Press release

Changes to independent school inspection

Ofsted today (24 January 2012) launched a consultation for its inspection of all ‘non-association’ independent schools in England.


These changes, proposed for September 2012, are intended to raise expectations for further improvement in the performance of these schools, for the benefit of children, parents and carers.

Inspection reports will provide a clear assessment of how children are doing in the context of their age and ability. They will be based on observations of work, taking into account starting points and a school’s record of pupil progress.

Read the consultation: Introducing a new framework for inspecting non-association independent schools.

The key inspection judgments proposed are:

  • overall effectiveness
  • pupils’ achievement
  • pupils’ behaviour and safety
  • quality of teaching
  • quality of the curriculum
  • provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
  • provision for pupils’ welfare, health and safety
  • leadership and management

In view of the diversity in size and nature of independent schools Ofsted is seeking to consult as widely as possible to gain the views of all interested parties on the proposals.

Ofsted Director of Education and Care, Jean Humphrys said:

The quality of teaching is the key driver of school improvement. One of the main findings from Ofsted inspection in this sector is that the quality of teaching in non-association independent schools tends to be competent but seldom inspiring.

It is vital that our inspection is incisive and rigorous, and that judgments are fair, clear and helpful to a school’s further development. With these new arrangements we will focus more sharply on what makes teaching truly effective.

The proposals build on the current arrangements for inspection. Ofsted will continue to use a 4 point scale to make qualitative judgements. Detailed grade descriptors will seek to provide more consistency, openness and transparency and encourage independent schools to strive further for improvements to the quality of provision.

Ofsted currently gives independent schools 2 days’ notice of their education inspection but for inspection of care in boarding and residential special schools no notice is given. Ofsted intends to adopt a similar system for the education inspection of independent schools. Pupils, parents and carers have told Ofsted that inspection without notice is important as it lets the inspectors see the school as it really is.

The views of the pupils themselves, as well as parents, carers, staff and local authorities who use the services of independent schools are highly valued by inspectors who follow up the issues they raise. These views will continue to be an important feature of inspection.

Despite recent improvement, the biggest single weakness in non-association independent schools remains the high proportion of schools (12%) which do not have sufficiently robust arrangements for safeguarding pupils’ welfare, health and safety. Ofsted will continue to check that secure and robust arrangements are made to provide a safe environment for children. It is therefore proposed to retain the separate judgement for pupils’ welfare, health and safety.

Additional proposals put forward for consultation cover children’s homes offering education, focussing on the quality of education where it is weakest: for looked after children in independent children’s homes which are registered education providers.

Among independent children’s homes which are registered education providers there is a comparatively lower proportion that makes good or outstanding educational provision. The new framework will focus on the educational progress and achievements of looked after children and look critically at what schools are doing to close the gap between their achievements and other pupils.

Following the consultation, Ofsted intends to test the new inspection arrangements in pilot inspections, before introduction in September 2012.

Ofsted inspects all non-association independent schools in England. These comprise around half of more than 2,000 independent schools. The remainder is inspected by the independent inspection bodies, Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), School Inspection Service (SIS) and Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI).

Notes to editors

  1. Read the consultation and questions, The new framework for the inspection of independent schools. The public consultation runs for 12 weeks from 24 January 2012.

  2. Ofsted seeks the widest possible range of views from those who have an interest in independent schools, in order to ensure that the inspection framework takes proper account of the needs and circumstances of all interested parties.

  3. The main purposes of Ofsted’s framework for inspecting independent schools are: to check and report on the school’s compliance with the Education (Independent Schools Standards) (England) Regulations 2010; produce an evaluative report which informs the school, parents, pupils, and wider community about the quality and impact of the school’s provision; and to bring about school improvement.

  4. Whilst the Independent Schools Standards will remain, the Department for Education is revising the regulations which underpin them, and these will be the subject of separate consultation. The outcome will inform the specific details of Ofsted’s evaluation schedule for the inspection of independent schools.

  5. The government is revising the regulations for independent schools with the intention that they will be simplified for September 2012. Ofsted’s instruments and guidance for inspectors and schools will take account of these changes

  6. The Independent schools framework consultation questions are as follows:

  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that inspectors should make a judgement on pupils’ achievement?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that inspectors should make a judgement on pupils’ behaviour and safety?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should make separate key judgments on the quality of teaching and the quality of the curriculum in an independent school inspection?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that inspectors should make a discrete judgment on pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should retain a separate key judgement on safeguarding pupils’ welfare, health and safety in an independent school inspection?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should introduce a judgement on leadership and management for independent schools?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree with Ofsted’s proposed approach to the inspection of smaller children’s homes in national or regional group providers?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree with Ofsted’s proposal to inspect educational provision in independent children’s homes without notice?
  • Do you wish to make any other observations about the proposals for change in the consultation document?

Ofsted has already changed the frequency of inspection so that all mainstream independent schools which have met the regulations and been judged ‘good or outstanding’ will now, from September 2011, be inspected only once in a 6 year period.

Media enquiries

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Published 24 January 2012