Social care common inspection framework (SCCIF): boarding schools and residential special schools

Guidance on how Ofsted inspects boarding schools and residential special schools.

Applies to England



This framework sets out Ofsted’s process for inspecting boarding schools and residential special schools.

Our approach is underpinned by the following 3 principles that apply to all social care inspections:

  • to focus on the things that matter most to children’s lives
  • to be consistent in our expectations of providers
  • to prioritise our work where improvement is needed most
Published 22 February 2017
Last updated 5 April 2024 + show all updates
  1. This framework has been updated to clarify that, when applying the framework, inspectors will take appropriate action to comply with Ofsted’s Equality Act duties, clarification on the opportunities for providers to discuss and/or provide information on potential equalities duties, including reasonable adjustments for individuals, clarification regarding Ofsted’s updated arrangements for publishing the report, quality assurance and handling concerns and complaints in line with Ofsted’s new complaints process in the timeframe sections, references to Ofsted’s pausing process, clarifications in the ‘discussions with managers and staff’ section, addition of new section on closed cultures, updated section on reporting concerns about the administration and management of controlled drugs.

  2. Additional guidance on deferring an inspection, inspector conduct during inspections, when and how the provider can raise issues, concerns or complaints during and after the inspection, supporting the well-being of the provider’s managers and staff during inspections and visits, attendance at keeping in touch meetings, discussions with staff and feedback meetings and who the provider may share provisional and final inspection outcomes with.

  3. Minor changes to the evaluation criteria to align, where applicable, with other framework changes on children’s progress, the management of risk and the use of restraint. Clarification on the timing of aligned inspections of residential special schools that are also registered as a children’s home. Small change to guidance for inspectors on recording evidence in the inspection database.

  4. Minor changes to the evaluation criteria to reflect the changes in the National Minimum Standards for residential special schools coming into force from 5 September 2022. Minor edits for clarity in the 'Frequency of inspections' section. Revised text referencing the updated 'Ofsted code of conduct' policy.

  5. Added updated SCCIF guidance for April 2022: clarified time spent on site by inspectors; added additional guidance for when inspectors discover possible unregistered provision and on aligned inspections and inspection of free schools with boarding.

  6. In the ‘Aligned inspections’ section, added clarification on the revised arrangements for aligned inspections.

  7. Removed guidance on assurance visits, as we are no longer carrying these out.

  8. Updated to reflect the changes to Ofsted’s post-inspection processes and complaints handling (including the timeline) that we introduced in September 2020. Minor edits for readability.

  9. First published.