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

9. Scheduling and the inspection team

How an inspection is scheduled and who makes up the team.

9.1 Frequency of inspection

We usually inspect the residential provision of residential special schools annually. We inspect the residential provision of boarding schools at least once in a 3-year cycle. If the inspection of educational provision is due in the same year, we try to inspect residential provision and education together in an integrated inspection (see types of inspection). Otherwise, we carry out standalone inspections of boarding or residential provision.

How often Ofsted should inspect residential provision in boarding and residential special schools is not prescribed by law. It is set out in a letter to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector from the Secretary of State.

9.2 Scheduling

The scheduling of inspections takes account of:

  • legal requirements
  • previous inspection findings
  • complaints and concerns about the service
  • returned questionnaires from children, young people, parents, social workers and other stakeholders
  • a request by the Department for Education to inspect an independent school.

9.3 Length of inspection

For a full inspection of boarding or residential provision, 1 or more inspectors will usually spend a maximum of 3 days on site, including 2 evenings.

Integrated inspection teams include inspectors who are suitably qualified and experienced to inspect the quality of the educational provision.

The inspector and the regulatory inspection manager (RIM) should determine how best to allocate resources for inspections. If it is necessary, the RIM should agree to either the inspector spending additional days on site or additional inspectors being deployed on the inspection.

Inspectors should consider:

  • whether the amount of time on site should be reduced for inspections of schools with only a small number of children and young people on roll
  • whether additional resources, such as more inspectors or more time on site (or both) should be deployed for inspections of larger schools or schools on a large site, or where there are specific issues such as a serious incident to consider

9.4 Deferrals

Inspections will not normally be deferred. Absence or unavailability of important staff members (unless the provider is a single person) or accommodation issues such as refurbishment will not usually be reasons for deferral. If no staff are available, the inspector should contact the responsible individual or person in charge to arrange access.

An inspection will only be deferred when it might place children or others at risk if it goes ahead or if the ability to gather secure evidence is severely restricted. These conditions might include:

  • serious weather conditions that make access to sites difficult or dangerous or both
  • a serious incident where the presence of an inspector would have an adverse impact on the safety and well-being of children, young people or adults

Decisions about deferrals are agreed by the RIM.