Being inspected as a boarding or residential school

Ofsted inspects boarding provision in maintained boarding schools and independent boarding schools which aren’t members of associations affiliated to the Independent Schools Council.

Where the inspection of the school’s education provision and the residential inspection are both due at the same time, they are usually combined into an integrated inspection of the whole school.

They make judgements about the quality and effectiveness of the main areas of the school’s work and how they impact the experience and outcomes of boarders or residential pupils.

Inspectors check the extent to which the school has met the national minimum standards for boarding or residential special schools.

When you’ll be inspected

Ofsted inspects the boarding provision in maintained boarding schools and non-association independent boarding schools once every 3 years

Ofsted inspects residential provision in independent, maintained and non-maintained residential special schools every year.

Aligned inspections

For independent schools inspected by the Schools Inspection Service, Bridge Schools Inspectorate and the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Ofsted aims to carry out its inspection of their boarding or residential provision at the same time as their educational inspections. This is known as an ‘aligned inspection’.

Getting notice of an inspection

When only the boarding provision of a residential special school is being inspected, the lead inspector will contact the school on the morning of the inspection to tell the school that the inspection will start later that day.

Independent schools are usually notified of an integrated inspection of education and boarding provision around lunchtime on the day before the start of the school inspection. Maintained schools will normally be notified of an integrated inspection at around 11am on the day before the start of the school inspection.

Before the inspection

On the day before the inspection, the lead social care inspector has a planning day. Before integrated inspections, both the lead education inspector and the lead social care inspector have planning time ahead of the inspection.

Views of parents and carers

Parent and carers can give their views on the school and its boarding or residential provision at any time using Parent View.

Staff and boarder surveys

Every year Ofsted provides point-in-time surveys for staff and boarders or residential pupils so they can tell inspectors what they think about the school’s boarding provision.

Ofsted writes to schools to let them know when the survey will be opened for the next academic year.

During the inspection

Inspections normally take 3 days, including up to 2 evenings spent in the boarding or residential provision.

Inspectors will spend their time:

  • listening and talking to boarders/residential pupils
  • talking with staff who have responsibility for leading, managing and organising the boarding/residential provision
  • following up on the school’s progress in response to national minimum standards which weren’t met during the last inspection
  • sampling meals and observing mealtime routines
  • looking at boarders’/residential pupils’ records, case files and other relevant documents
  • speaking by telephone with social workers from relevant local authorities that may have placed boarders’/residential pupils’ in the school
  • looking at the welfare records for a small number of boarders/residential pupils to build up a more rounded picture of the quality of support and provision for individuals’ needs
  • inspecting the premises, accommodation, facilities and procedures for ensuring health and safety arrangements

After the inspection

The day after the end of the inspection the lead inspector writes the inspection report. This may be a separate report on the residential provision (where it has been inspected as a single activity) or as part of an integrated report which covers both education and boarding provision.

The school will receive a draft copy of the report to check its factual accuracy. Following this, a final version of the report will be sent to the school.

The school is asked to send a copy of the report to all parents and carers. The report includes a letter for pupils and the school must make sure pupils see this.

We publish the report on our website normally within 4 working weeks of the end of the inspection.

Post-inspection survey

When the school gets its draft report it will also be invited to fill in a post-inspection survey.

Further guidance

You can read the full documents and guidance for inspections of boarding and residential special schools.