Types of school

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

Education authority schools

One of the local authority’s obligations is to provide an educational service. The education authority provides free schooling for all 5- to 16-year-olds in the area, as well as school or college places for those who want to stay on after 16.

Local schools

The education authority:

  • makes decisions on what is taught in its schools

  • ensures pupils have proper supervision and safe conditions at school

  • publishes information on each school in its area

  • provides information about how parents can exercise parental choice about which school their children attend.

As a parent you have some choice in which school your children go to.

The parents of pupils at each education authority school may have decided to set up a parent council to support the school and represent parents’ views to the school. In many cases, parent councils will have replaced the old school boards.

Special schools

The responsibility of the education authority to provide education for 5- to 16-year-olds includes those with additional support needs. Education for pupils with additional support needs is usually provided in mainstream schools, where adequate support should be given. Additional support needs covers a wide variety of needs from bullying to learning difficulties. If you feel that your child needs extra help, you may wish to talk to the school about this.

You can read more about additional support for learning on the Enquire website.

There are a number of special schools in Scotland which generally deal with children who have very specific or severe additional support needs. The teachers and other staff are usually specially trained in appropriate methods of teaching and care. A small number of children in special schools attend on a residential basis so that they can receive full-time care.

Some special schools are independently run, for example by charities. The education authority may pay for a child to attend one of these.

Denominational schools

Some schools in Scotland are associated with a religious denomination. These schools are provided by the education authority. If you would like your child to attend one of these schools, you can make a special placing request. The schools are run in the same way as other education authority schools. The main differences are:

  • special time may be set aside for religious services

  • an unpaid religious supervisor, for example the local priest, will report to the education authority on the religious instruction in the school.

Gaelic education

If you want your child to learn Gaelic or be taught in Gaelic, you should contact your education authority to find out if there's any Gaelic education in the area. Gaelic learner education is where Gaelic is taught as a modern language through English. Gaelic medium education is where other subjects are taught mainly in Gaelic.

If Gaelic is not taught in any education authority schools in your area, you might be able to get your education authority to carry out an assessment of the demand for Gaelic education in your area. If the education authority's assessment finds there's a high enough demand for Gaelic education, it might have to start providing this.

To apply for an assessment, you'll need to:

  • have a child of under school age who you want to learn Gaelic

  • gather evidence of other children of the same age in your area whose parents also want them to learn Gaelic.

The assessment request application form is on the Scottish government website. It should also be available on education authority websites, along with statutory guidance about Gaelic education and details of where to send the application form.

Independent schools

Independent schools are not funded by government. Funding may be from fees only or from both fees and charitable donations.

Some schools may have scholarship schemes to assist with the cost of fees. If you are applying for a place for your child, you may wish to ask the school about scholarships or other financial assistance. You can find out more about independent schools from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools website.

Independent schools must be approved by the Scottish government. This means it must reach certain standards on premises, numbers, ages and sex of pupils, teaching staff and safety standards. Once approved the school will be placed on the Register of Independent Schools maintained by the Scottish Education Department.

Discrimination in schools

When allocating school places, it is against the law for a school to discriminate:

  • against your child because of a disability

  • against your child on the basis of race, colour, nationality, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or because of pregnancy or maternity or gender reassignment

  • between boys and girls in admission to a school except where the school is a single sex school

  • by the use of faith-based criteria unless the school is associated with a particular religion.

Read more about problems at school.