Teacher shortages are limiting the number of subjects pupils can choose to study in schools, the head of Education Scotland has warned.

Struggles recruiting specialist teachers is a key problem, especially for schools in rural areas, Gayle Gorman told Holyrood’s education committee.

Ms Gorman, chief executive of Education Scotland, said some schools were finding “innovative solutions” to teacher shortages, but conceded it was impacting on the choices on offer.

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Last summer, The Herald revealed schools across Scotland had more than 700 vacancies just weeks before the new school year.

Our research showed shortages in key subject areas such as science, maths, computing, languages and home economics as well as in rural areas.

The number of subjects being studied has also fallen as a result of the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence which places less of an emphasis on traditional qualifications.

The extra choice given to pupils to take a range of new courses has impacted on the uptake of languages in particular.

Ms Gorman said: “We recognise there has been a reduction in some schools in curriculum offer. One of the major factors has been teacher numbers.

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“That is an issue that every school, and particularly those in rural areas, have found and do find challenging.

“A school should design a curriculum to meet their learners’ needs. They need to be able to shape that with the best resources they have.”

Ms Gorman said some schools had collaborated to allow pupils to travel to different locations for certain subjects.

She said such collaborations only applied to a minority of schools, but that Education Scotland wanted the practice to spread “so that it becomes a majority”.

Ms Gorman was also questioned about research linking reduced subject choice with schools in more deprived areas.

A freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservative Party last year found that in areas where a school has more than three-quarters of its pupils living in deprivation, the average offer at Higher is 17 subjects.

In an area where less than one in four of the children at the school are living in an area of deprivation, the average offer is 23 subjects.

Read more: School subject choice 'discriminates' against disadvantaged pupils

However, Ms Gorman argued other factors rather than poverty were having an impact because of the additional money invested in disadvantaged schools through the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

She said: “Our evidence is showing the deprivation factor hasn’t been as significant as expected.

“Because of the additional resources schools have been able to continue to offer ... quite a wider range of curriculum.”

A committee survey showed nearly three-quarters of schools had difficulty recruiting teachers.