Plans have been announced for changing the inspection arrangements for about 1000 independent schools, such as childrens’ homes providing education. The changes, proposed for September 2012, are intended to raise expectations for improvement in the performance of these schools, for the benefit of children, parents and carers.
The quality of teaching in these ‘non-association’ independent schools tends to be competent but seldom inspiring. The biggest single weakness is the high proportion of schools which do not have sufficiently robust arrangements for safeguarding pupils’ welfare, health and safety.
The proposals build on the current arrangements for inspection. Ofsted will continue to use a four point scale to make qualitative judgements. Detailed grade descriptors will seek to provide more consistency, openness and transparency and encourage independent schools to strive further for improvements to the quality of provision.
Ofsted currently gives independent schools two days’ notice of their education inspection but for inspection of care in boarding and residential special schools no notice is given. Ofsted intends to adopt a similar system for the education inspection of independent schools. Pupils, parents and carers have told Ofsted that inspection without notice is important as it lets the inspectors see the school as it really is.
The views of the pupils themselves, as well as parents, carers, staff and local authorities who use the services of independent schools are highly valued by inspectors who follow up the issues they raise. These views will continue to be an important feature of inspection.
Among independent children’s homes which are registered education providers there is a comparatively lower proportion that makes good or outstanding educational provision. The new framework will focus on the educational progress and achievements of looked after children and look critically at what schools are doing to close the gap between their achievements and other pupils.