'˜Vast gap' in choiceof Higher subjects between schools

Schools just a few miles apart in Edinburgh are offering pupils a vastly different number of subjects to study for exams, playing a vital part in determining their future higher education and career chances, figures released today '¨show.

Subjects on offer at different schools vary greatly
Subjects on offer at different schools vary greatly

Figures for 28 local authorities across Scotland show that in some there is a significant difference between schools offering the greatest number of exam subjects at Higher level to those offering the least.

In the Capital, Leith Academy offers 29 subjects – the largest number in the city – while Castlebrae Community High offers just eight, a gap of 21 between the schools.

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The Highlands, one of the regions suffering a teacher recruitment shortage, shows the biggest discrepancy with a gap of 24 between schools offering the most and least.

Liz Smith MSP, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said parents would be “alarmed” and said differences were connected to difficulties recruiting teachers.

Scottish Conservatives used a Freedom of Information request to get the statistics.

Ms Smith described the situation as “unacceptable”.

“There will always be some very understandable variation in subject choice across different schools of rural and urban differences, depending on the size of school and different pupil cohorts,” she said.

“This has always been a problem, but it’s being exacerbated as a result of problems with teacher recruitment.”

An Edinburgh City Council spokesman said some pupils travelled to nearby schools for particular Higher subjects under a “consortium” arrangement.

“Consortium working means pupils travel between schools such as James Gillespie High School and Boroughmuir High for subjects their schools lack.

“This benefits senior pupils by expanding the range of subjects they can study as 
previously many were unable to take some courses due to a very small level of demand at their school.”

A spokeswoman for the Educational Institute of Scotland, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said some gaps in provision should be investigated.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Curriculum for excellence gives flexibility to offer different approaches to subject choices to meet the needs of pupils, and many schools have arrangements with other schools and colleges allowing young people to study courses that cannot be provided locally.”