NICOLA Sturgeon told Ruth Davidson the real scandal was a Tory being forced to resign from her front bench, as the Tory leader focused on schools at First Minister's Questions.

Davidson said there was an education "scandal", claiming just two schools in Scotland's poorest communities offer their students a choice of 12 or more subjects at Advanced Higher level.

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The Scottish Conservative leader said 70% of schools in better off areas offered youngsters this level of choice, as she urged the First Minister to back a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.

She argued pupil choice regarding what to study for exams had been falling under the SNP.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hit back at the Tory, saying: "When we look at exam passes in our schools the evidence doesn't bear out her argument."

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In the poorest parts of Scotland the number of youngsters leaving school with Advanced Higher qualifications has increased by 40%, the First Minister said – six times more than the rise recorded in the most affluent districts.

The First Minister pointed out: "Actually the qualifications young people come out of our schools with is what really matters.

"The number is going up for Advanced Highers, the number is going up for Highers."

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Davidson responded that choices for youngsters were "narrowing", adding "the majority" of schools now only allow students to study up to six subjects in S4.

"The consequence is severely limited options for young people when it comes to choosing their Highers, especially for those hoping to study multiple sciences or languages," the Tory MSP continued.

"How bad to things have to get before the SNP Government will own up to its mistakes, because we've got teacher numbers down, we've got literacy standards slipping, we've got numeracy stagnating and subject choices are falling for our pupils.

"There is a scandal going on in secondary schools right now and this government is curtailing the choice of our young people to pursue that same broad based that the First Minister enjoyed, that I enjoyed, that generations of Scots have benefited from and it can't continue."

Sturgeon hit back by referencing the resignation of Tory rural affairs spokesman Peter Chapman, who resigned from his front bench role yesterday after it emerged he failed to mention holding 50,000 shares in a firm when he lobbied local councillors about one of their planning applications.

Chapman was not in the chamber for First Minister's Questions.

The SNP leader said: "There has been a scandal in Scottish politics this week, it involved the resignation of one of Ruth Davidson's front benchers yesterday."

Returning to the subject of education, the First Minister stated: "I cannot believe that Ruth Davidson doesn't think that what is important here are the Highers and other qualifications our young people are leaving school with.

"There are more young people, including in our most deprived communities now leaving schools with qualifications including Highers. There are more young people with Advanced Highers, in case you didn't hear the last time a 40% increase in our most deprived communities in the young people coming out of schools with Advanced Highers.

"More young people with more qualifications, that is a sign of the success of our education system, which is why the Tories don't want to recognise it."