Our Curriculum

Heriot’s is known for its academic standards, with learning and teaching firmly rooted in the Scottish tradition

Heriot’s pupils sit Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exams at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher levels. SQA qualifications are internationally accepted for university entrance, including by world-leading institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge universities.

We balance a broad education with the capacity to study exam courses in depth. The breadth of subjects taken in Senior 1 and 2 gives pupils a strong foundation and the chance to uncover where their interests and abilities lie. From Senior 3, most pupils study eight National 5 courses over two years, rather than squash fewer National 4 and National 5 courses into consecutive years.

Higher and Advanced Highers are studied over one year each, as is typical. We ask pupils to view Senior 5 and 6 as a coherent programme of study that should meet their aims for further study or work after Heriot’s. Most Senior 5 pupils take five subjects, although special provision may be made for a limited number of pupils who wish to study six subjects. Pupils can often choose subjects not studied at National 5 level as ‘fresh start’ Highers.

Heriot’s has a unique approach to Senior 6, with a flexible curriculum that lets pupils study a wide range of subjects at a variety of levels. Most of our Sixth Years study two or three Advanced Higher courses – we strongly encourage all to attempt at least one. Pupils supplement their academic studies with a selection from our very wide range of Interest courses. We also expect our Sixth Year pupils to participate in Voluntary Service.

Senior School pupils have many opportunities to take part in subject-related events and competitions, including at national level.

Number of subjects studied by year group

Year Group Number of Subjects
Senior 1 16 subjects (with some studied on a rota basis)
Senior 2 19 subjects (with some studied on a rota basis)


Senior 3/4 8 subjects, including English, Mathematics and a Modern Language
Senior 5 5 subjects (6 in exceptional cases)
Senior 6 Very varied, but often 3 subjects

In addition, Games, Physical Education and Citizenship classes are taken from Senior 1 to 5. Critical Thinking classes are added to this list from Senior 3 to 5. In Senior 6, pupils follow the General Studies programme.

Choice of subjects

Subjects are organised by blocks in Senior 1 and 2, and chosen from columns for Senior 3 onwards. To see the range of subjects typically available, please download our Admissions Infobook.