EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney has been urged to order an urgent review into subject choice in Scottish schools.

The Scottish Tories made the demand after new research showed the number of S4 pupils studying and passing French had fallen by almost two-thirds since the introduction of the new curriculum for excellence.

According to analysis by Professor Jim Scott, published in a daily newspaper, the number has tumbled by 64.3% from 27,626 to 9854 since the National Qualifications replaced Standard Grades five years ago.

The academic also discovered that National 3, 4 and 5 passes for German and learner Gaelic are both down around 61 per cent over the period, while Spanish attainment has dropped 15 per cent.

Scott, from the University of Dundee’s School of Education and Social Work, said he was concerned modern languages could “disappear” from schools altogether.

He said: “Less able children are not able to do languages because quite a lot of schools stop them in S2 and make them optional. The less able are being cut off at the root and the most able are being squeezed by the curriculum.”

Referring to the skills required by employers after Brexit, he added: “It will be very important for the UK and Scotland to have their own linguists to speak for them in international fora.”

Tory shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “The decline in subject choice is one of the biggest concerns being raised by parents across Scotland and it’s something we’ve been raising with the SNP for months.

“John Swinney needs to get a grip and order an immediate review into what is going on.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our focus is on a young person’s achievement at the end of their senior phase, not just within a single year. Young people are gaining a broader range of qualifications and the proportion of them leaving school with qualifications has increased.”