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Learning (Curriculum)

Two boys sitting behind iPads, smiling at the camera

Our Educational Vision

We aim to provide a world class education for pupils from a wide range of backgrounds, abilities and interests, sustaining them with excellent support services and providing a unique range of Enrichment activities and opportunities. 

Our curriculum is both accessible and ambitious, we want it to challenge, encourage creativity and teamwork, so that we are preparing pupils not just for examination success but to thrive in all they do in their future academic, personal, sporting and professional lives.

We expect our pupils to think and act as confident global citizens as well as ambassadors of their own culture and place of origin. Much of our education has a distinctly international flavour and draws on best curriculum practice from Scotland and the rest of the world. 

As a Rights Respecting School, we value and respect our pupils and enable them to shape their experience in school by expressing their views and developing their own ideas.

The relationships between pupils and between staff and pupils is important to us. We work in partnership with parents and carers in all aspects of a pupils’ time at school.

The Organisation of the Junior School

Our Primary 1 to Primary 3 pupils are based in the cosy Lower Primary Building. Here individual classrooms are clustered around creative areas where groups of children are able to work collaboratively on practical activities from science to creative arts. There is only one class, from each year group, in each area so pupils rapidly feel at home and get to know children from other year groups as well as their own. Each class is led by a teacher with the support of at least one teaching assistant.

When pupils reach Primary 4, they make the short move across to the Upper Primary School which includes the spectacular John Martin Building. Here classes are organised in year groups and have easy access to an open plan library with stunning views and a Music hub with classrooms, individual practice rooms and a performance area. Our Primary 7 pupils enjoy a superb suite of classrooms and a curriculum carefully tailored for successful progression into our Senior School.

The Junior School Curriculum

Two Lower Primary pupils reading with their teacher

The Junior School Curriculum enables children to move seamlessly from their experiences in the Preschool to the more structured learning that they will experience in the Lower Primary. We work to ensure that every pupil develops a strong core of knowledge and skills in literacy and numeracy. But we also want pupils to enjoy their learning experience as they progress through the school and to be sure that they know how to keep themselves healthy and safe at all times. 

We build in progressively greater challenge and higher expectations as pupils move through to the Upper Primary, including more learning that is led by specialist teachers. Every challenge is matched by the support and guidance of staff with a wide range of skills, interests and enthusiasms. 

Although the components of our curriculum can be identified individually, for much of the time our approach to learning is cross-curricular rather than focusing on individual subject areas to ensure that pupils understand how knowledge and skills are applicable in many different ways and in different contexts.

Curriculum components


We work from a 10-day cycle over two weeks , with Week A and Week B timetables alternating. During the school day children will receive core curricular lessons and specialist teaching. 
Core curriculum is taught by the class teacher. During this core learning time, the focus is mainly on developing reading and writing, acquiring numeracy skills and developing their Health and Wellbeing.  Also during periods with the class teacher, classes cover the Interdisciplinary learning (IDL) or ‘topic’ sessions.  These encompass Science, Social Studies and Technologies allowing children to gain a greater understanding of the world around them.  

Digital Learning

Pupil using iPad

George Watson’s College has one of the most comprehensive and advanced approaches to digital learning in Scotland. Every pupil has access to a school device in P1-3 and from P4 pupils are provided with a device for their personal use in school. We know that even our youngest pupils are now “digital natives” for whom learning using a range of digital tools is second nature. Our teachers work to harness and shape pupils’ use of digital learning to ensure that it is focused, effective and safe, and that pupils are prepared for the approaches that they will eventually meet at university and in the workplace.

Home Learning

Effective learning involves a partnership between pupil, parent and teacher. At the start of each session, parents are given an overview of the year. Each week pupils receive a programme of home-learning tasks, designed to reinforce the work done in the classroom and to establish good work and study habits. The amount generally increases over the Junior School years, though we are sensitive to the time constraints that many older pupils experience, when juggling home learning with a wide range of extra-curricular activities.


Girl sitting on the floor with a book

Children are encouraged to research and develop their studies in all subjects, through the use of our Lower and Upper Primary libraries, which are bright, well-stocked multimedia resource areas. All classes are timetabled to use the libraries and, in the Upper Primary library, our Junior School Librarians are available to assist all pupils. There is an extensive stock of fiction and non-fiction books, reflecting a wide range of reading abilities and interests. Many are available on audio and DVD, to assist in the development of literacy skills and older pupils are able to access titles digitally through our e-Library service. The Library also stocks a selection of resources for parents of pupils receiving Support for Learning.

Outdoor Learning, Trips and Visits

Primary 4 dressed as vikings

We make full use of our extensive campus in providing outdoor learning experiences for our pupils, this includes a number of outdoor classroom spaces around the site which provide sheltered locations for learning to take place.

There is also a well-established plan of trips and visits to enhance pupils’ learning. In the Lower Primary School, classes make regular trips in and around Edinburgh. Experiences in the Upper Primary include:

  • In Primary 4 pupils head to York, in their first trip away from home, as part of their learning about the Vikings.
  • In Primary 5 pupils enjoy a residential experience early in the school year, helping them to bond with their new classmates, at Dounans Camp, Aberfoyle.
  • Pupils in Primary 6 learn about the Jacobites, and head to Meigle Camp in Perthshire for a residential trip. 
  • Primary 7 brings about one of the key highlights of the Junior School, a week-long trip to London. 

Additional Support for Learning

We know that not all pupils will find learning easy and some will experience barriers to learning which require specialist support to help overcome. Although we are a mainstream school, we also have a long heritage of providing support for pupils who find learning difficult and helping them to achieve success within our curriculum.

Our Values

Our curriculum seeks to underpin our four School Values:

Aim High • Join In

Respect All • Be Kind

Our Values - Respect All, Be Kind, Join In, Aim High, Challenge Yourself, Care for Others - Ex Corde Caritas