A reduction in the range of subjects studied by secondary pupils has led to fewer children studying science and languages including Gaelic, it has been claimed.
Parents and teachers suggested the narrowing of the curriculum at S4 was a “catastrophe”, which harmed attainment and resulted in pupils making subject choices “too soon”, reducing the range of their education.
Submissions made to Holyrood’s Education Committee criticised a new three-year senior phase that has resulted in many schools cutting subject choices from eight to either six or seven.
Scotland’s national Gaelic centre Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye blamed narrowing of the secondary school curriculum for the language’s “severe” decline.
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The centre said: “It has been made clear to us that timetabling and a lack of subject choices is the single most important factor militating against studying Gaelic beyond Nat. 5 and continuing on with Gaelic to the university level and our own numbers confirm this.”
Jim Sutherland, retired headteacher at Lochaber High School in Fort William, said there had been a decline in the number of pupils studying languages. He said: “I believe that the narrowing of the curriculum in S4 has contributed to widening – not closing – the attainment gap.”
Parents Mark and Sally Gunn of the Highland Parent Council Partnership said the shrinking subject range was a “catastrophe” and claimed the “lack of academic rigour” in general education was “appalling”.
The Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Education said Higher Biology entries had fallen by 28% since 2014 and maths was down by 9%.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman it would discuss the Gaelic situation with the centre and added: “Wherever possible schools should ensure that young people can choose their preferred subjects. However timetabling, staffing and resourcing issues may mean that this is not always possible.”