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.

Find out more about the purpose of the curriculum and the four capacities.

Learning in the senior phase

The senior phase follows a young person's broad general education, building firmly on the experiences and outcomes they will have experienced and achieved by the end of S3. It enables them to extend and deepen their learning.

The curriculum framework and the qualifications system will provide a range of opportunities to meet the needs of all learners, whether aspiring to achievements at SCQF level 1 or at SCQF level 7.

The curriculum in the senior phase comprises more than programmes which lead to qualifications. There is a continuing emphasis, for example, on health and wellbeing appropriate to this phase, including physical activity and opportunities for personal achievement, service to others and practical experience of the world of work.

In order to deliver this breadth of learning, schools are designing and delivering a bespoke three-year senior phase jointly with a range of key partners, including colleges, employers, universities and Community Learning and Development, and are bringing parents and carers on board with curriculum options from an early stage.

Insight is a major benchmarking tool designed to help bring improvements for pupils in the Senior Phase. It is a professional tool to support secondary schools and local authorities in analysing the performance of learners across agreed measures and in developing their curriculum accordingly. The Scottish Government website has more information on the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool.

Key documents

PDF file: Progression from the Broad General Education to the Senior Phase May 2016 (439 KB)

PDF file: Progression from the Broad General Education to the Senior Phase (Gaelic version) May 2016 (188 KB)

PDF file: Career Education Standard Sep 2015 (821 KB)

PDF file: Career Education Standard (Gaelic version) Sep 2015 (1.2 MB)

PDF file: Work Placements Standard Sep 2015 (655 KB)

PDF file: Work Placements Standard (Gaelic version) Sep 2015 (1.2 MB)

PDF file: School Employer Partnerships Sep 2015 (510 KB)

Related links

Amazing Things: A guide to youth awards in Scotland (PDF file)

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework

Scottish Qualifications Authority

Skills Development Scotland: My World of Work

15-24 Learner Journey Review

Broad General Education

Early learning and childcare