Inspecting boarding and residential special schools
This page tells you what happens before, during and after an inspection of a boarding or residential special school.
We normally inspect the boarding provision in maintained boarding schools and independent boarding schools which are not members of associations affiliated to the Independent Schools Council, once every three years. In independent, maintained and non-maintained residential special schools, we conduct an annual inspection of the residential provision.
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. For further information, go to the schools' Inspecting boarding and residential provision page.
Surveys for parents, carers, boarders and staff
Once a year we ask boarding and residential special schools to invite their boarders or residential pupils and boarding staff to fill in our online point-in-time surveys, so they can tell inspectors what they think about the school’s boarding provision. We will write to schools to let them know when the survey will be opened for the next academic year. The point-in-time surveys are also available on our website and can be completed by downloading and emailing or printing and then returning by post. Ofsted will provide a copy of them to schools which do not have access to the internet. Widgit, Makaton and Picture Communication System versions of the point-in-time surveys for boarders/residential pupils are available at the link below, and a British Sign Language version is available on our YouTube channel.
Parents and carers can complete Parent View, an online survey, at any time to give their views on the school, including the boarding/residential provision.
Before an inspection
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. When the boarding provision only 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.
The inspection usually lasts three days and the inspectors will be in the boarding or residential provision one or two evenings.
During an inspection
To find out about the boarding or residential provision, and the rest of the school, the inspectors will:
- talk to the headteacher, governors if they are available, boarding, residential or care staff, and boarders or residential pupils
- observe mealtime and boarding routines
- look at the school’s paperwork and records
- analyse the views of boarders or residential pupils, parents and carers, and staff
- inspect the quality of the premises and accommodation provided for boarders.
- make judgements, on an integrated school inspection, about the effectiveness of the education provision.
After an inspection
The inspectors’ findings are published either as 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 inspection report provides information about how effective the residential provision is, usually containing points for improvement and giving grades to indicate how the school is doing overall. The grades are:
- grade 1 (outstanding)
- grade 2 (good)
- grade 3 (adequate)
- grade 4 (inadequate).
The school must take all reasonable steps to make sure parents and carers receive a copy of the report and pupils are made aware of the findings of the inspection.
After that, Ofsted publishes the report on this website.