Pupils in S5 are being entered for fewer SQA national qualifications compared with 2014 in nearly all of Scotland’s council areas, according to figures which sparked claims that subject choice is narrowing.

New data obtained by the Scottish Conservatives shows that, since 2014, average entries per pupil for courses such as Highers are down for 31 of 32 local authorities.

The party also said its Freedom of Information (FoI) Request revealed that 266 schools – 74 per cent of secondaries north of the Border – saw a fall.

Statistics indicate that South Ayrshire was the only council area to experience a rise, with the number increasing very slightly from 4.0 to 4.1.

However, the Scottish Government response to the Conservatives’ latest FoI stresses that, as the figures provided are based on the number of entries into SQA national qualifications by S5 pupils, they are not a measure of choices available for young people in each school.

And the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said most S5 pupils would be timetabled for five subject areas and would therefore continue to have the same options around choice and qualifications as before.

It comes as Shadow Education Secretary Jamie Greene prepares to lead his party in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday to highlight what his party claims are the SNP’s failures during their years in charge of Scotland’s education system.

Mr Greene said his party’s statistics should be “a source of shame” for Education Secretary John Swinney.

“Under the SNP, subject choice continues to reduce year on year and we know that it will be pupils from poorer backgrounds suffering the most,” he said.

“Scottish pupils are being denied opportunities to study the subjects they want. “Their future opportunities are being limited by the SNP, and that should be a source of shame for the education secretary.

“He’s presided over failure after failure in our education sector and that’s why we will be using our party business this week to highlight the problems he’s not fixing in our schools right now, and over the last 13 years.”

Mr Greene added: “Nicola Sturgeon never tires of saying education is her number one priority, but the SNP have cut down on subject choice and failed to close the attainment gap.”

Last year, Ruth Davidson, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, claimed that the number of high schools where fourth-year pupils could only choose to study six subjects had increased by 250% in six years.

It was reported that statistics from FoI requests to local authorities had shown that, at that time, there were 165 secondary schools where pupils take six subjects or fewer in S4.

This was up from 46 in 2013.

Commenting on the latest figures, Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, said: “Most pupils in S5 will be timetabled for five subject areas, as was the case before the Senior Phase was introduced, and therefore continue to have the same options around subject choice and qualifications as before.

“Any debate of narrowing of subject choice is really located in S4, so analysing S5 entry data in this way is pointless, especially when any variation is down to decimal points.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that Curriculum for Excellence would ensure that “children and young people have more options in their education and that their wider achievements and skills are recognised alongside qualifications”.

She added: “Young people can choose from a much broader range of pathways than before and there has been a year on year increase in the number of school leavers attaining vocational qualifications at SCQF 5 and above, including a significant expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships, from 7.3% in 2013-14 to 17.1% in 2018/19.

“Our mission to reduce the povertyrelated attainment gap remains central to our plans.

“That is why we are investing £182 million through the Attainment Scotland Fund this year, with a commitment to extend the programme into next year.

“We are also investing £25 million to support digital inclusion amongst disadvantaged children and young people.”