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

9. Types of inspection

Information about the different types of inspections.

9.1 Standalone inspections of boarding or residential accommodation

Inspections of boarding/or residential accommodation are carried out by at least one social care regulatory inspector. The inspector undertakes the inspection activities as set out in this guidance.

9.2 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.

Aligned inspections take place:

  • where the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspects the education provision in a residential special school and both the education provision and residential provision is inspected at the same time
  • when the education provision is subject to a sec 8 short or emergency inspection (Education Act 2005)
  • where a residential special school is also registered as a children’s home and both the education provision and residential provision is inspected at the same time1

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 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.

We will notify the school of an aligned inspection by telephone the day before the inspection starts, giving a minimum of 4 hours’ notice. The SCRI should liaise with the lead Ofsted education inspector to agree the precise time of notification. Either the education support team or one of the inspectors will notify the school.

Inspectors usually spend 3 days on site.

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

Ofsted and Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspectors follow their own frameworks and procedures during aligned inspections. However, they work together as far as possible. Information provided by the school is shared in order to keep demands on the school to a minimum and make efficient use of resources. Lead/reporting inspectors discuss the main judgements to ensure consistency, particularly on matters concerning the independent schools standards and the national minimum standards.

On the rare occasions that either inspectorates change their judgement post-inspection as a result of quality assurance, the lead/reporting inspectors will notify the other of the change.

Ofsted lead inspectors may share a draft of their report with the lead/reporting inspector from ISI if this is requested. This will be the pre-publication draft report which has already been subject to Ofsted’s quality assurance procedures and we send to the school for a factual accuracy check.

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.

9.3 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 one inspection of the whole school. These are integrated inspections and are undertaken by one team leading to one published report.

Integrated inspections take place:

  • in an independent school (boarding or residential special school) when both inspections are due in the same year
  • where Ofsted carries out an emergency or monitoring inspection of both the boarding/residential and education provision
  • where the education provision at a school, other than an independent school, is being inspected under section 5 of the Education Act 2005, known as a full inspection

Inspections are not integrated when a residential special school is registered as a children’s home.2

How often a school (education) inspection is conducted varies according to the status, type and performance of the school.

Social care 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 including the independent school standards.

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 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 one 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.

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

The social care inspector should make sure that the Parent View comment box has been ‘switched on’ for boarding or residential provision by contacting their regional inspection support team, shortly before notification. The relevant inspection support team sends the Parent View responses to the lead inspector in the afternoon of the second day of the inspection and then de-activates the comment box.

In a school where the education provision is inspected by ISI, it is not possible to use Parent View. In such schools, the social care inspector should make arrangements with the school to contact the parents to obtain their views at the start of the inspection.

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. The SCRI should liaise with the lead Ofsted education inspector to agree a precise time of notification.

Working with education inspectors

A school where the quality of teaching is 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 leadership and management and safeguarding, should be agreed by both inspection teams to give a consistent and clear message to the school.

When aligned with a section 8 (short inspection), if the inspectors consider that the education provision may have declined to inadequate since the last inspection or the inspectors identify serious safeguarding concerns, the inspection of the education provision may ‘convert’ to become an inspection under section 5 (Education Act 2005), known as a full inspection.

If a short inspection converts to a full inspection, the social care inspection will continue and take into account the relevant education inspection evidence collected so far. Wherever possible, the inspectors should continue to work together and provide joint feedback to the provider, but two separate inspections will continue (education and welfare) with two inspection reports.

If the section 8 (short inspection) identifies any concerns regarding the boarding/residential provision or leadership and management, which are only relevant to the social care provision then these will be shared with the social care inspectors so that they can be taken into account.

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 any inspection without notice where there are concerns or at the request of the DfE.

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:

The school is asked to distribute the inspection questionnaire to all staff apart from those in the boarding/residential provision, whose views will have already been requested via the social care questionnaires. 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 on integrated inspections

The lead SCRI is responsible for making sure that the lead education inspector is kept informed about findings and emerging judgements. All 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 head teacher 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.

9.4 Emergency inspections of boarding or residential provision (independent schools)

The regional director may decide to inspect under section 87 of the Children Act 1989 as a result of a specific concern or following an inadequate inspection judgement. The regional director decides whether the inspection is unannounced.

We have to inspect if the Department for Education (DfE) asks us to carry out an emergency inspection of a boarding or residential provision. The DfE may specify that no notice is given.

For such inspections, one or more social care regulatory inspectors (SCRIs) spend 1 or 2 days on site and produce a short report, which is published.

Integrated emergency inspections of an independent school

The regional director may decide to inspect the boarding/residential provision under section 87 but consider that it is more appropriate to carry out an integrated inspection because of the overall concerns about the school. In such situations, the region should request a commission from DfE to inspect the education provision at the same time as the section 87 inspection of boarding/residential provision.

The DfE may direct Ofsted to carry out these as integrated emergency inspections because of a specific concern or a previous inadequate judgement.

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/or social care HMI and/or 1 or more SCRIs, usually spend 1 or 2 days on site. The team all arrive on site at the same time. Inspectors give joint feedback and write a short joint report. The report is published.

9.5 Progress monitoring inspection (residential only)

Independent schools

Ofsted may also carry out a monitoring inspection to review progress made since the last inspection if the school was judged to be inadequate unless the DfE has requested a progress monitoring inspection.

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. One or more SCRIs spend one day on site and produce a short report. The DfE may request the publication of the report. The report is published.

Independent schools (integrated)

These inspections monitor the progress made on the action plan as agreed by DfE and cover both the educational and residential provisions. 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 that the report is published.

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. The inspection is usually unannounced, but may be agreed in advance if the inspectors wants to speak to particular members of staff or local authority representatives.

9.6 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 boarding schools, non-maintained special schools, maintained and independent residential special schools, PRUs, free schools and boarding academies

Education and social care 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.

9.7 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. These are carried out at the request of the DfE and under The Education and Skills Act. For residential-only visits, there is a minimum of 2 days’ notice of the inspection and is usually agreed in advance with the school. 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.

Arrangements are similar for aligned or integrated pre-registration change visits, but these are undertaken by 1 regulatory inspector and 1 education HMI.

We expect the proprietor of a school to attend the pre-registration visit, so that we can establish their understanding of their role in respect of the school.

Material change visit at an independent school

Material change visits are carried out at the request of the DfE when a school wishes to start providing residential accommodation or change their residential arrangements. These can be carried out at the same time as a full inspection of the boarding/residential provision if it is sensible to do so. However a separate report must be written in respect of the material change. An inspector should be given additional time, as agreed by the Regulatory Inspection Manager (RIM), in order to carry out the material change inspection work. If the judgement of the last inspection of the residential provision was inadequate, it is unlikely that a material change request would be agreed, unless this would enhance the provision or address inadequacies.

For residential-only material change visits, there is 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 material change visits but these are undertaken by 1 regulatory inspector and 1 education HMI.

Footnotes

  1. Where a residential special school is dually registered as a children’s home it is not inspected under section 87 of the Children Act. However, the inspections of the education provision and under the Care Standard Act may be aligned. 

  2. Where a residential special school is dually registered as a children’s home it is not inspected under section 87 of the Children Act. However, the inspections of the education provision and under the Care Standard Act may be aligned.