What is the senior phase?

​​The senior phase curriculum, from S4 to S6 (from around ages 15 to 18), follows a young person's broad general education, building firmly on the Experiences and Outcomes they will have experienced and achieved to end of S3.

It enables them to extend and deepen their learning and continue to develop skills for learning, life and work, through qualifications and also through a range of opportunities for personal development (for example work experience, volunteering etc).

It ultimately supports young people in moving on to the next stage – whether that is college, university, training or employment.

It offers learners flexibility and choice

In the senior phase, schools and their partners (for example colleges, employers or community learning and development providers) now have flexibility to offer a range of pathways that meet the needs and raise the attainment levels of all learners – including pupils who might previously have become disengaged from education.

Schools are taking a range of approaches to the senior phase and are able to offer greater personalisation and choice for young people in a variety of ways, for example by:

  • designing the senior phase as a three-year experience rather than planning each year separately
  • delivering qualifications over different timescales in response to young people's needs and prior achievements
  • developing pathways for able learners, which bypass qualifications at lower levels to allow more time to be spent on more challenging learning at higher levels
  • providing specific and appropriate programmes that maximise achievement and attainment for young people planning to leave after S4
  • developing local partnerships where schools and other education providers, such as colleges, work together to increase the range of choices available to young people at all levels.

Employers help to build employability skills

Employers are important partners in Curriculum for Excellence and there are now more opportunities open to employers and schools to work directly with each other.

Employers can offer a range of programmes and opportunities, including mentoring, 'real-life' work experience placements, work shadowing, internships and training programmes, as part of the curriculum. This benefits employers, by developing the skills and experience in young people that they need for their own businesses, and young people, by developing the skills they will need for the future jobs market.

The changes brought about by Curriculum for Excellence mean that young people will leave school more prepared for the world of work. The breadth and depth of skills, knowledge and experience that young people gain through the curriculum will give them more confidence to apply their learning and use their skills in real-life situations.

Academic and vocational qualifications are available

As well as the new ​National Qualifications, which offer increased flexibility with a greater focus on skills and applying learning to real-life situations, there is also a wide range of SQA vocational qualifications and awards that young people can take as part of their senior phase curriculum. These include:

More information on SQA Awards.