Loophole Allows Schools to Skip Inspection ; ANALYSIS Law Requires New Independents Only to Gain Teaching Licence before Taking in Pupils
Richard Garner Education Editor, The Independent (London, England)
NEARLY 70 new independent schools have opened in the past year but, because of legal loopholes, they don't have to be inspected before taking in their first pupils and, even if they are, parents are unlikely to find out if inadequate standards have been reported.
Currently, new independent schools only have to apply to the Government for a provisional licence before they can begin operating. Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, is then only obliged to inspect once every five years.
And, if the new schools are failing to deliver adequate standards, parents are unlikely to be made aware. This is because, when Ofsted does get round to inspecting, no legal requirement says that their report should be published.
Membership of the Independent Schools Council gives a guarantee of academic standards. However, in all, around 1,120 independent schools are not members of the ISC.
Over the past year, Ofsted has inspected 364 non-ISC schools, and their reports are only published if the Department for Education and Skills makes a request. The DfES has done so 30 times in the past year - mostly in cases where the school is taking in pupils subsidised by the state, so that it can see if it is getting value for money.
The inspections, which are allowed take place well after a school has started functioning as a centre of education, are carried out with a view to determining whether it is failing to meet five key criteria: (i) Are any parts of the premises unsuitable? (ii) Is the accommodation inadequate or unsuitable for the number, age and sex of pupils? (iii) Is efficient and suitable instruction on offer (in other words, adequate teaching standards and a broad and balanced curriculum)? (iv) Is the proprietor or any teacher not a fit and proper person, and have adequate criminal-record checks been made? (v) Is the school pursuing its child-welfare responsibilities adequately, such as making sure that boarding accommodation is adequate for every pupil's needs?
Of the 364 schools inspected last year, 40 per cent - around 150 - failed to meet all five criteria. …