Inspecting independent schools
There are around 2,400 independent schools in England, but Ofsted inspects the educational provision of only half of them. We inspect independent schools which are not members of associations. We do this at the request of the Department for Education, which is the registering authority for all independent schools.
The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that independent schools comply with The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010, as amended by The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) (Amendments) Regulations 2012 which specify the provision a school should make.
In inspecting these schools, Ofsted normally uses the powers granted by section 162A of the Education Act 2002, as amended by Schedule 8 of the Education Act 2005. For this reason independent school inspections are sometimes known as 'section 162A inspections'.
We usually carry out standard inspections of educational provision in non-association independent schools on a three-or-six year cycle depending on how well the school performed at its last inspection. In the case of independent boarding schools, the boarding provision is inspected every three years. The education inspection will only be conducted at the same time as an inspection of its boarding provision, where both inspections are due at the same time. Where this happens, it is known as an ‘integrated inspection’. Independent residential special schools usually receive an integrated inspection every three years. In addition to this, we inspect their residential provision on an annual basis. For further information on inspections of boarding and residential special schools, go to the Inspecting boarding and residential special schools page.
All standard inspections result in a report which is published on Ofsted’s website.
The Department for Education also sometimes asks us to undertake additional inspections within the three-or-six year inspection cycles. They may ask us to visit the school to follow up on progress in implementing an action plan. This would usually only happen if an education or welfare inspection showed that a school was not meeting some independent school standards or the requirements of the national minimum standards.
The Department for Education may also request us to undertake further inspections of a school where the school is proposing a change of proprietor, address, age range, number or gender of boarders, or if pupils with special educational needs join the school. We may also be asked to undertake an emergency inspection where they have concerns about a school or would like us to investigate a specific matter.
New schools are inspected prior to opening to check that they meet the requirements for registration. This type of inspection is carried out under section 99 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 – they are no longer section 162A inspections. Schools receive an inspection which takes place around the first anniversary of their registration to ensure continuing compliance.
New standards and framework
The Department for Education introduced new standards and Ofsted introduced a new framework in January 2013. Inspections did not commence until February 2013 to give schools time to become familiar with the new arrangements.
Before an inspection
The Before an independent school inspection page tells you what happens before an inspection. It covers issues like the lead inspector’s contact with the school and the lead inspector looking at the school’s evaluation of their provision (if available) and other pre-inspection evidence. There is additional information for you about an inspection.
During an inspection
The During an independent school inspection page tells you what happens during an inspection. It covers activities that take place on different days of the inspection.
After an inspection
The After an independent school inspection page tells you what happens after an inspection. It covers issues like the post-inspection survey, judgments and the inspection report.