MINISTERS are under pressure to launch an inquiry into a dramatic decline in subject choice in Scottish schools.

In the week exam results were sent to hundreds of thousands of pupils figures highlighted a significant decline in numbers studying key languages and Stem subjects such as French and computing studies.

The issue has arisen because, under Curriculum for Excellence, pupils experience a broader education for the first three years of secondary before taking an average of seven subjects in fourth year.

Previously, pupils would have taken eight or even nine subjects starting a year earlier.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for Scottish Conservatives, called for an urgent review of the trend.

She said: “The decline in subject choice is one of the biggest concerns being raised by parents.

“Ministers need to get a grip and order an immediate review into what is going on.”

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the new flexible curriculum meant pupils would study more qualifications as they progressed through school.

He said: “Our focus is on a young person’s achievement at the end of secondary, not just within a single year.

“The long term trend shows a greater proportion of young people staying on at school beyond S4 and gaining a broader range of qualifications.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour joined calls for the scrapping of controversial tests in the first year of primary school.

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, urged ministers to halt the use of testing following feedback from teachers that five-year-olds had been left distressed.

Mr Gray said Scotland should instead take part in more international education surveys to raise standards.

Mr Swinney said: “Assessments are not a new concept and the vast majority of councils have been carrying them out for years.

“This ensures all schools undertake the same assessments providing an important means for teachers to identify next steps in learning.

“That is especially valuable in early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap.”

Mr Swinney said tests were developed after engagement with teachers, parents, pupils and academics.