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By ‘curriculum’, we mean what is taught and learned at school. This includes in subjects, assemblies, clubs, sports, volunteering, trips, and every other aspect of school life.


The rationale that underpins our curriculum can be summed up as follows:

  • We want our students to leave school with the knowledge they need to understand the world around them
  • We want our students to leave school with the skills they need to continue to learn and contribute to society
  • We want our students to leave school with attributes which reflect our school values
  • We want our students to leave school with a portfolio of qualifications which open the doors they need them to and which reflects their very best
  • We want our students to love learning for the sake of learning, viewing it as interesting, exciting and empowering

For the most part, the curriculum is delivered in subjects, which are timetabled across a 33 period week. You can find out more about the content of the curriculum taught in subjects by clicking on the subject-area links at the right-hand side of this page.

Knowledge and skills

The Berwickshire High School curriculum is knowledge-based, skills-orientated. By teaching students a broad and deep body of knowledge, we lay the foundations for them to develop a wide range of specific skills. In doing so, we aim to realise the ‘four capacities’ which underpin the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (successful learnings, confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors).

Overarching 'employability skills'

We are clear that students are not being taught knowledge for the sake of it. Rather, they are being taught this so that they can ‘do things’ with it. The catch-all term for ‘do things’ is ‘skill’.

In broad terms, we have identified a set of seven overarching 'employability skills':

  1. Communication and literacy (includes reading, describing, explaining and discussing)
  2. IT and numeracy
  3. Problem-solving
  4. Creativity
  5. Team working
  6. Reflection & evaluation
  7. Workplace awareness

These serve as a thematic steer as to the sorts of things we want students to do with the knowledge they are taught. They should also help students articulate the sorts of skills they are developing, for example, when it comes to applying for a job or further education.

We understand that most skills are ‘domain specific’, in that they reply on specific knowledge relating to that skill. Therefore, we talk about ‘employability skills’, rather than ‘transferable skills’.


As well as teaching students knowledge and skills, our curriculum teaches them attributes. By doing so, we aim to develop their character. The attributes we aim to teach students reflect our school values:

  • Committed
  • Respectful
  • Enthusiastic
  • Supportive
  • Safe

S1-3: the Broad General Education (BGE)

The S1-3 curriculum is often referred to as the Broad General Education. The content of this has been ‘unpacked’ from national Experiences and Outcomes.

The BGE spans primary school and the early stages of secondary school. Students work through different levels in each subject, with the national expectation for most student as follows:

  • Early Level - achieved by the end of P1
  • First Level - achieved by the end of P4
  • Second Level - achieved by the end of P7
  • Third Level - achieved by the end of S3

In S1 and S2, students follow a common curriculum spanning a broad range of curricular areas. Subjects include:

  • Art
  • Business & Enterprise
  • Computing Science
  • Design & Technology
  • Drama
  • English
  • French
  • Geography
  • History
  • Home Economics
  • Maths
  • Modern Studies
  • Music
  • PE
  • RMPS / Citizenship
  • Reading for Pleasure
  • Spanish

In S3, personalisation and choice are introduced into the timetable. 

All students study:

  • English (4 periods)
  • Maths (4 periods)
  • Spanish (3 periods)
  • Citizenship (1 period)
  • PE (2 periods)
  • Health & Wellbeing (1 period)
  • An Expressive Arts subject (3 periods)
  • A Science subject (3 periods)
  • A Humanities subject (3 periods)
  • A Technologies subject (3 periods)
  • Two subject choices from any curricular area (3 periods each i.e. 6 periods in total)

In line with national 1+2 languages expectations, as part of their S3 experience, students will have a block where they are taught French.

S4-6: the Senior Phase (SP)

Once they move into S4, students begin their Senior Phase. The courses they study are national courses, common to different schools across the country. The different types of course on offer in Berwickshire High School include:

  • Nationals (National 1, National 2, National 3, National 4 and National 5)
  • Highers
  • National Progression Awards (NPAs)
  • Skills for Work (SfW)
  • Advanced Highers

In addition, senior students have the opportunity to learn in work placements and Foundation Apprenticeships.

Some of the courses we offer in the Senior Phase are delivered by partner agencies, including Community Learning and Development, Borders College and Queen Margaret University.

Use of data to inform course options

The courses we offer in the Senior Phase are under continuous review. They are informed by a range of factors, including:

  • The interest that students have in studying them
  • 16+ Leavers Destinations data (collected in S3)
  • Local labour market data

In S3, all students complete a ‘16+ Leavers Destinations’ form. Data from this is used to help ensure there appropriate curricular pathways to help them get to their destination of choice. For example, the most data told us most students leaving school to go into training or employment want to go into the following areas:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Construction and building
  3. Animals, land and the environment
  4. Performing arts and media
  5. Engineering

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) tells us that 66% (two thirds) of Berwickshire High School students will go onto Further Education after they leave school; 33% will go into employment or training. Local employment data tells us that most employment opportunities in the Scottish Borders are in the following areas:

  1. Human health and social work activities
  2. Whole-sale and retail trade; repair of motor bikes & vehicles
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Accommodation and food service activities
  5. Education

Knowledge of 16+ Leavers Destinations and the local employment market helps us to make decisions about the courses we offer in school, and the courses and workplace opportunities we work with partnership agencies to provide.


Students have the option to study between five and eight subjects through a blend of long (6 periods per week) and short (3 periods per week) courses. The courses students can choose to study include:

  • Nationals (e.g. National 3, 4 or 5)
  • National Progression Awards (NPAs)
  • Skills for Work (SfW) courses

Some of the courses we offer are taught by Borders College, either at the college or in the school building.

In addition, S4 students’ timetables include PE (2 periods per week) and Health & Wellbeing (1 period per week).


Students typically choose to study 5 subjects, each taught over 6 periods per week. The same range of courses is available to them as the S4, but the options also include Highers and other level 6 courses.

In addition to the subjects they have chosen, S5 students’ timetables include:

  • Health & Wellbeing (1 period)
  • Citizenship - this includes religious & moral education (1 period)
  • Enrichment, which is either:
    • PE (1 period)
    • Practical cookery (1 period)
    • Personal Finance (1 period)
    • Duke of Edinburgh (1 period)

If students are returning for a sixth year, then we typically expect them to choose at least 4 courses, plus a column of volunteering (6 periods per week). This may in in-school our out-of-school volunteering.

The only exception to this is if an S6 student is studying 3 Advanced Higher courses.

'In A Nutshell' series

The National Parent Forum have created a very useful suite of 'In A Nutshell' documents designed to help students and parents understand National and Higher courses for each subject: