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What’s the difference? Scottish vs English academies

Schools in Scotland are often called academies, but don’t follow the same systems or policies as their counterparts in England. So what’s in a name, and is there more to Scottish schools than just a title..?

In England, only a school who has relinquished support of their Local Authority in favour of greater autonomy and freedoms can be called an academy in an educational sense. There are some institutions that function as specialist schools for certain subjects, such as a dance academy, or football academy, which are also known by the same name.
In Scotland, however, areas with more than one secondary school may differentiate between the two by calling one a High School and the other an Academy, despite both being under the control of the same Local Authority, and teaching the same curriculum. Scotland is also home to three ‘Royal Academies’ in Irvine, Inverness and Tain.

The main difference between English and Scottish academies is the focus on depth, rather than breadth, of knowledge. In England, students are generally taught core subjects in-depth for the duration of their time in secondary school, with a greater emphasis placed on English, Maths and Science. In Scotland, academies instead work to ensure their pupils have a broader knowledge base, by teaching a greater variety of subjects, in proportionately less detail.

In Scotland, all schools and academies fall under the control of their Local Authority, of which there are 32, compared to England’s 152. English academies, by their very nature, are separate from their LA, and hold full autonomy over the way their school is run and governed, in stark contrast to their siblings north of the border.

In England, pupils are prepared to study for SATs, GCSE’s and A Levels, with some academies offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) as an alternative in sixth form. In Scottish academies, the responsibility of education and testing lies with the Government, and Scottish pupils are examined in line with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (unlike in England, where there are a number of exam bodies, such as OCR, AQA etc.) In Scotland, academies study for Standard, Intermediate and Higher qualifications, which are the equivalent of SATs, GCSEs and A Levels. Some Scottish academies offer these English exams, as well as some independent schools teaching the IB.


This article originally featured on myAcademies. To sign up to The Academies Show in Birmingham on November 23rd 2016, and to learn more about converting to academy status, click here.

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