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ISI provides assurance on the standards and quality of school life for children and young people in association independent schools in England. The inspectorate reports to the Department for Education on the extent to which these schools meet the statutory Independent School Standards. This process recognises strong practice and drives improvement across the 1,200 schools ISI inspects.
Safeguarding is a focus of all inspections. Inspectors review evidence relating to a school’s safeguarding arrangements and report to the Department for Education on the extent to which schools meet their responsibilities. Listening to pupils is central to this process, and every inspection uses anonymous pupil, parent and staff questionnaires as a crucial part of the inspection evidence. Inspectors also speak to pupils in groups on inspection.
For schools providing pupil accommodation, ISI also inspects against additional requirements set out in the National Minimum Standards (NMS) for Boarding Schools. All inspection reports are published on the ISI website.
Schools undergo a scheduled inspection, on average, every three years. ISI currently undertakes two types of routine inspection: Regulatory Compliance (RCI), which checks that a schools’ policies and practices are compliant with the regulations set by the Department for Education; and Educational Quality (EQI), which considers the quality of education a school provides and checks a targeted section of policies and practices. There are also three types of non-routine inspection, including ‘additional inspections’ where the Department for Education have reason for a school to be inspected urgently. This could be due to concerns raised by parents, staff or pupils with either ISI or the Department for Education.
Quality assurance is embedded at every stage of ISI’s inspection process. This includes a high-quality training and development programme for their 900-strong inspector workforce. Every year ISI delivers, on average, over 300 hours of qualification, induction and annual training.
ISI’s independence is essential to delivering reliable and valid judgements on the schools they inspect. Their governance structure and policies ensure they operate as a fully independent inspectorate. They have an independent Board of Directors, which holds the senior management team to account for the delivery and quality of inspections.
In November 2020, Vanessa Ward was appointed as Chief Executive-Chief Inspector at ISI, following endorsement by the Secretary of State for Education. Ward previously led inspections in the state and independent sectors as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) for Ofsted.
ISI will shortly begin a wide-ranging consultation around its next inspection framework, which will come into effect from September 2023.
Independent Schools Inspectorate
CAP House, 9–12 Long Lane, London EC1A 9HA
Tel: 020 7600 0100 • email: