Different Types of Inspection

This section outlines the different types of ISI inspection. More information on all types of inspection can be found in the ISI Inspection Framework. Schools can also access inspection information from the schools login area.

All ISI inspection frameworks are approved by the Department for Education. Schools undergo a scheduled inspection broadly every three years and safeguarding is a focus of all inspections.

The current framework provides for two types of scheduled inspection:

  • Educational Quality Inspections (which include a focused compliance inspection) and
  • Regulatory Compliance Inspections.

All schools inspected by ISI will receive one of each type between April 2016 and July 2022.

In addition, the Department for Education progress monitoring inspections, where a school is found not to be meeting acceptable standards. Further, where a concern about ISI is brought to ISI’s attention, this is shared with the DfE, the regulator of schools, which decides whether to leave the concern on file for the next inspection, commission an additional inspection or whether to bring forward the school’s next scheduled inspection.    

Educational Quality Inspections report on the two main outcomes for pupils:

  • Achievement, and
  • personal development. 

Reporting is with reference to contributory factors such as the curriculum, teaching and pastoral care.  

Regulatory Compliance Inspections report on a school’s compliance with the Independent School Standards Regulations, and where applicable the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).  These inspections result in a binary judgement of ‘met’ or ‘not met’ against each applicable standard. Focused Compliance Inspections cover key statutory requirement, in the absence of contrary indications.  Safeguarding, welfare, health and safety are a priority for all inspections.

An ‘additional inspection’ is an inspection commissioned by the DfE in addition to the usual cycle for the school; it reports against a limited number of regulatory requirements specified by the DfE for that inspection. By contrast, a ‘brought forward inspection’ advances the timing of the next scheduled inspection, be it a Regulatory Compliance Inspection or combined Educational Quality and Focused Compliance Inspection, and makes judgements against all the usual range of statutory requirements applying to that type of inspection. 

Material Change Inspections are part of the process by which independent schools can change the terms of their registration with the DfE. They are individually commissioned by the DfE to support their decision-making, where appropriate. More information about how ‘material change’ is defined and how to go about applying to make such a change are available from the DfE website. See Part E of Registration of Independent Schools (external link).

Previous ISI inspection frameworks provided for other inspection types including Integrated Inspections, Standard Inspections and Interim Inspections.  Each of these types of inspection reported against a different set of criteria but covered provision and outcomes for pupils and regulatory compliance in a combined report.  Intermediate inspections of boarding and EYFS focused on the requirements for boarders and younger children.

Notice periods

Inspections may be announced or unannounced.  Scheduled inspections are always announced; schools are given a maximum of two days’ notice.  Where the DfE commissions an additional or brought forward inspection, it specifies the notice period to be given. If it is to be unannounced, the school is contacted shortly before the inspection team arrives on site.  Thereafter, the inspection is conducted according to the usual protocols.  If the ISI is unable to contact the school by telephone the inspection team proceeds directly to the school and the inspection continues as planned.

Questionnaires and feedback

Pupils, parents and staff are invited to complete confidential questionnaires ahead of an inspection. The responses highlight areas for particular attention during the inspection.

Confidential communications and disclosures for all inspections

Staff may arrange confidential discussions with inspectors for any inspection by contacting the ISI office before the inspection. Before or during the inspection, parents and pupils may request confidential discussions with the inspectors by contacting concerns@isi.net or calling 020 7600 0100.

You may send any information you wish inspectors to be aware of by email to concerns@isi.net or write to us at ISI, CAP House, 9-12 Long Lane, London EC1A 9HA or call 020 7600 0100. For more information, please see Concerns about a School.

Further information and resources can be found in the Links and Publications sections of this website.