Senior phase

Every young person is entitled to experience a senior phase where he or she can continue to develop the four capacities and also achieve qualifications.

Building the Curriculum 3: A framework for learning and teaching, p15

All young people in Scotland have an entitlement to a senior phase of education 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.
Boy and girl pupils talking

The senior phase, which takes place from S4 to S6 in schools and includes ages 16 to 18 out of school, is the phase when the young person will build up a portfolio of qualifications. It is the stage of education at which the relationship between the curriculum and National Qualifications becomes of key significance.

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.

Supporting materials

In May 2011 the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board published a statement outlining the vision, principles and framework for delivery of the senior phase and providing clarification on issues that have been raised.

Leadership of Curriculum for Excellence: Senior phase events

A series of leadership events were held in February and March 2014 to take stock of where secondary schools are on the journey to developing Curriculum for Excellence as a world class curriculum. This resource contains all of the main presentations and workshops from the events in Edinburgh, Dunblane, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Insight: Benchmarking for Excellence

Insight has been developed by the Scottish Government in partnership with Education Scotland, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES), Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and School Leaders Scotland (SLS). Insight is a major online benchmarking tool designed to help bring about improvements for pupils in the senior phase (S4 to S6). It is a professional tool to support secondary schools and local authorities in analysing the performance of learners across agreed measures.

The tool went live in August 2014 and was made available to all teaching staff in secondary schools, local authorities and Education Scotland. More information is available on the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool on the Scottish Government website.

More from Education Scotland

  • Senior phase curriculum models

    Examples of strategic curriculum models currently being developed in some senior phase schools.

  • Choices and changes

    Information about enabling children and young people to develop self-awareness, recognise opportunities and develop an understanding of the important transition periods in their lives.