Understanding the New Independent Schools Inspection Framework 2023

In this article, we explore the new Independent Schools Inspection Framework by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), which took effect from September 2023. The framework will change how independent schools in the United Kingdom will undergo inspections and will impact both their processes and outcomes.

What will the changes mean for independent schools?

In May 2022 the consultation process started for independent schools in how the Independent Schools Inspection (ISI) inspects schools. Following this, the pilot visits started from December 2022 to June 2023. From September 2023, the new Inspection Framework came fully into effect.

What is staying the same for independent schools?

Schools will continue to be inspected against the Independent School Standards which are set by parliament. The inspection process has changed following the consultation period. You can see the  ISI framework sections at a glance here.

When will schools be inspected?

Schools will be inspected twice, in a 6-year inspection cycle. In the first year of the new inspections there will be a Reporting inspector (RI) who leads the inspection and directs the Team inspectors (TI). The Team inspectors evaluate provision at the school and support the Reporting inspector in writing the report. In the second year of inspections, there will be an Associate inspector (AI) who will be a senior leader in an association school who will shadow the team and record evidence.

What will the inspection report structure look at?

The report will start with a summary of key findings from the inspection.

  • Section 1: Leadership and management, and governance
  • Section 2: Pupils’ education, training, and recreation
  • Section 3: Pupils’ physical and mental health and emotional well-being
  • Section 4: Pupils’ social and economic well-being and contribution to society
  • Safeguarding

What are the main changes independent schools will experience?

The framework has moved to a single type of routine inspection which will improve consistency of reporting and simplify the inspection process for school leaders. Schools will be informed whether they meet or do not meet the relevant standards. The report will clearly state the significant strengths. In the summary section, inspectors may recommend next steps where standards are met or give an overview of areas for action where standards are not met.

How will the inspectors and schools collaborate?

The head of the school can expect regular keeping in touch meetings throughout the 3-day inspection. Schools will have some opportunities to work with the inspectors on reviewing pupils’ work, joint lesson walks and tours of the school site. There should not be changes made to the school timetable, lessons, or visits during the inspection time.

How can pupils’ progress and attainment be evaluated?

All leaders in the school need to be able to demonstrate and document regular monitoring of pupils’ attainment and progress. Using a reliable and robust standardised assessment, such as NFER Tests gives schools the confidence of pupils’ starting points and enables them to monitor future learning. School leaders will be able to talk about groups needing additional support and the action teachers are taking to address their challenges. School leaders will be able to link this information with the Framework directly, referring to ‘Section 2: Pupils’ education, training and recreation’ with a particular focus in ‘Teaching, learning and assessment.’

Approaches to assessment

Does your approach to assessment enable you to show that you regularly assess pupils and that you use insights from the assessments to improve teaching which leads to progress? Schools using NFER Tests as part of their assessment approach, can continue to confidently support their pupils ongoing learning journey. School leaders and teachers can use the information from these standardised assessments to guide the pupils against the curriculum taught.

NFER is here to support you. We can discuss our standardised assessments and bespoke support packages for your school.

Please contact Nichola Giles, our Schools Partnership Manager on [email protected] to discuss your schools’ needs to:

  • Learn more about NFER’s standardised assessments.
  • Free support and bespoke training.
  • Free online analysis tool to store and analyse your data.