The School Curriculum

The Glenalmond curriculum aims to give pupils a wide choice of subjects at all levels in order to provide a broad and challenging education, taking them from a broad base to a more focused approach in later years.

From the Fourth Form pupils study for GCSEs, typically studying eight or nine subjects at this level.

In the Sixth Form they usually choose to study for either three A Levels or five Higher grades. This structure allows pupils to study a breadth of different subjects, but to also develop a depth of learning in later years to lead them on towards their university studies. For more information please take a look at the Sixth Form Guide 2018-19 which list all the subjects available at A Level and Higher.

Our subject range is vast, with 24 different subjects available at A Level, many more than in most other independent schools. This recognises the fact that all pupils will have different strengths - by offering such a wide choice, all pupils are able to excel in their strongest subjects.

For more details on the curriculum for specific year groups, please select from the menu on the left.

Find out more about our approach to Learning at Glenalmond.

The curriculum in the Second and Third Forms is kept broad to give pupils experience of a wide range of subjects before choosing their GCSE options for Fourth Form. 


The Second Form curriculum is primarily intended to follow on from the Scottish Primary system (P7 year) and to enable boys and girls to go into Third Form and be taught alongside those who have entered via Common Entrance.

The class size normally consists of approximately 12-18 pupils who come to us from a variety of different educational backgrounds and it is for this reason that French (five periods per fortnight) and Latin (four periods per fortnight) are introduced as beginners' subjects at this stage.


In the Third Form, pupils maintain the broadest possible curriculum in order to introduce them to the range of subjects available at Glenalmond and options are kept to a minimum.

The subjects which are set, based on Common Entrance, Scholarship and Entrance Tests are French, Latin, Mathematics and Science.

English, Geography, History, Music, Art, ICT, Technology, Divinity and PSHCE are taught in bands A to D and the setting of these is based on entrance results across the range of these subjects.

All pupils are expected to study French and Latin, although pupils can drop these subjects if there is a need for Learning Support.

In ICT, pupils will follow the European Computer Driving Licence programme of study.


In the Fourth Form (Year 10 or S3) and Fifth Form (Year 11 or S4) pupils will study a core of compulsory subjects to GCSE: English, French or Spanish, Mathematics and the three Sciences; Biology, Chemistry and Physics, although some pupils will take GCSE Double Award in Science. They will also continue to study Information Technology, Physical Education and Religious Studies. In ICT, pupils will follow the European Computer Driving Licence programme of study.


In addition to the core curriculum, pupils make a choice from a wide range of options: Art, Design and Technology, Drama, French, Geography, History, Latin, Music and Spanish. Pupils may choose Greek, but this is taught outside of the timetable.


GCSE courses start in the Third Form for some subjects, but for the option subjects, they start in the Fourth Form and continue for two years.

Glenalmond College offers an academic curriculum based on the English model which remains the curriculum of choice for the vast majority of independent schools in the UK.

We believe that A levels provide a balance between depth and choice that is unrivalled by any of the alternatives. Some schools offer a choice of curriculum as well as subject; to us the concentration on a single curriculum adds cohesion, focus and direction to pupils and staff alike in the demanding two years of the Sixth Form.

The ability to select from 24 A level subjects at Glenalmond provides unrivalled possibilities in tailoring a Sixth Form programme to the needs and aptitudes of each individual pupil. The selection of four subjects in the first year from which three subjects are taken on into the second year, gives the A level candidate the best of both worlds: a high degree of breadth, followed by the flexibility to add a refinement and further degree of specialisation in the second year of the course. The flexibility of the A level system has a further advantage in that it allows the very strongest candidates to add additional components and subjects whilst also making it possible for some weaker candidates to reduce the number of subjects.

The depth and specialisation of work in the second year of the two year A level course allows a level of study that is desired and required by universities. It is our firm belief that the ability to specialise in three subjects offers not only proven preparation for the rigours of university study, but also offers a level of academic and intellectual challenge and rigour which would not be possible under alternative systems of greater breadth. This potential for individualised study programmes combined with the flexibility of choice and the potential for specialisation underpins the great strength of the A level system which is seen as a universally strong qualification for entry to world class British, European and North American Universities.

At Glenalmond all of this is supplemented by additional learning and extension work that is flexible, current, topical and challenging.

Subjects available at A-Level include:

  • Art and Design 
  • Biology 
  • Business 
  • Chemistry 
  • Classical Civilisation
  • Computer Science
  • Design & Technology: Product Design
  • Drama and Theatre Studies
  • Economics 
  • Electronics
  • English Literature
  • Geography
  • Greek 
  • History 
  • History of Art 
  • Latin 
  • Mathematics and Further Mathematics
  • Modern Languages: French, German, Spanish
  • Music 
  • Physical Education 
  • Physics 
  • Politics 
  • Religious Studies 
  • Extended Project Qualification

Glenalmond has taken the opportunity to expand its curricula provision in the Sixth Form by reintroducing SQA Higher qualifications. This provides an additional pathway through the Sixth Form that retains a greater breadth of study. 

Both A Levels and Highers represent alternative pathways to university applications. Following the A Level reforms, the UCAS tariff weighting of SQA qualifications also changed significantly. The new relative weighting of Highers against A Levels should be considered carefully based on each pupil’s anticipated grades. A copy of the new UCAS tariff can be found later in this booklet. We will offer a two year Higher programme - the route favoured by independent schools who offer both Highers and A Levels.

In the week following half term, current pupils at Glenalmond will be given the opportunity to recomplete a Sixth Form subjects option form if they wish to study Highers rather than A Levels next year. 

A large proportion of a pupil's time in the Sixth Form is spent on the chosen A Level or Higher subjects, so it is extremely important to arrive at a coherent choice of course. Highers are considerably more demanding than GCSE and will require much more private study and background reading. The pupil should have a real interest in the subjects to be studied as well as a good level of competence in them.

Subjects available at Higher include:

  • Biology 
  • Business Management
  • Chemistry
  • Design & Manufacture
  • Drama
  • English 
  • English as an Additional Language
  • Geography
  • History 
  • Mathematics
  • Modern Languages: French, German, Spanish
  • Music Technology
  • Physical Education 
  • Physics