Types of school Ofsted inspects
We inspect several different types of school in two main groups: maintained schools and academies and independent schools.
- Maintained schools and academies – nursery, primary (infant and junior), secondary, community special, independent (non-maintained) special, boarding, residential special schools, pupil referral units and service children’s education.
- Independent schools – can cover different age ranges from 3 to 18; includes boarding schools and residential special schools.
These are the types of school that you can search by.
- Independent school
Independent schools provide full-time education to five or more pupils of compulsory school age, or one or more pupils with a statement of special educational needs, or in public care. The Department for Education registers independent schools.
Maintained nursery education is available from the age of three; and may be full time or part time. Some nursery schools make provision for children under three. These providers also include children's centres and providers with Early Years Foundation Stage provision.
Maintained primary schools are for children aged from three, four or five, until the age of 11. Some primary schools make provision for children under three. Some may only be for infant, some for junior, some all through primary. Some of these schools may have boarding pupils.
- Pupil referral unit
A pupil referral unit is a centre which is managed by a local authority for children and young people who are not able to attend a mainstream or special school. Placements are often short term and are generally for children and young people who are ill or excluded from mainstream schools. They are also for pregnant teenagers and school-age mothers.
Maintained secondary schools are for children aged 11, until the age of 16. Secondary schools also include sixth form centres and some sixth form colleges which have pupils until the age of 18. Some secondary schools offer childcare and/or nursery education and may have boarding pupils.
- Service children's education
Service children's education is responsible for providing schooling for the children of service and Ministry of Defence personnel who work outside the UK. There are 43 schools, including six secondary schools.
- Sixth form schools
Sixth form centres and sixth form colleges which have pupils aged 17 to 18.
- Special schools
Community special schools are maintained by the local authority and cater wholly, or almost always, for children with statements of special educational need. Most special schools meet the needs of children and young people who have a range of learning and/or social, behavioural and emotional difficulties. A small number meet the needs of pupils who have specific disabilities, for example those who are deaf or blind or have sight problems. Independent special schools are registered by the Department for Education. They provide full-time education for one or more pupils of compulsory school age. They are wholly or mainly for children with statements of special educational need. Some of these schools have boarding pupils.
- Other schools
For example, community schools, foundation schools, non-maintained special schools, sixth form centres, community hospital schools and foundation hospital schools.
Inspecting education in schools
We inspect all maintained schools regularly; how frequently a school is inspected depends on how well it did at its last inspection. We inspect weaker schools more frequently and only inspect outstanding schools where concerns emerge.
There are around 2,400 independent schools in England, but the educational provision of only half of them is inspected by Ofsted. The schools Ofsted inspects are known as ‘non-association schools’. Inspections are carried out at the request of the Department for Education.
There are three other independent inspectorates which inspect the provision of the other independent schools in England also at the request of the Department for Education. These are known as ‘association’ schools:
We monitor the work of these independent inspectorates on behalf of the Department for Education to ensure the quality and consistency of their inspections and reports. Our arrangements for communicating and working with the independent inspectorates is set out in the document Protocol between Ofsted and the approved independent inspectorates. This protocol has been agreed by Ofsted, the Department for Education, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate and the School Inspection Service.
Inspecting early years and childcare in schools
Our maintained school inspections cover maintained nurseries and nursery classes in primary schools. If a school has early years or childcare provision on its premises – for example, a playgroup or an after-school club – that is not run by the school’s governing body then this will receive an early years or childcare inspection. For further information, go to the information about early years and childcare pages.
We inspect early years and childcare provision in all non-association schools. We inspect early years and childcare provision for children aged birth to three in association schools inspected by the School Inspection Service and Bridge Schools Inspectorate. For further information, go to the information about early years and childcare pages.
We do not inspect early years and childcare provision in association schools inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
Inspecting welfare of boarders and residential pupils in schools
We inspect the welfare of boarders and residential pupils in all maintained boarding and residential special schools, non-maintained residential special schools, and non-association independent boarding and residential special schools. We also inspect the boarding provision in schools whose education provision is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Bridge Schools Inspectorate and the School Inspection Service. Boarders and residential pupils are pupils who also stay at the school for one or more nights in a week. We normally carry out these inspections when we inspect the whole school. As well as these inspections, our social care inspectors separately inspect welfare of residential pupils every year in residential special schools and twice a year in schools which are also registered children’s homes. For further information, go to the Inspecting boarding and residential special schools pages.
Voluntary inspection scheme for British schools located overseas
The Department for Education has a voluntary inspection scheme for British schools which are located overseas. Inspections are intended to judge and report on how standards in British schools overseas compare with those in independent schools in England. Inspection reports should also provide parents and prospective parents with information about how well schools prepare their pupils for either re-entry into the British school system or entry to higher education. The Department for Education has approved six independent overseas inspection providers to inspect British schools overseas against their published standards. You can read inspection reports of British schools overseas on the Department for Education’s website.
The Department for Education’s website has more information about the inspection of British schools overseas.
We monitor the quality of a sample of the independent overseas inspection providers’ inspections and reports. Each inspection provider has their own framework for inspecting British schools overseas. There is a list of approved overseas inspection providers.
Our arrangements for monitoring the independent overseas inspection providers is set out in the document Protocol between Ofsted and the approved independent overseas inspection providers for British schools overseas. This protocol has been agreed by Ofsted, the Department for Education and the inspectorates.