THE number of secondary schools inspections in Scotland has fallen drastically over the past decade, new figures show.

The Scottish Government said there were only 19 inspections in the 2016/17 school year compared to 71 in 2009/10 - a fall of 73 per cent.

However, inspections have increased overall thanks to a greater number of visits to primary schools.

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Primary school inspections rose from 103 in 2015/16 to 124, although the figure is less than half the number conducted in 2009/10.

Education Scotland, which incorporates HM Inspectorate of Schools, said the drop was partly down to a deliberate move to reduce the burden of inspection on schools and target those that needed help the most.

Inspectors have also been used in recent years to help schools implement the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Last year the Scottish Government said inspections would increase following the introduction of CfE.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, blamed the fall on a reduction in the number of inspectors.

She said: “This further decline in secondary school inspections comes at a time when the emphasis is supposed to be on raising attainment and, just as importantly, on measuring progress.

“The Scottish Parliament’s education committee evidence proved that there are currently fewer inspectors available to schools and this will undoubtedly have an impact on the number of inspections.

“In some cases pupils could go right through secondary school without any inspection taking place. I am sure parents will find that unacceptable.”

However, a spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said the fall was down to a change in policy.

He said: “Changes in recent years have led to schools generally being inspected less frequently, and the inspection process has also been altered with the intention of making it a less stressful and more constructive, supportive process.

“It is right that the main emphasis is on the support that can be offered to schools, rather than a more narrow focus on the number of inspections carried out in any particular time frame.”

An Education Scotland spokeswoman said: “Our inspection numbers evidence an overall increase in academic year 2016/17. There can be small fluctuations in the numbers of inspections in individual sectors from year to year.

"We are committed to a further increase in the overall number of school inspections in 2017/18.”

School inspections were overhauled in 2010 to reduce stress on teaching staff and increase the involvement of parents.

Under the reforms, the number of inspections were reduced with those schools seen as under-performing made more of a priority.

The changes dated from the publication of the Crerar Review in 2007, which looked at scrutiny of public services across Scotland.

The review found most public services backed external scrutiny, but felt it was in danger of becoming a burden and was distracting resources from frontline delivery.