Why inspections matter

School inspection reports can seem a little daunting for parents to digest. This probably comes from the fact that they are necessarily detailed and rigorous but this should also provide reassurance that they provide the right set of criteria from which to assess key aspects of a school.

In this overview of the process, we attempt to explain how most independent schools are inspected and the types of report published.

School inspection criteria

Most independent schools in England are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) on behalf of the Department for Education.

Schools are inspected against a set of obligations defined by the Department for Education called the Independent School Standards and the results highlight how they meet these criteria.

Designed to extend across all areas of life at a school, the Standards are split into eight parts:

  1. Quality of Education
  2. Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of pupils
  3. Welfare, health and safety of pupils
  4. Suitability of staff, supply staff and proprietors
  5. Premises of and accommodation at schools
  6. Provision of Information
  7. Manner in which complaints are handled
  8. Quality of leadership in and management of schools

The inspection process

There are two types of routine inspection carried out by ISI:

  1. Regulatory Compliance Inspection or RCI
  2. Educational Quality with Focused Compliance or EQI

The RCI is a compliance inspection against criteria set by the Department for Education and the resulting report is a set of judgements for each criteria of either 'met' or 'not met'.

The EQI is concerned with the quality of education and includes a selection of policies for compliance. The report looks at how a school performs in two areas for pupils – achievement and personal development.

The EQI report provides four grades on a number of different areas – Excellent, Good, Sound and Unsatisfactory – but does not give an overall mark or rating.

Schools can expect to be inspected, on average, every three years as all schools should have a RCI and EQI inspection during each six-year inspection cycle.

More information about how ISI inspect schools can be found on their website: https://www.isi.net/inspections/

What this means for parents

Parents should read the inspection reports carefully in order to draw their own conclusions about a school.

It's important for parents to take the time to digest a report and make comparisons with other schools.

All schools are obliged to publish their inspection reports on their websites and prospective parents should raise any questions about a report's findings with the school's admissions team for comment.


In this section:

· About Attain
· Attain's History
· Why inspections matter