One thing you'll hear regularly from people living in Shetland is that it's a great place to bring up a family. The schools are highly regarded and the facilities and resources available to young people are some of the best in the country.

Moving from outside Scotland?

The qualifications obtained in Shetland schools are those recognised by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. For most students, this means taking National Qualification examinations in the fourth year of secondary school and Higher Grade examinations in their fifth or sixth year. National Qualifications in Scotland are equivalent to GCSE in England and Wales. Higher Grade in Scotland is a one-year course and it is Advanced Higher (an optional second year course) that is directly equivalent to an A-level in England and Wales.

Early years

From August 2020, every three and four year old, and some two year olds, are entitled to 1140 hours per year of free early learning and childcare (ELC). There are a number of nurseries and early learning centres across Shetland, as well as a list of registered childminders. To find out what you’re entitled to and the provision available, see the Shetland Island’s Council’s Early Learning and Childcare Provision guide.


As with the rest of Scotland, children in Shetland complete seven years of primary school, starting in P1 (the equivalent of Reception classes in England), going up to P7 (the equivalent of Year 7 in England). After this, they do six years of secondary school from S1 to S6 (equivalent to Y8 to Y13 in England).

At school, you really get a sense that the teachers really know your child as an individual.

Bronwyn Smith

Primary schools

Shetland has a network of 22 primary schools across the islands. Some rural primary schools are very small, employing only one or two teachers, and class sizes tend to be small and composite. After P7, children move up to secondary school. This will usually be their nearest one, but it is sometimes possible for a child to be accommodated at another secondary school if a parent requests it.

Junior high schools

Shetland has five junior high schools, which provide S1-S4 provision for pupils in rural communities. These are based in Baltasound (Unst), Yell, Whalsay, Aith and Sandwick. Students wishing to proceed to Higher Grade study move, at the beginning of their fifth year, from one of these to one of the two six-year high schools in Lerwick or Brae.

High schools

Shetland has two high schools for S1-S6 students: Anderson High School in Lerwick and Brae High School in Brae. Young people who travel to Lerwick to attend Anderson High school from the outlying islands board at the Anderson High School Halls.

Additional support needs

Shetland has good provision for young people that require additional support needs. See the Additional Support Needs page on the Shetland Islands Council website for more information.

Shetland is absolutely magical for kids. You can just throw them outside. They’re safe, everyone’s always looking out for them, and the education here is exceptional. This was definitely the place to settle, and we love it.

Joanna Hunter-Coe

Further education


Shetland College UHI is the most northerly partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). With a variety of courses from National Certificate to Postgraduate level, you can become qualified in accounting, joinery, childcare, software development, or specialise in textiles or archaeology to name just a few.

UHI’s Centre for Rural Creativity is based in Shetland and in partnership with Shetland Arts Development Agency there are film, music and media courses available up to Masters level. These courses are taught at Mareel, Shetland’s creative industries centre.

Shetland’s North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) is also part of UHI. It offers a range of training courses relevant to the maritime industries. Courses range from the three-year Merchant Navy Cadet Programme to short courses and cover both 'deck' and marine engineering topics, as well as other subjects required by seafarers.

Vocational training

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Shetland works with employers across Shetland to identify training, apprenticeships and jobs for young people. Follow them on Facebook for the latest opportunities.

For more general career advice, Skills Development Scotland have a Shetland office, which you can contact on +44 (0)1595 695 791.


English classesare available at the college and these can be linked with citizenship classes. The Shetland Library stocks adults’ books in a variety of languages, together with some dual language books aimed at young children.