What ISI does
- This framework sets out ISI’s principles and method of inspection. It sets out the approach ISI takes, and how ISI inspections evaluate and report on the quality of provision in association independent schools. ISI inspection reports include a clear statement on the extent to which The Independent School Standards1 and other relevant standards2 (collectively referred to in this Framework as ‘the Standards’) are met. All reports include guidance for governors and leaders relating to recommended development activity following inspection. All reports state clearly whether the school’s safeguarding practice meets required standards.
- This framework provides school leaders with a clear structure to demonstrate and articulate how they fulfil their existing responsibility to ensure that the Standards are met. This includes within the leadership and management standard, the overarching responsibility to actively promote the wellbeing of pupils. School leaders may choose to use the structure of the proposed framework to inform the school’s own quality assurance of its provision and its impact, which in turn could inform the assurance process for governance.
- The scope of evaluation for pupil wellbeing (as specifically defined in s10(2) of the Children Act 2004) is set by reference to the existing requirements of the Standards, which schools currently have to meet. Pupil wellbeing, as defined by the statute, is holistic and not a separate measure. Therefore, evidence of pupil wellbeing is found in all aspects of school life.
- ISI is formally approved by the Secretary of State for Education to inspect more than 1200 independent schools in England, which together educate over half a million children and young people each year. The schools ISI inspects are members of associations affiliated to the Independent Schools Council3. ISI reports to the Secretary of State for Education on the extent to which these schools meet the Standards and other relevant standards. ISI publishes all inspection reports on its website, and schools must also publish their inspection reports.
- 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 20084 (section 106). The Secretary of State has a parallel power in relation to the inspection of boarding care in schools in the Children Act 19895 (section 87A).
- The Department for Education (DfE) publishes detailed expectations6 of independent inspectorates which must be met for continued approval. The Secretary of State’s approval of ISI is set out in a formal letter7 and agreement.
- Further details about ISI and its work can be found on the website8.
Values and principles of inspection
- ISI has four values which also place children’s wellbeing first and foremost. These values shape its work, help guide decisions and permeate the culture of the inspectorate:
- Children first: Children and their wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do.
- Diversity: We promote a culture of inclusivity in our workplace and report robustly on how well schools meet standards relating to equality, diversity and inclusion.
- Integrity: We are independent of the schools we inspect. This allows us to deliver fair and objective judgements.
- Transparency: We publish all inspection reports, our annual accounts and an annual data report. We share information on how we recruit and train our inspectors, how we inspect and how we quality assure our own work.
- ISI has four inspection principles on which its inspection practice is built. These are:
- Manageability: ISI understands that inspection is a significant event for a school and will promote practices on inspection that, as far as possible, align with the day-to-day life of the school and do not cause unnecessary workload for the school or for the inspection team.
- Collaboration: Inspectors will seek to work alongside school leaders and staff where appropriate to do so, discussing evidence and sharing emerging findings.
- Triangulation and typicality: Inspectors will consider a range of evidence when forming evaluations on inspection. Inspectors will look for evidence of what would be typical provision for pupils at the school over time. Inspectors will consider a range of connected evidence, including school records and by confirming the context of what inspectors are seeing, hearing and reading on inspection.
- Proportionality: When judging the extent to which a school meets the Standards, inspectors will exercise their professional judgement. Where there are some relative weaknesses or minor errors that can be easily rectified, inspectors will take a proportionate approach. Inspectors will consider if those weaknesses amount to a failure to meet one or more of the Standards. Weaknesses or errors which are indicative of systemic failings in the school’s processes and/or provision will lead to a judgement that the relevant Standards are unmet.
Promoting effective quality assurance
- ISI supports all schools and stakeholders in understanding the nature and reach of the Standards, and how the assurance and inspection process works. As part of this framework, and to support ongoing engagement with and understanding of the assurance process, ISI will continue to develop ways to disseminate its expert knowledge.
- ISI, through this inspection framework, aims to extend understanding of the assurance framework in a way that helps schools, their governors and leaders, to embed effective quality assurance.
- Inspection forms a part of the wider assurance framework and should not be seen as the only form of quality assurance. Internal school-based quality assurance, captured in a dynamic self-evaluation and review format, can support schools in their pursuit of excellence and provide assurance to governors and relevant external agencies.
- ISI is keen to work with schools to develop a clear and supportive self-evaluation format that will help schools to articulate their accountability. The proposed framework will support this as it contains all aspects of the Standards.
- Schools may choose to use the structure of the proposed framework for their ongoing self-evaluation of provision. Inspectors will consider a school’s self-evaluation in any form that schools use for their own quality assurance processes. Inspection should always be a robust and rigorous independent external evaluation of the school’s provision. ISI believes that this can work alongside schools’ own internal processes and that there is benefit when internal and external systems speak to each other.
- ISI supports even greater engagement with schools in developing their own internal ongoing assurance processes which are aligned to the external quality assurance process that inspection provides. ISI believes this will enhance strong provision and have a positive outcome for pupils across all aspects of school life.
Promoting pupils' wellbeing
- This inspection framework places the responsibility of the school's leadership and management and governance to actively promote the wellbeing of pupils9 at the centre of ISI's evaluation of the school.
- This is because Part 8 of the Standards (Quality of leadership and management of schools) places a duty on the proprietor to ensure that persons with leadership and management responsibilities at the school:
- demonstrate good skills and knowledge appropriate to their role so that the Standards are met consistently
- fulfil their responsibilities effectively so that the Standards are met consistently; and
- actively promote the wellbeing of pupils.
- The meaning of 'wellbeing' for the purposes of the Standards, and ISI's values, is defined by section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004 as relating to:
- Pupils' physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Protection of pupils from harm and neglect
- Pupils' education, training and recreation
- Pupils' contribution to society
- Pupils' social and economic wellbeing.
- This approach does not place any additional responsibility on schools or introduce additional requirements that are not already contained in the Standards. School leaders are already required to 'actively promote the wellbeing of pupils'. The definition of 'wellbeing' is clearly articulated by statute and incorporated in the Standards. Evidence of effective provision can be clearly demonstrated as stated in the framework across many aspects of school life which are covered by the Standards.
Involvement of pupils on inspection
- This inspection framework promotes the active seeking of pupils' views, both on inspection and as part of the day-to-day life of a school. Pupils' views, wishes and feelings about their school experience should be taken into account by the school.
- The proprietor and leaders and managers should enable pupils to communicate, develop positive relationships with staff, and make their views known. In the case of boarders, the proprietor and leaders and managers must ensure that standards relating to boarders’ rights, advocacy and complaints10 are met.
- Many schools have already developed very effective ways of listening to pupils, hearing from them and noticing what supports or hinders their flourishing. Inspection reports recognise where this is working well, and the school is actively promoting the wellbeing of pupils.
- ISI promotes listening to children and young people on inspection to ensure that school inspections effectively hear the voice of the child.
- Hearing the views of pupils is an important aspect of inspection practice and is triangulated with other inspection evidence. Inspectors will continue to be interested to hear from school leaders how pupil voice is heard and acted upon by the school.
The inspection framework
- This part of the ISI framework details areas of provision that must be in place in order for schools to actively promote the wellbeing of pupils, as defined by section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004. This definition covers all aspects of school provision contained in the Standards. The section headings below will also be the section headings of the inspection report.
The emphasis and structure of the framework and reporting
- This inspection framework uses the statutory definition of wellbeing as a starting point for its approach to school evaluation. Therefore, it supports school leaders in articulating the impact of their leadership by providing a structured approach to demonstrating how they meet the existing requirement to actively promote the wellbeing of pupils.
- The framework and inspection reports start with a summary of inspection findings.
- Section 1: Leadership and management, and governance. This framework emphasises that leadership and management refer to leadership throughout the school as required by the Standards and does not refer only to senior leadership in a school. Inspectors understand the distinction between the roles and responsibilities of governance and those of executive leadership/management.
- Section 2: Pupils' education, training and recreation. The evaluation of the quality of education will contain clear reporting of pupils' progress and outcomes.
- Section 3: Pupils' physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing with reference to the Standards and any applicable statutory guidance.
- Section 4: Pupils' social and economic wellbeing and contribution to society. This section will include evaluation of careers provision.
- The final section on Safeguarding will form the concluding section of the framework and inspection report. The word 'safeguarding' will incorporate reference to the protection of pupils from harm and neglect and will refer to applicable statutory guidance.
- This framework takes an integrated approach to the different sets of standards which may apply to schools, depending on the individual school's context. This thematic approach recognises and promotes a holistic understanding of the complexities and interconnectedness of school life. The specific areas to be considered within each of the sections of the framework incorporate the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 201411, the National Minimum Standards for boarding schools12 and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework13 into this framework. A table showing how all of these standards map onto the structure of this framework is included in Appendix A.
- In summary, the structure of the framework and inspection report is:
- Summary of overall inspection findings
- Section 1: Leadership and management, and governance
- Section 2: Pupils' education, training and recreation, to include pupils' outcomes
- Section 3: Pupils' physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Section 4: Pupils' social and economic wellbeing and contribution to society
- Reporting on the Early Years Foundation Stage and National Minimum Standards for boarding will be included as applicable.
Summary of inspection findings
- The summary section of the report will provide parents and other stakeholders with an evaluative overview of the main inspection findings. It will summarise inspection findings relating to the quality of provision in each section of the framework. It will conclude with a statement on the effectiveness of the school's arrangements to safeguard pupils.
Section 1: Leadership and management, and governance
- Inspectors will evaluate and report on the impact of leadership at all levels in a school because the Standards refer to the skills, knowledge and actions of those with leadership and management responsibilities at the school. Inspectors will consider evidence about how leaders at all levels demonstrate good skills and knowledge appropriate to their role, and how they fulfil their responsibilities effectively.
- Inspectors will consider a range of sources of evidence, including evidence of how those with governance responsibility assure themselves that leaders and managers are fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the Standards are met.
Skills and knowledge
- The proprietor (to include those with governance responsibility) must ensure that those with leadership and management responsibilities at the school ('leadership'):
- have good and appropriate skills and knowledge14, and
- fulfil their responsibilities effectively and consistently.
- Leadership must ensure that the school's aims and ethos (including any religious ethos and/or boarding principles) are available in writing to parents and staff, and are known to pupils, and are seen to work well in practice.
- Leadership should ensure effective self-evaluation15 at the school of the effectiveness in leadership's delivery of the school's ethos and aims, so that pupils' wellbeing is actively promoted, and the requirements of the standards are met. Leadership must ensure that effective action is taken where necessary.
- Leadership must ensure effective and consistent implementation of all policies and documents required by standards applicable to the school, and that policies comply with relevant legislation, have regard to applicable guidance, and are understood by staff and pupils.
- Leadership must ensure that appropriate information is made available and provided in accordance with all relevant legislation, regulations and applicable guidance.
- Leadership must establish effective links with other agencies to promote and benefit the wellbeing of pupils (including boarders) as required in statutory guidance and recommended in advice issued by the DfE which is applicable to the school.
Understanding and management of risk
- The proprietor must ensure that leaders and managers have the skills, knowledge and understanding to actively promote the wellbeing of all pupils through taking a strategic, comprehensive and inclusive approach to identifying and managing the risk of harm to pupils' wellbeing. As a result, leadership must safeguard and promote the wellbeing of pupils through effectively identifying risk of harm and take appropriate action to reduce risks that are identified. Pupils' (including any boarders') health needs must be met, and their physical and emotional wellbeing actively promoted.
- This may include adapting existing risk strategies as necessary to identify and manage the risk to pupils' wellbeing of pupils experiencing harmful behaviours and attitudes. In some cases, these risks may be harder to spot, and less obvious to existing risk mitigation strategies. Therefore, leadership should have the appropriate skills and knowledge to ensure that they appreciate and understand the prevalence16 of potentially harmful behaviours, and therefore do not consider avoidable harms unavoidable. Leaders and managers should understand their own influence and role in risk management and the prevention of harm(s)17 which may negatively impact pupils' wellbeing.
- In fulfilling their responsibilities effectively and consistently, leadership should be aware that positive feedback from the majority of pupils can mask smaller groups of pupils, or individual pupils who have harmful, but hidden, negative experiences. Leaders and managers should take a proactive approach, as indicated by the wording of the Standards, to promote the wellbeing of all pupils.
- Leadership must ensure that information is provided as required by relevant standards18.
- Leadership must ensure that a complaints procedure is effectively implemented as required by relevant standards19.
Section 2: Pupils' education, training and recreation
- The quality of education, training and recreation, which includes pupil progress, is fundamental to the evaluation of a school's provision for pupils. It is central in both the Standards and the statutory definition of pupil wellbeing. Therefore, it forms a prominent part of the evaluation during the inspection and reporting process.
Education and training
- Leadership must ensure that all pupils' education and experience of the school's curriculum results from leaders' effective implementation of appropriate plans, schemes of work, and programmes of activities that are appropriate to pupils' needs in the following areas:
- human and social20
- aesthetic and creative
- speaking, listening, literacy22 and numeracy
- Leadership must ensure that pupils' experience of the curriculum takes into account pupils' ages, aptitudes and needs, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
- For pupils below compulsory school age, leadership must ensure that pupils experience a programme of activities which is appropriate to their educational needs in relation to their communication and language development, with reference to the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework currently in place.
Teaching, learning and assessment
- Leadership must ensure that:
- enables all pupils to acquire new knowledge and make good progress according to their ability and does not discriminate23 against pupils or promote partisan political views
- does not undermine the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
- A framework is in place to evaluate pupils' work and performance regularly and thoroughly, which refers to:
- the school's aims as provided to parents, and/or
- national norms
- Particulars of the school's academic performance during the preceding school year, including the results of any public examinations, are made available to parents of pupils and prospective pupils.
- Leadership must ensure that teachers at the school:
- plan lessons well
- demonstrating good knowledge and understanding of the subject matter being taught, and
- with understanding of the aptitudes, needs and prior attainment of pupils, gained from regular and thorough assessment of pupils' work
- use effective teaching methods and activities
- manage class time and pupils' behaviour well
- use a range of good quality classroom resources well
- are interested in their work
- apply intellectual, physical and creative effort
- act responsibly
- are self-motivated, thinking and learning for themselves.
- plan lessons well
Special educational needs and/or disabilities
- The Standards apply to all pupils in a school. Therefore, if a school has pupils who are identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)24, including pupils with an education, health and care (EHC) plan, leadership must ensure that policies, plans, schemes of work, teaching and assessment take into account their needs. Details of the educational and welfare provisions for pupils with EHC Plans and for pupils for whom English is an additional language must be made available as required by the relevant standards.
- The Standards place a responsibility on the proprietor, school leaders and teachers to identify and meet the needs of all pupils and to plan the curriculum and teaching taking into account their aptitudes and prior attainment. A school's processes for the identification and meeting of pupils' special education needs will be considered on inspection.
- Leadership must ensure that pupils are not discriminated against, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, and must proactively consider the need to make reasonable adjustments for pupils with a disability.
- Leadership must ensure that pupils above compulsory school age experience a programme of activities which is appropriate to their needs. These activities should be well thought through, age-appropriate opportunities for all pupils to develop the daily living skills, independence, health and employment skills needed by them for their future lives, taking account of their age and needs.
- Recreation is one aspect of pupils' wellbeing. While there is no preferred method for providing recreational activities for pupils, the NMS for boarding schools (which must be met in boarding provision) provide helpful principles for the proprietor, leaders and managers of all schools.
- Leadership should ensure that pupils develop their emotional, intellectual, social, creative and physical skills through the accessible and stimulating environment created by the school.
- All pupils should access a good range and choice of activities outside teaching time, including sufficient and suitably timed free time each day. Suitable risk assessments must be in place.
Section 3: Pupils' physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Leadership must ensure that the school's curriculum policy is implemented effectively through appropriate plans and schemes of work which:
- reflect the school's aims and ethos, and
- encourage mutual trust and respect for other people, particularly those with protected characteristics25 (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership), and
- develop pupils' spiritual and moral knowledge and understanding
- actively promote development of pupils' self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Leadership must ensure that all pupils' experience of the school's curriculum results from leaders' effective implementation of appropriate plans, schemes of work, and programmes of activities that are appropriate to pupils' needs in the following areas:
- physical education
- personal and health education
- Leadership must ensure that pupils receive either relationships education or relationships and sex education (as applicable)26 and the latest statutory guidance relating to relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education27 as set out in the Standards and other relevant legislation is followed.
- Leaders and managers must promote good behaviour by pupils and ensure that the school has a written behaviour policy drawn up that, among other matters, sets out the sanctions to be adopted in the event of pupils' misbehaviour28. The behaviour policy should have regard to available guidance29.
- Leadership must ensure that the behaviour policy is understood by staff and pupils and is implemented fairly and consistently. If applicable, standards relating to promoting positive behaviour for boarders must be met.
- Leadership should ensure that any prefect system (or equivalent) gives prefects (or equivalent) appropriate specific duties and responsibilities that are appropriate for them. The NMS for boarding schools (which must be met in boarding provision) provide helpful principles for the proprietor, leaders and managers of all schools.
- Leadership must ensure that an effective anti-bullying strategy is in place which actively prevents and minimises bullying at the school. They should ensure that any instances of bullying are dealt with effectively, and staff help children to overcome the impact of bullying. All staff must be trained to recognise and deal with bullying.
- For pupils below compulsory school age30, leadership must ensure that pupils experience an appropriate programme of activities which promotes their personal, emotional and physical development.
- Leadership must ensure that the provision and maintenance of premises and accommodation, including suitable accommodation to provide for pupils’ medical and therapy needs, fulfils applicable standards to provide a safe physical environment for pupils, and that accommodation meets all applicable standards31. All applicable standards relating to provision for boarders’ health and wellbeing needs must be met.
- Leadership must ensure that pupils are properly supervised through appropriate deployment of school staff.
- Leadership must ensure that the school's admission and attendance register is maintained in accordance with the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.
- Leadership must ensure that relevant health and safety laws, including the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, are complied with, and that applicable standards relating to safe evacuation are met.
- Leadership must ensure that first aid is administered in a timely and competent manner.
- Leadership must ensure that good quality sleeping and living accommodation32 is provided for boarders, which meets the requirements of the relevant standards, and that provision for boarders' possessions33 meets the required standards.
- Where a boarding school provides food and drink for pupils, leadership must ensure that it meets the required standards, and that pupils with disabilities are provided with appropriate assistance to eat, in a manner which promotes dignity and choice34.
- Leadership must ensure that arrangements are made to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils40 that meet the requirements of the Standards and (as applicable), the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework, The National Minimum Standards for boarding schools, the National Minimum Standards for Residential Special Schools41 or the National Minimum Standards for Accommodation of Children under Eighteen by Further Education Colleges.42
- Inspection findings with regard to safeguarding are based on the evidence available to inspectors at the time of inspection. Inspectors probe and evaluate this evidence carefully and robustly, informed by applicable statutory guidance. However, inspection cannot provide absolute assurance that a school is safe.
- The proprietor must ensure that leaders and managers have effective arrangements in place:
- to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils which fulfil the requirements of the latest statutory guidance43 and any other safeguarding regulations applicable to the school
- that promote the school's effective working with other partnerships and agencies to safeguard pupils and protect them from harm
- that effective measures are taken to manage risk and protect pupils from harm, and to manage well any incidents that do occur.
- Leadership must ensure that the school has effective arrangements, reviewed regularly, to ensure that pupils know how to stay safe while online.
- Leadership must ensure that the applicable requirements of the Standards44 relating to the suitability of staff, supply staff and proprietors are met.
- The inspection team will consider how effectively leadership actively promotes the wellbeing of all children in early years provision at the school when making judgements for the whole school.
- An evaluation of the school's provision for children from birth to five is also reported in accordance with the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.45
- Any provision for children in a setting that is registered with Ofsted is evaluated and reported in accordance with the requirements of Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework46 and associated guidance.
- Leadership must ensure that arrangements are made to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils47 for whom the school provides accommodation (boarders), which meet the requirements of (as applicable) the National Minimum Standards for boarding schools.48
- The inspection team will consider how effectively leadership actively promotes the wellbeing of boarders at the school when making judgements for the whole school.
- Any specific aspects of provision relevant only to boarding pupils, and not covered elsewhere in the report, will be reported under a section in the report on boarding.
- The inspection team will use their professional judgement to report on the quality of provision at the school through evaluating outcomes for pupils. The inspection report will be evidence based and will reflect what inspectors saw, read, heard and noticed as part of the inspection. Evaluation will result from careful consideration of the inspection evidence. The report will be written in clear and unambiguous language.
- Inspection reporting is evaluative, both in the text of the report and through identifying strengths and areas for development. Evaluation will be based on evidence of impact and outcomes for pupils as a result of leaders' effective decision making and planning.
The standard of provision
- Inspection reports will reflect inspection findings regarding the complex and wide-ranging nature of school provision and the breadth of impact for pupils. Each section of the report (which corresponds to the sections of the framework) will report clearly and with supporting evidence the extent to which the Standards are being met.
- The summary section of the inspection report will give a balanced evaluative overview of provision at the school. It will describe the main areas of strength and any relative weaknesses relating to all sections of the framework.
- In the summary section, inspectors will:
- recommend next steps where standards are met, and/or
- give an overview of areas for action where standards are not met.
- In addition, inspectors may:
- highlight any areas of provision that have been identified on inspection as significant strengths;
- where standards are unmet, state whether there are serious and/or multiple failings in the school's provision.
- Each section of the report relating to the four sections of the framework will describe more fully, the strengths, relative weaknesses, any significant strengths and where standards are not met whether there are serious and/or multiple failings in the school’s provision.
Significant strengths in provision
- If the inspection team consider that there is significant strength in any aspect of the school's provision which directly relates to the four sections of this framework, this may be included in the report. Any such strength of provision must result in clear, demonstrable and highly beneficial impact for pupils. School leaders will have identified and reviewed any potential for unintended consequences, for example negative impact or denial of opportunity for pupils who do not benefit from the particular aspect of provision. School leaders will have taken appropriate action in response.
- Significant strengths can apply to the following sections of the framework:
- Section 1: Leadership and management, and governance.
- Section 2; Pupils' education, training and recreation.
- Section 3: Pupils' physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Section 4: Pupils' social and economic wellbeing and contribution to society.
- In evaluating significant strength in provision, inspectors will identify that the significant strength of provision fulfils the following criteria:
- shows a deep understanding of and aspiration for pupils' development of knowledge, skills, and understanding
- is attributable to the knowledge, skills and decision making of leaders, managers and/or staff
- has very clear and highly beneficial impact for pupils involved, with consideration and mitigation of risk of detriment or denial of opportunity to other pupils.
- Significant strengths in provision should be apparent to the inspection team as part of their ongoing inspection activity without signposting from school leaders. Inspectors should be mindful that school leaders may want to bring to the inspection team's attention aspects of school provision that leaders consider are significant strengths. If any such signposting dominates the inspection discourse or interferes with the ability of inspectors to inspect provision against this framework, the reporting inspector should respectfully remind school leaders that the primary purpose of inspection is to evaluate the totality of provision against this framework. The reporting inspector may also wish to remind school leaders that evaluation of significant strengths lies with the inspection team and request that any excessive signposting ceases.
- Inspectors will test the impact of significant strength in provision through a range of evidence, which may include (where appropriate) the views of pupils, parents and staff; documentation including school records; observation; scrutiny of pupils' work and other measures of pupil progress.
- A single inspection report could recognise significant strengths and refer to serious and/or multiple failings. This approach will provide clear and nuanced feedback for the school, its pupils and parents.
Specific and serious and/or multiple failings in the school's provision
- Where the inspection team consider that there are serious failings in the school’s provision and/or provision is such that the multiple standards within the Standards are not met, the inspection team will indicate this in the report. This will be included in the summary section of the report and in the relevant section(s) of the report.
- Serious and/or multiple failings in the school’s provision will be notified immediately following the inspection to the DfE so that enforcement action49 can be considered as a priority.
Recommended next steps and areas for action
- All reports will include guidance for governors and leaders relating to recommended development activity following inspection. This may include recommended next steps and/or area/s for action.
- If the proprietor, leaders and managers have ensured that all standards are met consistently, recommended next steps will record what the inspection team reflect would be helpful development points for the school. Recommended next steps will be discussed with school leaders.
- If the proprietor, leaders and managers have not ensured that all standards are met consistently, area/s for action will also be included in the report relating to the aspects of provision that have not met the requirements of the Standards. Recommended next steps may still be included in the report relating to aspects of provision where standards have been met. Where standards are not met, areas for action will refer to those relevant unmet standard/s with a high-level overview of what needs to be improved so that those standards are met. Where any standards are unmet, areas for action will be shared with school leaders and, during final feedback, those responsible for governance.
How schools will be inspected
Frequency and type of inspection
- There is one type of routine inspection, and each school should typically be inspected routinely once every three years. The resulting report will follow the structure of this framework.
- There are three types of non-routine inspections, which are reported on specific report templates depending on which type of inspection is commissioned by the DfE:
Material Change50: This occurs when a school applies to change the terms of its registration with the DfE, for example by extending its age range.
Progress Monitoring: This occurs when a school has failed to meet the standards on a scheduled inspection and is visited to inspect for improvement.
Additional: This occurs when the DfE have reason for a school to be inspected urgently.
- Routine inspections are usually announced, and schools are given a maximum of two days’ notice. Usually, the school will be notified, by a telephone call from a member of the ISI delivery team, the day before the onsite inspection commences. The reporting inspector will speak with the headteacher in a pre-inspection call at a convenient time on the same day as the notification call to discuss the inspection process, and answer any questions the headteacher may have.
- The DfE specifies the notice period to be given for non-routine inspections. If the inspection is to be unannounced, the school is usually contacted up to an hour before the inspection team arrives on site.
- The focus of onsite inspection is to see the school in its day-to-day operation and to hear the views of pupils. Time will be spent with leadership to hear about strategic planning, but the majority of time will be spent by inspectors undertaking planned inspection activities and 'out and about' in the school. Inspectors will speak with as many people as possible, including pupils, staff, parents, leaders, the proprietor/s, governors and the Chair of Governors. The reporting inspector will keep in touch with the headteacher frequently during the onsite inspection. At the end of the onsite inspection, the reporting inspector and team will give provisional feedback to the school on the emerging findings of the inspection. These findings do not become final until the publication of the inspection report.
- There are three types of ISI inspector:
- Reporting inspector (RI) who leads the inspection, directs the inspection team and writes the report
- Team inspector (TI) who is a member of the inspection team, evaluates provision at the school and contributes to the team judgement
- Associate inspector (AI) who supports the inspection through shadowing the inspection team and may record evidence but does not contribute to the team judgements. An associate inspector will be aspiring to senior leadership in an association school. Each association school can nominate one associate inspector.51
- All inspectors will receive initial and regular update training appropriate to their role. Inspectors draw on the experience of the independent school sector and have appropriate specialist knowledge. Following a DBS check, all inspectors must hold a clear enhanced DBS certificate and be a member of the DBS update service.
Code of conduct for inspectors
- Inspectors must adhere to the code of conduct. Inspectors are required to uphold the highest professional standards in relation to all who are involved in the process of inspection, before during and after the inspection.
- Inspectors will:
- uphold ISI's values at all times and evaluate objectively in line with ISI's frameworks and regulatory requirements
- maintain up-to-date knowledge of ISI's inspection frameworks, handbook, policies and practice and associated regulatory requirements and guidance
- maintain strict confidentiality about the timing and scheduling of inspections
- declare all actual and perceived conflicts of interest and have no real or perceived connection with the school prior to or following inspection, which could undermine the integrity of the inspection
- act in the best interests of the pupils at the school and prioritise the safeguarding and welfare of children at all times
- act promptly and in line with ISI guidance on any safeguarding or health and safety issues that may arise on inspection
- work with professionalism, sensitivity and integrity, treating all with respect and courtesy
- follow requirements and good practice in relation to the secure management of information
- be mindful of the additional workload that inspection can create, be sensitive to the needs of school staff and take reasonable steps to prevent undue anxiety and stress
- avoid any requests or suggestions that may cause undue disruption to business as usual for the school
- communicate regularly and productively with school leaders, keep them informed of emerging findings and judgements clearly and honestly
- evaluate the work of the school objectively and impartially supported by clear and secure evidence
- report fairly and without favour ensuring that judgements are reliable
- respect the confidentiality of inspection evidence and judgements
- wear their ISI inspector identification badge at all times when on school premises
- use their ISI inspector title only in relation to their inspection work for ISI.
Guidance for schools
- In order to facilitate a professional and positive working relationship, we request that school leaders and staff:
- treat inspectors with professionalism, respect, courtesy and candour
- ensure any inspection surveys, or other communications with parents and pupils requested by the reporting inspector, are sent out promptly
- engage with and facilitate the inspection process and enable inspectors to carry out their work in an honest and open way against ISI’s framework and the Standards
- provide access to evidence that will enable inspectors to evaluate the work of the school fairly and reliably
- facilitate necessary meetings with proprietors, leaders, staff and pupils
- work with inspectors to minimise disruption to the normal working school day
- work with inspectors to minimise anxiety, stress or additional workload for staff
- ensure the health and safety of inspectors while on school premises
- maintain regular and productive communication with inspectors
- raise any concerns promptly with the reporting inspector
- respect the confidentiality of information about the inspection and inspectors.
- If access to inspection evidence is not facilitated, inspectors may reasonably conclude that the Standards are not met.
Quality assurance and complaints
- ISI's internal quality assurance processes involve a number of different stages, all of which serve to ensure that our inspections findings are fair and reliable and that our reports are clear and based on robust evidence.
- Inspectors are carefully selected and properly trained. They also receive regular updates about our work and any changes to regulations or requirements. Reporting inspectors are assessed for suitability at every stage of their recruitment and training before they lead inspections. As part of their training, reporting inspectors shadow inspections, they are supported by experienced reporting inspectors and are monitored for their suitability.
- ISI has a process for monitoring the quality of the work of all inspectors. ISI has a group of experienced reporting inspectors who work as monitors. ISI gathers information from team and reporting inspectors, monitors and from those conducting quality assurance tasks. Following every inspection, we ask school leaders for their views about how the inspection was conducted. We feed this back and provide appropriate additional training and guidance when necessary. Where inspectors fall short of our expectations, we take action.
- On inspection, evidence is gathered recorded and evaluated by the inspection team. The inspection team share and discuss the evidence, agree on judgements and develop areas for action. Triangulation of evidence is key to the formation of the judgements. Judgements are made corporately by the inspection team. A team of experienced inspectors is available on duty for support and these senior inspectors are available to give advice on any inspection. They regularly join inspections to check the quality and consistency of our work.
- The reporting inspector writes the inspection report shortly after the end of the onsite inspection. All inspection reports are subject to our quality assurance processes. These involve ensuring that the evidence supports the judgements reached onsite. We also check reports to ensure that they clearly state the reasons for the judgements. A copy of the draft report is sent to the school so that leaders can check for any inaccuracies. This is called the factual accuracy check (FAC).
- When the report is finalised, following quality assurance, a final copy of the report is sent to the school prior to publication on our website. At this stage, the school will be invited to give feedback on the inspection process. The final report is also sent to the DfE.
- ISI has a complaints process52 which can involve an independent adjudicator.
Appendix A: Mapping of standards to framework
Mapping of standards to framework
The standards are mapped for reporting purposes. This mapping indicates the sections of the report where focus areas are most likely to be reported. During inspection there may be overlap between standards and areas of the framework. This aligns with our thematic approach to inspection.
The reporting of systemic areas contained in paragraphs 3 (teaching), 4 (framework for pupils’ performance) and 5 (SMSC development) may be reported under any of Sections 2, 3 or 4 of the report depending on the inspection evidence.
Inspectors will consider the relevant NMS and EYFS requirements in the various sections of the report. The mapping of the NMS and EYFS is provided as guidance.
Section 1: Leadership and management and governance
All parts and specifically:
Part 3, paragraph 16 risk
Part 6 all paragraphs provision of information
Part 7 all paragraphs complaints
Part 8, paragraphs 34 (1)(a),(b) and (c) and 34(2) leadership
Does the school reject the use of corporal punishment?
Does the school fulfil its duties under schedule 10 of the Equality Act 2010?
NMS 1 (Statement of boarding principles and practice)
NMS 2 (Management of boarding)
NMS 9.3–9.5 (Risk assessment and major incident)
NMS 14 (Complaints)
All sections and specifically:
1.17 (work force)
2.15 (EYFS profile results to LA)
3.19 (staff and medications etc.)
3.20-3.23, 3.26 (qualifications, training and support)
3.28 – 3.42 (ratios)
3.49 (food hygiene training)
3.65 (risk assessment)
3.68 (provision for SEND)
3.69-3.74 (information and records)
3.77 (information about the provider)
Section 2: Pupils’ education, training and recreation to include pupils’ outcomes
Part 1, paragraphs 2(1)(a) and (b), (curriculum stem)
Part 1, paragraphs 2(2)(a), (b)(c),(f),(g) and (h) curriculum
Part 1, paragraphs 3(a),(b),(c),(d),(e),(f),(g),(h),(i), (j) teaching
Part 1, paragraph 4 assessment
NMS 18 (Activities and free time)
1.3-1.5 (prime and specific areas of learning)
1.6 (areas of learning)
1.11-1.16 (other learning and development considerations)
2.4-2.6 (two-year old check)
2.9-2.14 (EY profile)
3.68 (SEND provision and outcomes)
Section 3: Pupils’ physical and mental health and wellbeing
Part 1, 2(1)(a) and (b), (curriculum stem)
Part 1, paragraphs 2A(1),(a)(b),(d),(e),(f) and (g) RSE
Part 1, paragraph 2(2)(d) personal and health only
Part 1, paragraph 2A(2) and 2(A)(3) RSE consent
Part 2, paragraphs 5(b)(i), spiritual and moral only (self)
Part 3, paragraphs 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 behaviour, bullying, H&S, fire, first aid and attendance
Part 5 all paragraphs premises and accommodation
NMS 4 (Boarding accommodation)
NMS 5 (Boarders’ possessions)
NMS 6 (Food and drink)
NMS 7 (Boarders’ health and wellbeing)
NMS 9.1, 9.2 (Health and safety)
NMS 10 (Fire safety)
NMS 11.1 – 11.3 (Induction, travel and staff support)
NMS 12 (Contact with parents)
NMS 13 (Securing boarders’ views)
NMS 15 (Behaviour)
NMS 16 (Bullying)
NMS 17 (Promoting good relationships)
NMS 20 (Staffing and supervision)
NMS 21 (Prefects)
NMS 22.3 (Guardianship promotes boarders’ wellbeing)
1.3 (aspects of physical development)
1.3 Personal and emotional development (understand own feelings; manage emotions; develop positive sense of self; set simple goals; confidence in own abilities; wait for what wanted; direct attention as necessary; look after own bodies (healthy eating); manage personal needs)
3.25 (PFA qualifications)
3.27 (key person)
3.48 (food and drink)
3.53-3.54 (managing behaviour)
Section 4: Pupils’ social and economic wellbeing and contribution to society, to include careers education
Part 1, 2(1)(a) and (b), (curriculum stem)
Part 1, paragraphs 2(2)(d), social and economic only
Part 1, 2(2)(e) and (i) career and preparation for British society
Part 2, paragraphs 5(a),(b)(ii),(iii),(iv)(v),(vi),(vii) social and cultural (self and society)
Part 2, paragraphs 5(c) and (d) partisan views
NMS 3 (Inclusion, Equality and Diversity)
Understanding the world (make sense of their physical world and community)
Social development (understand the feelings of others; how to make good friendships; social skills of cooperation and conflict resolution; appropriate behaviour in groups)
Part 3, paragraphs 7(a)and (b) safeguarding
Part 3, paragraphs 8(a) and b)
Part 4 all paragraphs suitability
NMS 8 (Safeguarding)
NMS 11.4 – 11.6 (Independent listener, contacts and advocacy)
NMS 19 (Recruitment and checks on adults)
NMS 22 (Educational guardians) (N.B 22.3 included in Section 3)
NMS 23 (Lodgings and host families)
3.1-3.3 (safeguarding and welfare)
3.4-3.8 (child protection)
3.9 and 3.11-3.14 (suitable people)
3.27 (key person)
- ‘other relevant standards’ referred to here are those in the EYFS statutory framework and the NMS for boarding schools and any other standards that may from time to time be applicable to the schools inspected by ISI.
- under the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (see paragraph 34(1)(c) of the Schedule).
- See Part F, Standards 11 to 14 of the National Minimum Standards for boarding schools
- The National Minimum Standards for boarding schools, September 2022
- The breadth of what is considered ‘appropriate skills and knowledge’ for leaders and managers is therefore linked directly to the content of relevant standards which apply to the school.
- There is no preferred method for the school’s self-evaluation. It should be sufficient to assure the proprietor and leaders that the Standards are met consistently and that the wellbeing of pupils is actively promoted.
- Allnock, D. and Miller, P. (2013) No one noticed, no one heard: a study of disclosures of childhood abuse. London: NSPCC
- Part 6 ISSR
- Part 7 ISSR
- Considered under Section 4: Pupils’ social and economic wellbeing, and contribution to society
- Considered under Section 3: Pupils’ physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Where the principal language of instruction at the school is not English, pupils must have lessons in written and spoken English (unless all the pupils at the school are temporarily resident in England and the school follows the curriculum of another country).
- Contrary to Part 6 of the Equality Act 2010
- The protected characteristics as set out in The Equality Act 2010. Part 2, Chapter 1: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/part/2
- ISSR Part 1 para 2(A) https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/3283/schedule/paragraph/2A
- Relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education
- A record must be kept of the sanctions imposed upon pupils for serious misbehaviour.
- A child must start full-time education once they reach compulsory school age. This is on 31 December, 31 March or 31 August following their fifth birthday - whichever comes first. If a child’s fifth birthday is on one of those dates, then they reach compulsory school age on that date.
- Parts 3 and 4 of the The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014; the National Minimum Standards for boarding schools
- Standard 4 – Boarding accommodation NMS for boarding schools
- Standard 5 – Boarders’ possessions NMS for boarding schools
- Standard 6 NMS for boarding schools
- The protected characteristics as set out in Part 2, Chapter 1 of The Equality Act 2010
- Which are: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs (see Part 1 and Part 2 of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014)
- The fundamental British values are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
- whether or not the pupil is a pupil at the school
- Standard 13 National minimum standards for special schools
- Standard 11 Further education residential accommodation: national minimum standards
- Keeping Children Safe in Education and any other related applicable statutory guidance from time to time in force.
- ISSR part 4
- whether or not the pupil is a pupil at the school
- The National Minimum Standards for boarding schools, September 2022
- Independent schools Regulation and Enforcement Action Policy
- The Associate Inspector programme is intended to be introduced during year 2 of this framework.
- Education Act 1998 as amended by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998