Independent school standards are regulated by law. All must provide satisfactory standards of premises, accommodation and instruction; the ‘proprietor and staff must be proper persons’. They are exempt from having to teach the national curriculum, though in practice they broadly do.
There are two systems of inspection for independent schools in England, including the boarding provision.
- ISC schools (ie HMC, GSA, Society of Heads, IAPS & ISA schools) are regularly inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and all the inspection reports are published on its website (www.isi.net).
- Non-ISC schools are the responsibility of Ofsted: those with a significant numbers of pupils assisted from public funds are regularly inspected and the inspection reports published on the Ofsted website (www.ofsted.gov.uk); other schools receive a brief ‘registration visit’ every five years (more often if the school is new or the subject of concern) but the reports are not published.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, inspections are carried out by the local inspectorate and the reports can be found on their websites as follows: in Scotland, the HMIe Inspectorate at www.hmie.gov.uk; in Wales the Estyn Inspectorate at www.estyn.gov.uk; and in Northern Ireland the DENI Inspectorate at www.deni.gov.uk .
Those schools that are registered charities are also subject to satisfying the Charities Commission. They must comply with its rules to retain charitable status, including the requirement that they demonstrate sufficient public benefit.