About ISI

Our Authority to Inspect

ISI is formally approved by the Secretary of State for Education to inspect independent schools in full membership of the ISC associations.

The Secretary of State’s power to approve inspectorates is regulated by statute and delegated legislation.  The key provisions are in the Education and Skills Act 2008, section 106:

‘(1) The Secretary of State may—

(a) approve a body or bodies to carry out inspections of registered independent educational institutions;

(b) withdraw approval previously given under paragraph (a).

(2) The Secretary of State may approve a body in relation to—

(a) specified registered independent educational institutions, or

(b) registered independent educational institutions of a specified description.

In this subsection “specified” means specified by the Secretary of State.

(3) The power in subsection (2)(b) to specify a description of independent educational institution includes power to specify a description by reference to membership of a body.

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations specify matters that must be taken into account in deciding to approve or withdraw approval from a body under this section.

(5) In this Chapter, “an independent inspectorate” means a body approved under this section.’

The Secretary of State has a parallel power in relation to the inspection of boarding care in schools in the Children Act 1989, Section 87A(4A):

 ‘The Secretary of State may by regulations specify matters that must be taken into account in deciding whether to appoint a person to be an inspector for the purposes of this section in relation to schools or colleges in England, or to terminate the appointment of such a person under subsection (4)(b).’

In exercise of these powers the Secretary of State has set out the requirements which independent inspectorates must meet to maintain their approval.  The relevant regulations are The Independent Inspectorates (Education and Boarding Accommodation) Regulations 2014.

Under these regulations, the following matters are specified for the purposes of section 87A(4A) of the Children Act 1989 Act and section 106(4) of the Education and Skills Act 2008:

(a) the number and range of schools or colleges which the independent inspectorate inspects, or is to inspect;

(b) the extent to which it is independent from the schools or colleges it inspects, or is to inspect;

(c) the extent to which it is independent from the body which established it (if any);

(d) its administrative, management, financial and insurance arrangements;

(e) its procedure and selection criteria for appointing inspectors;

(f) the terms on which it appoints its inspectors;

(g) the training which it provides, or will provide, to its inspectors;

(h) the process it follows, or will follow, in carrying out and reporting on inspections;

(i) the policy and procedures it has in place for the purpose of ensuring that inspectors carry out and report on inspections objectively;

(j) the arrangements for the provision and publication of reports of inspections it carries out;

(k) its complaints procedure;

(l) any assessment made of it by the Chief Inspector [of Ofsted]; and

(m) the extent to which it has in place and operates arrangements to enable the Chief Inspector to carry out its functions under section 107 of the 2008 Act.


These are supplemented by advice from the Department for Education which sets out detailed expectations which must be met for continued approval:  Approval of Independent Inspectorates.

The Secretary of State’s approval is set out in a formal letter and agreement. The terms have been updated from time to time since the first approval in 2003.

The current letter is available here: 2017 Letter of Approval.

Due to a temporary suspension of routine inspections - as a result of Government guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic - the current inspection cycle has been extended until summer 2023:

Extension of inspection cycle due to the Covid-19 pandemic (2021)

Prior to the first approval, ISI inspections had no official place in the statutory inspection scheme but existed essentially to support accreditation to membership of independent school associations and provide challenge to existing members.


More about ISI’s History