Modern Studies

The most common degrees undertaken by Modern Studies students include: Law, Politics, International Relations, Sociology, Philosophy, Economics, Social Policy, Economic and Social History, Anthropology, Psychology and Urban Studies. Careers may also include journalism, teaching, academic and socio-economic research, and social work. Civil Service and Local Government jobs would also benefit from the knowledge and transferable skills gained through Modern Studies.

S1 and S2

Curriculum for Excellence Level 3 courses are offered to all S1 and S2 pupils. These year groups are offered support by senior pupil mentors in class.

In S1 pupils study Rights and Responsibilities, Democracy, and Race and Discrimination. During the session pupils also work on a mock election and a written assignment that investigates similarities and differences between the Scottish and UK parliaments. All three course units are assessed in a formal, written end of year exam. The concept of citizenship is explored in great depth in all three units and pupils are expected to contribute to group work and presentations among their peers in order to develop key skills.

In S2 pupils study four course units; the USA, Terrorism, the Developing World and China. During the session pupils work on a research project about political, social and economic issues in China. All four course units were assessed in a formal, written end of year exam. Building on the development of citizenship in S1, the concept of global citizenship is fostered in this academic year and comparative studies with the UK, USA and China allow for the development of awareness of issues from an international perspective.

National 5

In S3 and S4 pupils study the National 4 or 5 courses. At Wellington, pupils study Democracy in the UK, Crime and the Law and World Powers: Brazil. The Democracy unit gives pupils a good insight into how our representative democracy functions with an examination of the work of representatives, electoral systems, pressure groups and the media. The Crime and the Law unit gives pupils the opportunity to examine the key causes of crime, the effects of crime and how effective the police and courts are at dealing with it. The final unit on Brazil involves an examination of how citizens there take part in politics and how the government tackles socio-economic issues. Towards the end of S4, pupils undertake an Assignment (worth 25% of the overall mark) which involves researching an issue and writing up findings. The remaining 75% of marks are available in the final exam for National 5 which involves a mixture of knowledge questions and source based questions. There is no external examination for National 4.

A key part of the Democracy unit at National 5 is a residential trip to the UK Parliament in London. In S4 pupils have the opportunity to enjoy a tour of the parliament and then take part in a workshop on elections and voting, which compliments the course. In addition, S3 pupils have the chance to take part in a Q&A session with the local MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.


Higher Modern Studies invites pupils to examine political, social and international issues. At Wellington the topic areas covered are Democracy in the UK, Social Inequality in the UK and World Powers: The USA. The Democracy unit involves an examination of Scotland’s place within the UK, the case for UK membership of the EU and the various ways our representatives work for us on our behalf. The Social Inequality unit seeks to explain why some people are well-off while others remain poor in our society and how effective measures have been to tackle inequality. The USA unit looks at how influential this country is in global terms, how equal the USA is and the ways in which its citizens can take part in politics. Pupils are required to undertake an Assignment (worth 33% of their total mark) which involves researching a Modern Studies issue and writing up the findings under exam conditions. The final exam is worth 66% of the total mark and involves pupils answering a mixture of extended writing tasks and questions based on sources.

Where circumstances allow, an excursion to a political party conference is organized. This enables pupils to experience keynote speeches and debates. For example, a recent visit to the Scottish Conservative party conference in Troon included a Q&A session with the Prime Minister.

Advanced Higher

At Advanced Higher level, pupils study the topic of Crime and the Law. The course focuses on the causes and effects of crime from a sociological and psychological perspective, and the responses to crime in our society from both political and sociological angles. Embedded throughout this course is the requirement to analyse crime through an international perspective and this gives the subject a comparative nature, which is useful for university courses such as international relations, law or politics. Pupils write a dissertation (worth 35% of their total mark) and develop independent learning skills when doing so. The final exam is worth 65% of their total mark and involves essay writing and analysis of social research methods.

A visit to HMP Cornton Vale or HMP Kilmarnock is organised for Advanced Higher candidates which allows for the collection of data for their dissertations. Pupils will also be expected to carry out individual research with key respondents for their dissertations. In addition, a visit to the University of Glasgow library is organised early on in the course and this is a key part of the research phase.

Curricular Activities and Extracurricular Clubs

In S1, pupils participate in a Mock Election activity where they elect a candidate from their class and each of the elected candidates across the S1 classes competes for votes. The elected pupils deliver speeches to the P7 and S1 year groups in a bid to gain votes. All other S1 pupils are involved in the creation of campaign materials like posters, rosettes and leaflets. This is an exciting activity designed to involve the whole year group in a shared active learning task which fosters an understanding of how elections work in the UK.

In S1 or S2, pupils have the opportunity to participate in a trip to the Scottish Parliament where a tour of the chamber and committee rooms enhances their understanding of democratic processes in Scotland.