Ofsted have reported mixed views on two independent school inspectorates this year, following an order by the Department for Education to subject the bodies to seemingly light scrutiny.
Schools Week reports that the School Inspection Service and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (SIS and ISI) were inspected by Ofsted on the basis of just 10 inspection reports from the bodies, and no on-site inspection, after the DfE requested a ‘no on-site inspection’ from Ofsted.
Seven “regulatory compliance” inspections by the ISI were looked at by Ofsted instead – which check that teaching, pupil progress, safeguarding, accommodation and leadership are of a “good” standard, but do not look more closely into a school’s performance.
The SIS inspects several groups of independent schools including the Focus Learning Trust, run by a Christian sect called the Plymouth Brethren, which was investigated by the DfE over its teaching practices, as well as Steiner Waldorf schools, which have garnered controversy for philosophies based around reincarnation, and schools in the Cognita Group, which was set up by former head of Ofsted Chris Woodhead and has experienced financial difficulties.
Explaining why Ofsted was required to forego on-site inspection of the bodies, the DfE said:
“This year the Independent Schools Inspectorate has a new inspection framework that separates inspections on compliance with the independent school regulations from educational quality inspections. So far, Ofsted has monitored the new compliance inspections and reported solely on those.”
However, in two recent reports published earlier this month, Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, said his team had not been commissioned to carry out any on-site monitoring of the ISI or SIS inspectors for this year at all.
This year the ISI carried out 342 inspections. Ofsted looked at seven ISI compliance letters and found the organisations was inspecting schools perfectly in line with their own compliance regulations, according to Wilshaw.
But Ofsted inspectors found room for improvement in the three inspection reports looked at from the SIS. These three reports were a “small sample” of the 47 inspections done by the SIS this year, said Wilshaw.