Press release

New inspection framework for independent schools

New framework for non-association independent schools in England will raise expectations for further improvement.

The new inspection framework will focus more clearly on the most important aspects of a school’s work. Inspectors will be making a new judgement about the effectiveness of the school’s leadership and management. They will also make a judgement about the school’s overall effectiveness, which summarises the key inspection judgements about:

  • Pupils’ achievement
  • Pupils’ behaviour and personal development
  • Quality of teaching
  • Quality of curriculum
  • Pupils’ welfare, health and safety
  • Leadership and management.

Ofsted will continue to use a four point scale to make qualitative judgements about independent schools. Detailed descriptions will be provided for each grade to ensure that inspectors make consistent judgements. The new grades will encourage independent schools to strive for further improvements.

Ofsted Director, Susan Gregory HMI said:

The quality of teaching is a key driver of school improvement. One of the main findings from Ofsted inspection last year was that the quality of teaching in non-association independent schools tended 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 this new framework we will focus more sharply on what makes teaching truly effective.

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 their starting points and a school’s record of pupil progress.

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. Under the new framework, schools will normally be given half a day’s notice of their inspection with the lead inspector generally contacting the school early in the morning of the day of the inspection. This brings arrangements into line with the inspection of care in boarding and residential special schools.

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 and will be gathered through the Parent View online survey and the point in time surveys introduced in September 2012.

Despite recent improvement, the biggest single weakness in non-association independent schools remains the high proportion of schools that 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 and a separate judgement on pupils’ welfare, health and safety has been retained.

Inspections will focus on the quality of education where it is weakest: for looked after children in independent children’s homes that are registered education providers. A comparatively lower proportion of these schools have good or outstanding educational provision. The new framework focuses on the educational progress and achievements of looked after children and looks critically at what schools are doing to close the gap between their achievements and those of other pupils.

Where education is provided in children’s homes that are members of a group or company of schools that is registered as a single education provider, Ofsted will make separate arrangements to inspect the group provision as a whole, taking account of each of the settings.

Notes to editors

  1. The new framework for the inspection of independent schools was published today.

  2. Ofsted inspects all non-association independent schools in England. These comprise around half of more than 2,500 independent schools. The remainder is inspected by the independent inspection bodies: Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), School Inspection Service (SIS) and Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI).

  3. The main purposes of Ofsted’s framework for inspecting independent schools are: to inform the registration authority, the Department for Education (DfE), about the extent to which the school meets the requirements of The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010, as amended by The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012; 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. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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Published 16 January 2013