WHEN Education Secretary John Swinney says there is more choice in Scottish schools now than ever before he is probably correct.

The current range of extra-curricular activities, vocational opportunities and courses devoted to practical skills has never been greater.

READ MORE: Academics say school subject squeeze is hitting deprived

And this was as the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) stipulated with the underlying rationale in 2004 the creation of more space for pupils to develop the literacy, numeracy and other essential skills required for their future life and work.

CfE also demanded more space for sport, music, dance, drama, art, learning about health, sustainable development and enterprise.

But, as academics from Stirling University have pointed out in new research highlighted in The Herald today, there is also a squeezing of choice in schools.

The restructuring of the curriculum to give pupils a broader experience in the first three years of secondary has meant that in many schools the number of formal qualifications being sat in fourth year is reducing.

That essentially means fewer subjects can be timetabled in S4 when pupils get around to sitting the National 5s that replaced Standard Grades.

Concerns with this are twofold. The squeeze means some subjects are disproportionately affected, including some sciences, modern languages and social subjects.

The other issue, highlighted in the Stirling University report, is the fact the squeeze appears to be impacting on schools in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland.

READ MORE: Disadvantaged pupils hit by subject squeeze

One answer to this from minsters is that CfE offers flexibility to pick up qualifications at a later stage and that the success of the school system should not be judged in S4 alone.

However, the Stirling University report is not so convinced, concluding: “Very few schools have taken advantage of this flexibility. Therefore, curriculum narrowing in S4 may have significant effects on future enrolment and transitions by narrowing choice.”