Summary of who we are and what we do:


  • ISI’s purpose is to enable children to be safe, well-educated and to thrive.
  • Of the approximately 2360 independent schools in England, ISI inspects 1291 (55%) and the rest are inspected by Ofsted.  
  • We inspect those who are members of associations - these are The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, The Society of Heads, The Girls' School Association, The Independent Association of Prep Schools, The Independent Schools Association, The Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools, The Independent Schools' Bursars Association.  An affiliated member is the Boarding Schools Association.
  • In order to join an association, an independent school has to pass an Ofsted inspection.  It then joins an association and will be inspected by us.
  • Under the British Schools Overseas scheme, we inspect both state and independent schools internationally.



  • All independent schools in England, whether inspected by ISI or Ofsted, are inspected against the Independent School Standards
  • The Independent School Standards are set by the Department for Education
  • Each school we inspect has two routine inspections during a six-year period
  • We have two types of routine inspection:

Regulatory Compliance Inspection – every school will have one of these during our six-year inspection cycle. This inspection looks at whether the school’s policies and practices are compliant with the standards set by the DfE.

Educational Quality with Focused Compliance Inspection – every school will have one of these during our six-year inspection cycle. This inspection looks at the quality of education a school provides and checks a smaller section of policies and practices than a full Regulatory Compliance Inspection.

  • There are three other kinds of inspection: Material Change (when a school is changing its terms of reference with the DfE, say by taking in an extra year group), Progress Monitoring (when a school has failed to meet the standards on a scheduled inspection and is visited for a second time, to inspect for improvement), and Additional (when the DfE have reason to have a school inspected as soon as possible).
  • Once an inspection is complete, the inspection report is published both on the school’s own website and on
  • In 2019, we undertook 144 Regulatory Compliance Inspections and 219 Educational Quality Inspections. In the same period, the DfE commissioned us to undertake 55 Additional Inspections, 42 Material Change Visits and 63 Progress Monitoring Visits. We inspected 31 Private Further Education Colleges and carried out 17 British Schools Overseas (BSO) Inspections.
  • Our overall compliance rate for 2019 was 88%.


Quality Assurance

  • Our external quality assurance comes from Ofsted, who report to the DfE on our inspections on an annual basis. In 2019 ISI and Ofsted moved to a more collaborative relationship in order to share learning and best inspection practice. More information is here.
  • Our internal quality assurance is made up of an ongoing inspection survey and assessment tool, so that we can monitor the quality of our entire inspection body. This information guides our training, support and performance review process.
  • Other internal QA processes include thorough checking of evidence bases against report judgements by independent inspectors and inspection shadowing by specially trained inspectors.
  • We report regularly to the DfE with data on our inspections.


Our governance

  • We are a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. 
  • We have a board of independent directors who have been recruited for their skills and experience. The board adheres to the Nolan Principles of Public Life.
  • In order to move towards the highest possible standards of contemporary governance, we have two other committees: the Finance and Risk Committee, and the Nominations and Remuneration Committee. We also have an Educational Advisory Forum (EAF). These committees, and the EAF, support the Board in exercising its responsibilities. 
  • We receive no public funding and the independent schools we inspect pay for our activities.
  • Educational Quality Inspections, Regulatory Compliance Inspections, Progress Monitoring Visits and Additional Inspections are all covered in the annual fee that schools pay us for our inspection services. There is a separate charge for Material Change Inspections.


Peer-on-peer abuse

  • Our statement on peer-on-peer abuse is here.
  • We welcome the announcement of the Ofsted review into this issue. Our statement on it is here. 
  • Information on how we inspect safeguarding can be found here.
  • We have worked proactively with IICSA and are pleased to support its important work. For more information see here. 


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