The differences between teaching in England and Scotland

  • Traditionally, the education system in Scotland has emphasised greater breadth of learning with a wider range of subjects at secondary level, while the English one aims to provide more depth of education over a smaller subject range.
  • Qualifications at secondary school are provided by one national awarding and accrediting body, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, while England has a range of different exam boards.
  • The Scottish Government has full political responsibility for education in Scotland, which has its own set of examinations. Instead of GCSEs and A levels, Scottish pupils take Standard grade and intermediate courses.
  • In primary, the age range of children is four to 12. Primary 1 in Scotland is the equivalent of Reception classes in England and continues up to Primary 7, the Scottish equivalent of Year 6.
  • Secondaries in Scotland are generally called high schools or academies and teach pupils aged 12 to18. S1 to S6 are the Scottish equivalents of Years 7 to 13.
  • State schools are owned and operated by just 32 local authorities in Scotland, compared to 152 local education authorities in England.
  • Scotland’s equivalent of Ofsted is the HM Inspectorate of Education, which is now part of a new national body called Education Scotland. All schools, including independents, are inspected by HMI Education.
  • While the General Teaching Council in England is being abolished, the General Teaching Council for Scotland is about to become the world’s first independent self-regulating body for teaching, responsible for regulating professional standards.


How does the curriculum differ between England and Scotland?

While England follows the National Curriculum, Scotland is currently implementing its own model, Curriculum for Excellence, a major educational reform aimed at providing a wider, more flexible range of subjects and courses for children and young people aged three to 18.

CfE focuses on developing the following four key capacities in pupils, helping them to become:

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

Primary teachers cover a range of curricular areas including literacy, numeracy, religious and moral education. At secondary school, core subjects range from English and chemistry to media studies, Gaelic and philosophy.

For more information about CfE, including concerns and criticisms from teachers about its implementation, visit the TES forums including the following discussion thread:


How do pay and conditions differ north and south of the border?

In Scotland, teachers’ pay and conditions are set by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers  (SNCT) which is chaired jointly by representatives of teaching organisations, local authorities and the Scottish Government.

The SNCT Handbook of Conditions of Service contains full details of current agreements on pay and conditions of service, including starting salaries of £21,438 compared to £21,588 in England.

A full time teacher in Scotland is entitled to 40 days annual leave, including public holidays.


What about teacher pensions in Scotland?

The controversial hike in public sector pension contributions which led to teachers striking across the UK, including Scotland, in November 2011 was publicly opposed by the Scottish Government.

However it also said it had little choice but to introduce the rise in employee contributions after the UK government threatened to reduce funding for Scotland unless the changes were brought in.


What are the opportunities for CPD in Scotland?

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence has brought with it a call for ‘teachers of excellence’ to deliver the educational reform. Teachers are expected to keep themselves up to date with best practice and the Scottish Government has committed to the following:

  • giving teachers the right to an annual Professional Review and Development interview focusing on their strengths and areas for development
  • making this the basis for an annual CPD plan, agreed in collaboration with senior colleagues
  • requiring teachers to undertake 35 hours of CPD each year, based on a mix of personal, school and local authority needs
  • supporting the concept of the ‘reflective practitioner’ by introducing the CPD portfolio to record and reflect upon the teacher’s CPD experiences

However the future currently looks uncertain for chartered teachers with several high profile critics questioning their value.

The McCormac review, published in 2011, called for chartered status to be scrapped altogether because it had “not delivered against its stated objectives”. Supporters have defended their work however and the debate continues.

For more information on CPD visit the GTCS website.

Do class sizes differ in Scotland

In England the legal maximum class size for five- to seven-year-olds is 30 pupils per teacher.

In August 2011, regulations to reduce the statutory class size maximum in Scottish primaries from 30 to 25 for P1 pupils (aged five) came into force.

The maximum class size is still 30 for P2 and P3, although the Scottish Government has also set targets to reduce primary class sizes to 18 or fewer for P1 to P3 pupils. In 2011 around a fifth (20.1%) of all P1-P3 pupils were taught in classes of this size.

Maximum class size for P4 to P7 is 33, as is the maximum size for S1 and S2, while for S3 to S6 the limit is 30. The average class size in Scottish primaries was 23 in 2011.

More information on class sizes can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Where to go for more information about teaching in Scotland

Popular teaching in Scotland job searches

View all the teaching jobs in Scotland currently advertised on the TES

Teaching jobs in Aberdeen

Teaching jobs in Edinburgh

Teaching jobs in Glasgow

Headteacher jobs in Scotland

View all secondary teaching and lecturing jobs in Scotland