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

7. Types of inspection

Information about the different types of inspections.

7.1 Aligned inspections

Aligned inspections are inspections of the boarding/residential provision that take place at the same time as the education inspection. The inspectors work together and, whenever possible, share findings and feedback at the same time. Separate reports are written about the boarding/residential and the education provision.

The social care regulatory inspector (SCRI) should liaise with the lead Ofsted education inspector to share evidence and discuss activity as necessary, such as the timing of announcement of the inspections, the start and finish times and time of feedback. The relevant senior Her Majesty’s Inspector (HMI) has responsibility to ensure that this is managed effectively. Although an education inspection may start after the residential inspection has started, the school must be notified of the pending education inspection.

Notification of an aligned inspection is normally given by telephone the day before the inspection starts, giving a minimum of 4 hours’ notice. The notification is made by either the education support team or the inspector. Inspectors usually spend 3 days on site.

It is not possible to integrate an inspection when a school’s boarding or residential provision is registered as a children’s home.

The lead/reporting inspectors must set aside time throughout the inspection to share evidence, so that each is aware of emerging issues where they are relevant to each other’s work.

A school with teaching judged as good may be judged as requires improvement for its boarding provision. However, judgements about areas that relate to both the education and boarding/residential provision, such as care, welfare, health, safety and safeguarding, should be agreed by both inspection teams in order to give a consistent and clear message to the school.

7.2 Full integrated inspections

When the full inspection of the school’s education provision and the full residential inspection are both due at the same time, they are usually combined into an integrated inspection of the whole school. Integrated inspections are undertaken by one team and lead to 1 published report.

How often a school (education) inspection is conducted varies according to the status, type and performance of the school. Ofsted will only be able to conduct an integrated inspection when both inspections are due in the same year.

Boarding inspectors taking part in an integrated inspection must be familiar with the relevant education framework and inspection handbook for the type of school they are inspecting. For integrated inspections of independent schools and residential special schools, the education inspection is conducted under section 109(1) and (2) of the Education and Skills Act 2008. Further guidance can be found in Inspecting non-association independent schools: handbook for inspectors.

For integrated inspections of maintained schools, academies, non-maintained special schools, free schools and pupil referral units, the education inspection is conducted under section 5 of the Education Act 2005 (as amended). Further guidance can be found in the School inspection handbook.

The inspection team for integrated inspections

An HMI, or an Ofsted inspector with an education background, who is suitably trained and experienced to undertake integrated inspections always leads an integrated inspection. The team includes a social care regulatory inspector (SCRI) who is trained and experienced in judging the quality of the boarding provision. Additional social care inspectors may be added to the team, depending on the size and location of the boarding/residential provision and the number of children and young people on roll. The team usually spends 3 days on site.

Preparing for an integrated inspection

Before notice is given of the inspection, the education and social care regulatory inspectors should:

  • confirm how, when and by whom the integrated inspection will be announced
  • agree when each part of the inspection will start and finish; if the education inspection starts after the social care inspection has started, the school must be notified of the pending education inspection; feedback on both the education and social care elements should be provided at the same time; the relevant senior HMI has responsibility to ensure that this is managed effectively
  • agree when the lead SCRI will contact the school to discuss the boarding/residential timetable with the head of boarding/residential care before the start of the inspection
  • discuss important lines of enquiry, including data from surveys and Parent View
  • agree areas of joint working and provisional timings of team meetings
  • agree the arrangements for the recording of evidence and the writing of the inspection report

The lead education inspector is the overall lead for the integrated inspection. The education and boarding inspection timetables are shared between inspectors and inspectors do not duplicate interviews. Areas such as health and safety, safeguarding and staff recruitment are usually undertaken by 1 inspector.

Gathering views of registered parents, carers and other stakeholders

Ofsted’s online service Parent View is available for the parents of children in non-association independent schools and maintained schools to give their opinion of the school, including its boarding/residential provision. The lead education and social care inspectors check the responses for the school as part of their preparation for the inspection.

Ofsted also carries out annual online point-in-time surveys of the views of day pupils and, in the case of boarding and residential special schools, boarders and residential pupils and boarding staff. There is one survey for day pupils and a separate one for boarders and residential pupils. A point-in-time survey is also used to gather the views of local authorities that place and fund children in independent schools.

The views of the staff at schools are gathered through a questionnaire, which is sent to the school by email alongside the formal notification of inspection letter. The school is asked to distribute the questionnaire to all staff apart from those in the boarding provision, whose views will have already been sought through the online point-in-time survey.

Inspectors use all this information intelligently to set up lines of enquiry, which they must record and may pursue during the inspection.

Before residential/boarding inspections and integrated inspections, Ofsted’s inspection support team will also send a standard letter to the local authority’s designated officer for child protection to ask for relevant information. Inspectors telephone the designated officer as part of pre-inspection activity.

Notice of an integrated inspection

Notification of an integrated inspection is usually given in a telephone call the day before the inspection starts. There is a minimum of 4 hours’ notice. The notification call is made by the inspection support team or the inspector.

For integrated inspections of maintained schools, academies, non-maintained special schools, free schools and pupil referral units, the inspection is announced with a minimum of 4 hours’ notice. If the education inspection does not start at the same time as the residential inspection, the school must be informed of the pending education inspection.

For integrated inspections of independent schools and residential special schools, the lead inspector and lead SCRI will normally arrive in the early afternoon and start the inspection of education and boarding provision together.

Ofsted may conduct inspections without notice.

In all cases, after the initial notification call, the school will be sent an email with formal confirmation. Also attached to the email will be:

  • Annex A, which requests information about the children and young people, staffing and records
  • a letter for the school to send to the parents and carers of all pupils inviting them to fill in Parent View
  • a copy of the inspection questionnaire for the school’s staff

The school is asked to distribute the inspection questionnaire to all staff apart from those in the boarding provision, whose views will have already been requested.

The SCRI should contact the school after the initial notification call to discuss the practical arrangements for the inspection.

How the inspection team works together

The lead SCRI is responsible for making sure that the lead education inspector is kept informed about findings and emerging judgements. SCRIs will attend team meetings to contribute to the emerging evidence and judgements from the boarding/residential team into the full discussion. It is the lead inspector’s role to ensure that judgements from the boarding/residential inspection are given due consideration by the team in reaching fair and secure judgements about the school as a whole.

The lead inspectors must set aside time throughout the inspection to share and discuss inspection findings. Any differences in judgements must be clearly explained but judgements about areas that overlap, such as welfare, health, behaviour and safeguarding, should be agreed by both inspection teams in order to give a consistent and clear message to the school. Where there is huge disparity between the judgements, the matter must be referred to a relevant manager or the person responsible for quality assurance during the inspection.

Feedback at the end of an integrated inspection

At the end of the inspection, the inspectors from the education and boarding/residential inspection teams meet to discuss and reach agreement on the judgements made. In deciding on the judgements, the social care and education inspection teams follow the evaluation schedule relevant to their respective inspection frameworks. The lead inspector discusses and agrees with the lead SCRI the arrangements for informing the school of the outcome of the boarding/residential inspection.

The inspection ends with feedback to the school on the final day. The education team and social care regulatory inspector(s) give verbal feedback on the main inspection findings and provisional judgements. The headteacher may wish to invite the proprietor, governors, member of staff in charge of boarding or other senior staff, as appropriate, to attend this meeting if agreed in advance with the inspector.

7.3 Emergency inspections of an independent school (residential only)

The Department for Education (DfE) requests Ofsted to carry out these inspections as a result of a specific concern. No notice for the inspection is given, unless specified by the DfE. 1 or more SCRIs spend 1 day on site and produce a short report. The DfE may request the publication of the report.

7.4 Emergency inspections of an independent school (integrated)

The DfE requests Ofsted to carry out these inspections as a result of a specific concern. The residential and education provision are inspected at the same time. The inspections are usually unannounced. A team of inspectors, led by an HMI (education) and comprising education and social care HMI and 1 or more SCRIs, usually spend 1 day on site. The team all arrive on site at the same time. Inspectors give joint feedback and write a short joint report. The DfE may request the publication of the report.

7.5 Progress monitoring inspection (residential only)

Independent schools

The DfE requests Ofsted to carry out these inspections. The inspection reviews the progress made on meeting requirements made by the DfE via a ‘notice’ or progress made on the actions as stated in an action plan submitted to the DfE by the school. The inspections are usually unannounced. 1 or more SCRIs spend 1 day on site and produce a short report. The DfE may request the publication of the report.

Maintained schools, non-maintained special schools, pupil referral units (PRUs), academies and free schools

Ofsted undertakes a progress monitoring inspection of these types of schools to review the progress made on meeting recommendations from the most recent inspection and the progress of the school’s action plan. Ofsted publishes the report.

7.6 Progress monitoring inspection (integrated)

Independent schools

These inspections monitor the progress made on any notice served by the DfE and cover both the educational and residential provision. The inspections are usually unannounced. A team of inspectors, led by an HMI (education) and comprising education and social care HMI and 1 or more SCRIs, usually spend 1 day on site. Inspectors arrive on site at the same time. Inspectors give joint feedback and write a short joint report. The DfE may request the publication of the report.

Maintained, non-maintained special schools, residential special schools, PRUs and academies

Education and social care Her Majesty’s inspectors (HMI) should work together to agree the most practical and suitable arrangements for progress monitoring inspections of both the education and residential provision, including the announcement of the inspection. The lead inspector should give a minimum of 4 hours’ notice of the inspection. A team of inspectors, led by an education HMI and comprising education and social care HMI and 1 or more SCRIs, usually spends 1 day on site. Inspectors arrive on site at the same time.

7.7 Pre-registration or material change visit of independent schools

We carry out these inspections when a school wishes to start providing residential accommodation or wishes to change their residential arrangements. For residential-only visits, a minimum of 2 days’ notice of the inspection and is usually agreed in advance with the school. One or more SCRIs spend 1 day on site and produce a short report. The DfE may request the publication of the report. Arrangements are similar for aligned or integrated pre-registration or material change visits but these are undertaken by 1 regulatory inspector and 1 education HMI.