Scottish School Uniform: School Types

Figure 1.--Here we see a Scottish boy at a prep school. He is practing on what may look like a recorder-like instrument. A recorder is often used in music instruction. Actually the boy is beginning bagpipe lessons. It might be some variety of shawm. Actually it is a practice chanter for learning to play the bagpipe. A shawm has an enclosed double reed (like a bagpipe), and is ancestral to the oboe.

The types of schools in Scotland are quite similar to those in England Most schools were founded after the Act of Union (1707) when Scotland joined with England and became part of the United Kingdom. The schools systems, however, were not unified. England at the time did not even have a public school system, but Scotland had begun to build one. There are now state primary and secondary chools. Also in the state schoolsare schools with religious affiliation. There are some differences. The religious make up of Scotland is different than England which has some impact. The private schools in paticular are different. There are fewer public schools (private secondary schools) in Scotland. Rather there are a number of academies which are are full-term private schools. Such schools in England are often called colleges.

State Schools

Private Schools

There are numerous private schools in Scotland, both day and boarding schools. The schools are quite similar to private schools in England, including both preparatoty and secondary schools. As in England, they prefer to be called independent schools, meaning independent from the state system. . The preparaory schools are very similar to those in England. The only real differences are minor curriculm differences and slightly different uniform items. The private secondary schools are somewhat different. They are not generally referredcto as public schools. Many Scottish public schools are called academies. They commonly are full-term schools with both primary and secondary sections. English public schools are private secondary schools. Britain's current prime minister, Tony Blair, attended Fettes College in Edinburgh which is comparable to an English public school.. In fact it is sometoimes referred to as the Eton of the north. . The English and Scottish private schools seem quite similar in many aspecs. Both have strong sporting traditions. There are differences in the curiculum. Normally examining photograsphs, it is not possible to tell if a school is English or Scottish, unless of course the boys are wearing kilts.

Denominational Schools

The two most important churches in Scotland are the Church of Scotland (the Kirk) and the smaller Roman Catholic church.

Church of Scotland

The Kirk does not run schools in Scotland. This is quite different than the Church of England which sponsors a substantial school system in England. The role of the Kirk or rather the lack of a role in Scottish education is becoming an issue. Conservative Brian Monteith, a member of the Scottish Parliment, has suggested that the Church of Scotland should consider promoting its own denominational schools. He said that said although the Kirk may be nervous about such a step, it would offer long term benefits, "it could introduce pilot schools at primary level which could be evaluated by inspectors and parental demand". Monteith mentioned the Church of England and Catholic faith-based schools as an example of what could be accomplished without the "tribal warfare" that exists in Scotland. [Monteith] The "tribal warfare" is a reference to fighting between Catholic and Protestant school children. While this is a particular problem in Norther Ireland, it is not unknown in Scotland, especially in Glasgow with its substantial Irish Catholic population.

Catholic Schools

Most denominational schools in Scotland are Catholic. There are a lot of schools with names like "St.Mungo's Primary RC School" for instance. England of course has Church of England (C of E) as well as Roman Catholic (R.C.) schools. Interestingly the Scottish denominational schools do not have "R.C." in the name but something like "Our Lady of The Rosary Primary School" tends to let you know that it's a enominational school. Catholic are primarily located in certain areas of Scotland such as working-vlass neoghborhoods of Glasgow with heaby populations of Irish. Catholic schools in Britiin receive government funding and as part of this arrangement they must be open to all faiths. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from the religious instruction and other aspects of these schools. In practice it's often the case that Catholic children attend the RC schools and protestants and other faiths the non-denominational schools. It's a similar situation to the North of Ireland which because of the troubles there has been extensively publicized. Both are now trying to integrate, but it'll be a hard job. The Scottish Education Service has an interesting site describing Catholic education in Scotland.

Other schools

Of course in the big cities like Glasgow provision also has to be made for the increasing number of people of other faiths (Islam etc.) who also may in the future want their own denominational school and this - hampering integration possibly - as well as the age old Orange/Green split has led to calls to keep religion out of education. The Ulster Assembly - when (if?) it starts functioning again will have an even harder task to have non-denominational schools.

Shared Campuses

Apparently some Catholic schools share campuses with state schools. There have been reports of violent incidents at the Dalkeith shared campus (St. David's School) in Midlothian (Glasgow area) during 2004. A boy has had to be taken to the hispital. School busses have been stoned. As a result, the Catholic Education Service (CES) has issued an ultimatum to North Lanarkshire Council demanding greater separation between schools which share the same grounds. The CES wants a variety of separate facilities, including separate staffrooms, libraries and entrances. The Catholic Church is considering withdrawing its its support for the 150 million plan to merge campuses for 14 primary schools. North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe was still optimistic about the plan and the liklihood of the CES and the local authority (Municipal government) reaching an understanding. Michael McGrath, the director of the SEC is very concerned about the violence and believes the incidents Dalkeith call into question the possibility of Catholic and non-denominational schools sharing campuses.


One type of school characteristic to Scotland is the academy. Americans think of academies as military schools, but this was not the case in Scotland. The word "academy" has several meanings in the English language. The primary definition is a school with a specialized academic program. This is the sence that academy was adopted by American military schools, meaning a school with a s;evcisalized military program. Schools specializing in the arts are also often called academies. This as not the sence in which academy came to be used in Scotland. We do not yet have details on when academies first began to appear in Scotland. We do not know what individual or group adopted the term. We do know that it was adopted because of its clasical connotations. The classical Academy was of course was the classical school of philosophty based on Platonic thought. It was name after a grove of trees in Athens where Plato thought. We do not know when the first academy was founded in Scotlsand. We do know that academies were well established throughout Scotland by the late 19th century.

Military School

The Queen Victoria School in Scotland is the only military school in Scotland and one of the few in the United Kingdom. Notably unlike American military schools which are normally called academies, the Queen Victoria School was not called an academy. Nor was it like American military schools, a private school for mostly children from affluent families, in most instances non-military families.


Monteith, Brian. Life and Work (2004).


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Created: May 4, 2004
Last updated: 7:04 AM 2/9/2009