MSPs have demanded a sweeping review of Scotland’s education system in a defeat for the SNP Government.

Holyrood voted 63 to 60 for a Tory plan for a “full review of broad general education”, which spans childcare to the end of S3, and how it relates to the senior phase at secondary.

It also said ministers must accept there were weaknesses in “key aspects of Scotland’s school education and the qualifications structure” that challenged their claim that schools are producing “a strong set of results”.

The non-binding vote was a blow to education secretary John Swinney whose proposal to replace the demand for a review with praise for the government was rejected.

Earlier, Mr Swinney told MSPs he would publish an outline of a probe into worsening exam results.

Last year he quietly ordered a review into falling pass rates in Higher exams, while publicly putting the reduction down to “annual variance”.

Pass rates had dropped from 76.8% to 74.8% on the previous year, raising questions from opposition politicians about why the figures had fallen for the fourth year in a row.

Mr Swinney said the review was a “habitual exercise” undertaken by the Scottish Government to identify problems in the education system.

He said the report had highlighted the importance of “understanding standards” and ensuring that support was available “to enhance learning and teaching” where needed.