Independent Boarding schools

These are schools that are independent of local or central government control. They are financed by fees and endowments. There are about 2500 in all, the vast majority of which are not secondary schools. They include traditional public schools and private schools. They decide their own policies, priorities and curriculum.

7% of schoolchildren in the UK are educated at independent schools. There are staggering regional variations: 4% in Scotland and 11% in London and the South East. A fifth of all sixth formers are in independent schools – DfES statistics suggest that, at every level of ability, independent school pupils achieve higher GCSE, AS and A-level scores than the total school population. About half of the parents did not themselves attend independent schools.

Independent school standards

While independent schools are exempt from any requirement to teach the national curriculum, all independent schools must comply with the relevant requirements of the Education Act 1996. They must provide satisfactory standards of premises, accommodation and instruction. The ‘proprietor and staff must be proper persons’. If boarding is provided, they must safeguard and promote children’s welfare. All are subject to inspection. The inspectors’ reports are published in full, and schools produce follow-up action plans. Better information and assurance about the quality and standards are becoming available as the inspections continue.

There are two quite different inspection systems. All independent schools are covered by one or the other, depending on the school’s affiliation (or lack of it).

All ISC school are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), which is part of ISC but operating at arm’s length from it. Inspections are conducted according to a framework approved by the DfES and Ofsted, and the ISI advise the DfES on whether schools meet statutory requirements. ISI inspections are conducted in all schools in membership of the five heads associations within ISC, ie HMC, GSA, SHMIS, IAPS and ISA. This covers over half the independent schools in England and Wales and about four-fifths of independent school pupils. All ISI school inspection reports are published in full on its website (

Non-ISC schools: Non-ISC schools that contain significant numbers of pupils assisted from public funds are inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs) from Ofsted. School inspection reports are available on the Ofsted website ( Other schools receive a brief ‘registration visit’ every five years (more often if the school is new or the subject of concern) to ensure that they meet statutory requirements. These do not lead to published reports.

The welfare of children accommodated in boarding schools – whether independent boarding schools or state boarding schools – is separately regulated. They are inspected by local social service departments, which make regular inspections and report to the DfES (Section 87 of the Children’s Act 1989). These reports are not published. However, both ISI and HMI take account of them in carrying out their reporting and monitoring.

Independent Schools Inspectorate

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is the inspectorate for ISC schools and all school inspection reports are published on their website (

Independent Boarding Schools which are independent of local or central government control.

Girls Boarding schools : Boys Boarding Schools : Catholic Boarding Schools

International Boarding Schools : Military Boarding Schools

Special Boarding/Therapeutic Boarding schools