Subject choices


About the Inquiry

Subject choices

The Education and Skills Committee has agreed to carry out an inquiry into subject choices, specifically the extent and basis for any narrowing of availability of subject choices. This follows on from previous work undertaken by the Committee in 2017 and September 2018.

The Committee launched its call for views on 4 February, which closed on 4 March. The responses received to its call for views can be found below.

As well as contacting head teachers, local authorities and higher education institutions, the Committee is undertaking engagement work with pupils, parents, teachers and the Scottish Youth Parliament during the course of its inquiry. This work will be published once available.


The Committee published its report on 16 September 2019. A link to the report is here

Responses to the report were received from the following:


The Committee received the following responses to its call for views:

Teaching Staff

Teaching Unions



Parent Councils

Professional Associations




The Convener wrote to the Principals of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Scotland regarding subject choices impact on admissions to particular courses.  

The following responses have been received from HEIs: 

The analysis of the University Submissions for 2017- 2019 is noted below.

Local Authorities

The Convener wrote to local authority Directors of Education regarding subject choices.

The following responses have been received from local authorities:

Individual responses can be read below:

A further response was recived from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

A letter and supplementary information have been from Universities Scotland.

The following links to further documents which are referred to in the letter from Universities Scotland.

The Committee received a briefing paper from the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework Partnership (SCQF) in response to questions sent to them regarding qualifications which don't appear in the SQA statistics and the trends of the uptake of these courses.


The Committee plans to take evidence on 3 April, 24 April, 1 May, 8 May and 15 May. Details of witnesses for these sessions will be published once participants have been confirmed.

3 April 2019 

The Commitee heard evidence from Education Scotland, Universities Scotland, Colleges Scotland, the Highland and Islands Enterprise and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. 

View the Committee meeting here from 3 April 2019

24 April 2019

The Commitee heard evidence from academics.

View the Committee meeting here from 24 April 2019

1 May 2019

The Committee heard evidence from organisations that represent parents.

View the Committee meeting here from 1 May 2019

8 May 2019

The Committee heard evidence from organisations that represent teachers.

View the Committee meeting here from 8 May 2019

15 May 2019

The Committee heard evidence from Local Authority representatives and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)

View the Committee meeting here from 15 May 2019

22 May 2019

The Committee is heard evidence from the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

View the Committee meeting here from 22 May 2019

29 May 2019

The Committee heard evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

View the Committee meeting here from 29 May 2019


Call for views

The Committee was particularly interested in receiving views in response to some or all of the following questions:

a)    Has the structure of the Senior Phase of the Curriculum for Excellence allowed for better learning and overall achievement than previously?

b)    Education Scotland says the Senior Phase has the “flexibility to offer a range of pathways that meet the needs and raise the attainment levels of all learners”. How does your school offer flexibility to its learners through the Senior Phase and how does this impact on the range of subjects available and the depth of pupils’ learning?

c)    Do you think there has been a narrowing of the range of subjects and subject choices in:

                             I.        broad general education (BGE)?

                            II.        S4?

                          III.        S5?

                          IV.        S6?

d)    What are the factors that influence the range of subject choices? Possible factors include: curriculum timetabling; local decision making; school size; area and school demography.

e)    Have you experienced any changes in the level of uptake in particular subjects in the past 5 years? If so, what subjects in particular and what do you think has caused this change?

f)     What is the impact, positive or negative, of any limitations on subject choices?

The call for views closed on Monday 4 March.

To find out how the Scottish Parliament treats personal data please read the Privacy Notice for written submissions.

More about what the Committee does, and why, is available here.

And here is the link to our full guide on how to submit information to the Committee.

If you have any questions about this work, please contact the clerks on 0131 348 5204.

If you would like to comment further, please email the Committee on [email protected]

If you prefer, you could send a letter to:

Education and Skills Committee
Scottish Parliament
EH99 1SP

If you find it easier to communicate in a language other than English, that's fine. We welcome written evidence in any language. We also welcome calls using the Text Relay service or in BSL through

You can also ask questions online through live chat:   

If you would like to receive this document in Braille, or British Sign Language, please contact us and let us know.


As well as its call for views, the Committee created short surveys for head teachers, teachers, parents and pupils regarding subject choice, which we invited relevant individuals to complete by Monday 4 March 2019. The analysis of the parents and pupils surveys are below and were included in the papers for the meeting on Wednesday 1 May. The analysis of the teachers' survey returns are included in the papers for the meeting on Wednesday 8 May.  The analysis of the Secondary schools head teacher surevey were included in the papers for the 24 April.

The raw survey returns are also available below. Please note that some responses have been anonymised by the removal of personal data (e.g. names, schools, localities) in order to preserve the anonymity of those who have taken part.

Focus Groups

The Scottish Parliament's Community Outreach Team conducted 3 community workshops with young people to look at the topic of Subject Choice and the notes from these sessions are attached below.

Members of the Committee held focus groups with parents and teachers in Dunfermline on Monday 29 April 2019.

The Committee received an additional submission from 13 Parents who are members of a parent council and who were unable to attend the focus group in Dunfermline.


The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) wrote to the Convener in respect of evidence they had gathered.

COSLA wrote to the Convener to express their views on subject choices instead of putting in a submission.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills wrote to the Convener regarding an independent review of the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence. Read the letter from the Cabinet Secretary and the response from the Convener.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills wrote to the Convener regarding the expansion of the senior phase review to a review of the Curriculum for Excellence. Read the letter from the Cabinet Secretary and the response from the Convener.

The Chair of the Commission on School Reform in connection wrote to the Convener in respect of the Scottish Government’s planned review of the Curriculum for Excellence. 


The Committee's report was published on 16 September 2019 and can be downloaded using the link below:

 Quick read versions of the report are also available in English and Gaelic.

Please note that, after publication, it emerged that some of the links to written submissions provided in the report's annex appear to not work, or to link to other submissions. We recommend using the links to submissions further up this webpage where possible.


During the course of the Committees inquiry a debate on Subject choices took place on the 1 May 2019.

You can view the debate here.

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