National Qualifications at the end of S5 and S6. Pupils who stay eyond the statutory leaving age of 16 are making a voluntary commitment to the school and we expect a great deal from them. They have to be an example to our younger pupils in the waythey work, behave, dress and contribute to the wider life of the school.

Our senior school programme provides a wide varitey of opportunities for pupils to develop skills or use their talent to support others.

City of Edinburgh Council Logo