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Modern Studies and Politics


  • Mr John Quigley (Principal Teacher)
  • Miss Rowan Burrell
  • Mr Simon Lyall
  • Miss Dionne Reid
  • Mrs Catriona Ward

What is Modern Studies?

Modern Studies, unique to the Scottish curriculum, is the study of social, political and economic issues in the UK and around the world.

Modern Studies is offered throughout the school, from S2 through to Advanced Higher level.

By studying Modern Studies, you will obtain the following skills:

  • Knowledge and understanding of political systems in Scotland and other countries
  • The ability to construct arguments and the confidence to defend the decisions that you make
  • An understanding of how society is affected by the political system and understanding of causes and consequences
  • The opportunity to develop your skills in research; using statistical information to draw conclusions; and evaluate sources to pick out opinions
  • A sense of responsibility and a greater understanding of the world that we live in today.

S2: Pupils study a range of topics from the following list:

  • Politics & Democracy
  • Conflict & Co-operation
  • Law & Order
  • Human Rights
  • Poverty

The purpose of the course is to inform pupils of their role as citizens at all levels of society, from local issues to international. There are a range of assessments in both formative & summative styles.

What is Politics?

Politics makes a distinctive contribution to the curriculum through its study of important political concepts and ideologies, the comparison of different political systems, and the evaluation of factors that impact on the electoral performance of political parties. This is done through looking at relevant case studies from either local, national or international contexts as well as different historical contexts.

What can you expect to develop?

  • Knowledge and understanding of:
    • Significant political concepts and ideologies
    • Political systems through comparative study
    • Political parties and elections
  • Your own views and perspectives through the identification, exploration and analysis of political issues.
  • The ability to analyse and evaluate political ideas, events, issues, systems, parties and electoral performance.
  • A range of research, data-handling, analytical and evaluating skills.
  • The ability to interpret and understand political issues.

S3/4: Modern Studies National 4 & 5

Modern Studies can be studied at National 3, 4 or 5 in S3 and 4.  The course content is the same for all levels, but assessments are different.

Modern Studies will allow you to build on skills that you have already developed across S1 and S2.  As well as specific Modern Studies skills, this also includes literacy, numeracy and critical thinking skills.  These will be delivered through the following topics:

Democracy in Scotland

  • The role of the Scottish parliament and the powers of the First Minister
  • The ways in which Scots can participate in democracy
  • The Additional Member System that is used in Scottish parliament elections
  • The work done by MSPs
  • How the media and pressure groups can influence decision making

Crime and the Law

  • The nature of crime and different types of crime
  • The different reasons why people commit crime and the consequences that it has
  • How the criminal justice system works, including looking at the police, the courts and the children’s hearing system
  • How the issue of crime is being tackled by various groups, including the Scottish government.

The USA as a world power

  • How the political system works in the USA,  the powers of the President and Congress.
  • Participation and representation in politics – the rights and responsibilities of individuals within society.
  • The world influence of the USA in regards to politics, economics and military.
  • Social and economic inequalities that exist (including poverty, education and crime) and how the government try to tackle them.

S5/S6: Higher Modern Studies, Higher Politics & Advanced Higher Modern Studies

Higher Modern Studies

The course content is divided into three units dealing with Political, Social and International issues.   The following Study Themes are covered in the various units: 

  • Democracy in Scotland and the United Kingdom 
  • Social Issues in the United Kingdom 
  • International Issues – a political and socio-economic study of a major world power or the study of a significant contemporary world issue. 

Higher Politics

There are three units within the Higher Politics course:

Political Theory

  • The key political concepts of power, authority and legitimacy with reference to the work of Steven Lukes and Max Weber.
  • The nature of democracy and the arguments for and against direct and representative democracy.
  • The key ideas of two political ideologies (currently Socialism and Liberalism).

Political Systems

  • The study of two different political systems through a comparative approach.
  • The two political systems are the UK and the US and focus will be drawn on:
    • The constitutional arrangements of both systems.
    • The legislative branches of both systems.
    • The executive branches of both systems.

Political Parties and Elections

  • The study of two different dominant political ideas within or between political parties (currently either Conservative [One Nation and Thatcherism] or Labour [democratic socialism and New Labour]).
  • The impact of political campaign management strategies.
  • Theories of voting behaviour.

Advanced Higher Modern Studies

Advanced Higher Modern Studies is concerned with developing the student’s knowledge and understanding, evaluative and investigative skills in relation to Modern Studies topics. Students will have the opportunity to study further the political system in the United Kingdom and that of another democratic country (USA or Germany), or the political dimension of the European Union. They will also assess critically a variety of social science research methods in relation to a major contemporary UK social issue, and they will carry out independent research to develop their investigative skills (planning, researching, analysing and presenting) with reference to one of the units in the Higher or Advanced Higher syllabus. Advanced Higher Modern Studies makes a contribution to a well-balanced individual curriculum with appropriate emphasis given to the skills of communicating, independent learning, creative thinking and critical appreciation of the media.

Important skills are developed and enhanced through study of Advanced Higher level of Modern Studies. These skills include:

  • organising and analysing complex data
  • adopting a structured approach to the research of a contemporary topic
  • constructing and sustaining lines of argument which reflect the complexity of the issues they address
  • presenting conclusions in a clear way, while reflecting the complexity of the topic under consideration
  • critical analysis of social science research, including evaluating evidence and detecting a lack of objectivity
  • participating in debate and discussion, through which attitudes of open-mindedness and tolerance are fostered

The course is divided into three main themes:

  • Political issues
  • Social issues
  • Practical research

Career Opportunities:

  • Government Administration
  • Broadcast & Media Marketing
  • Civil Service/Police
  • Economics /Politics
  • Journalism
  • Social Care/Work
  • Law
  • Teaching

For further career information please visit:

Useful links:


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01463 667800