Orkney’s educational system is as extensive as it is excellent, from pre-school to postgraduate.
Education here is provided by Orkney Islands Council and its network of schools stretches across the islands, with around 3000 children in classes from nursery to sixth year. Most of the county’s primary schools have pre-school and nursery provision, with private providers, childcare and baby and toddler groups available.
There are 17 primary schools in Orkney, with some of the smaller ones featuring only a handful of pupils and teachers. The standard of education on offer is excellent no matter the class size though, with P.E, art and music classes available throughout the islands and plenty of opportunities for pupils from smaller schools to travel to the Orkney mainland for events and activities.
There are two senior secondary schools, Kirkwall Grammar School and Stromness Academy. The islands of Westray, Stronsay and Sanday each have a junior high school, catering for nursery aged pupils up to 4th year students. Following their 4th year, North Isles pupils continuing with their education stay in halls of residence in Kirkwall and attend Kirkwall Grammar School.
Schools in Orkney are very much at the heart of their communities, with wider use of the buildings and their facilities encouraged by the local authority. 15 of our 17 primaries are community schools, regularly hosting local clubs, organisations and events outwith school hours.
Higher and further education
Education in Orkney doesn’t end after secondary school though. From agriculture to archaeology, Orkney College - a constituent college of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) - offers many further and higher education opportunities, including degree and postgraduate-level learning, along with a range of vocational courses.
The new Orkney Research and Innovation Campus (ORIC) in Stromness is home to Heriot Watt University's International Centre for Island Technology, which provides postgraduate-level education in renewable energy and marine related subjects.
The ORIC campus is also the base for Robert Gordon University’s Orkney Project and a number of businesses and organisations working in the renewables and innovation sectors.
Leaving school and plotting your future path can be a daunting experience, but there are excellent support services locally to make sure students can access all the advice they need to make informed choices. Whether you're looking for an apprenticeship, careers advice and guidance or just want to discuss your options, the local Skills Development Scotland office will be able to help.
There are also plenty of opportunities for adult learning in Orkney. There’s a wealth of classes and courses on offer, including Orkney dialect, yoga, furniture restoration and much more. The Learning Link in Kirkwall offers courses and classes to help folk improve their maths, English and IT skills, as well as English classes for speakers of other languages.
Orkney's library services are second to none. The Orkney Library in Kirkwall offers access to more than 145,000 items, including books, audiobooks, eBooks, maps, DVDs and much more. The library has achieved global social media fame over recent years with its consistently entertaining Twitter account. The Stromness Library is smaller but all the same services are available. The Mobile Library service brings books and audiobooks to Orkney’s rural areas, with an ever-changing stock on offer.
Book boxes are available for readers living in islands not served by the Mobile Library, and a Home Library service for people with health or mobility issues is also on offer throughout the Orkney mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray.