Eight out of 10 teachers say subject choice has narrowed in S4

Most teachers say subject choices for pupils in S4 have been narrowed – with staffing levels given as the most frequent reason.

A survey by the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee found 82% of staff said subject choices for that year had reduced.

Committee papers revealed that out of 500 responses to that survey “aspects of staffing were mentioned nearly 350 times by respondents” – even though this was “not a theme suggested through the question wording”.

The next most common reason cited by teachers was timetabling, which was mentioned 162 times.

In their responses, staff complained that some subject choices were “affected by the availablility of specialist teachers”, while others said that “there are not enough teachers at the school to deliver the courses required”.

One teacher stated: “The availability of staff is the driver for deciding the entire curriculum. Our curriculum breadth and depth has been eroded recently due to the need to cut back on staff.”

MSPs on the Education Committee have been examining the issue amid concerns that youngsters are not able to study as many different subjects in the senior phase of secondary school.

Youngsters often used to study up to eight subjects in S3 and S4 under the old Standard Grade system, but following the introduction of National 4 and 5 exams, many schools now only offer students the chance to study six subjects.

Research by the committee has already shown that 56% of such pupils were unable to take all the classes that they wanted.

Scottish Coneravtive education spokeswoman Liz Smith (Scottish Parliament/PA)

Commenting on the latest survey, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The SNP Government keeps avoiding the reasons why subject choice is increasingly restricted for Scottish pupils.

“But now teachers have exposed the truth.

“Even though it wasn’t an option in the survey, two-thirds of them have pointed the finger at teacher numbers and problems with recruitment.

“No doubt, had the option been included in the survey that figure would have been even higher.”

She added: “The SNP has been in charge of education for 12 years and has to take full responsibility for this.”

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