21 March 2021


Hearing pupils' voices on inspection

The accounts and testimonies which have recently come to light on Everyone’s Invited are deeply disturbing.

ISI has read them with great sadness and acknowledges the courage of those who have posted. The abhorrent events described are shocking, and we sympathise deeply with those who have suffered.

ISI’s core purpose is to enable children to be safe, well-educated and to thrive. We fulfil this through inspecting over 1200 independent schools in England which are members, through their Associations, of the Independent Schools’ Council.

Pupils’ wellbeing is central to the standard of leadership expected in schools. All of our inspections report on the extent to which schools meet this standard. On inspection, we find out directly from pupils their feelings about school. Inspectors talk with pupils while they are in the school, both in meetings and informally. We also send out anonymous questionnaires to all pupils which ask about all areas of school life.

We constantly reflect on how our inspections can give pupils a range of opportunities to speak and share, so we can hear what they have to say. Recent events have emphasised to us the importance of continually reviewing our methods of doing this.

When inspecting schools, we also evaluate whether leaders and staff promote principles which actively encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.

This includes not only evaluating how effectively schools deal with discrimination in all its forms, including sexism, but also how well the school proactively promotes respectful and caring behaviour. Inspectors will review policies and, crucially, evaluate the impact of their implementation. 

We welcome new statutory guidance which requires all schools to teach Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) from the start of the summer term this year. RSE education promotes understanding for all pupils of healthy relationships.  Effective implementation of RSE by a school would ensure that, amongst other things, pupils treat each other well and are enabled to become respectful and kind adults. We acknowledge that this is already part of the core curriculum in many schools.

The RSE guidance emphasises the importance of making clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment are not acceptable, will never be tolerated and are not an inevitable part of growing up.”

On inspection, we see many examples of pupils’ healthy relationships, positive friendships and enjoyment of school. We also see some excellent examples of how schools promote the well-being of their pupils and encourage feedback from pupils.

However, we recognise that sometimes young people do not feel able to reflect on or share difficult or painful experiences. We believe that as a society, including all those involved in education, we need to continue to find ways to make that process easier for young people so that we hear what children have to say. As an inspectorate, we recognise we have an important part to play. We are committed to working with all those concerned for children’s welfare to address inappropriate behaviours which harm children.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate inspects and monitors the educational, boarding care and early years provision of association independent schools against the Independent School Standards, which are set by the government.  Where a school is found to be failing to meet any of the standards the DfE, as regulator, may take enforcement action.