Ofsted inspection of boarding schools

Posted: 19th April 2023

by Dale Wilkins, Director of Safeguarding, Professional Development and Accreditation (BSA)

Much of the material in the previous article Inspections of accredited independent boarding schools is relevant to Ofsted’s inspection of boarding schools and I would recommend reading this article as well. The material has not been repeated here as it is available on the previous pages.
In England, Ofsted inspects all state boarding schools and also those independent schools not accredited by one of the five independent school associations (GSA, HMC, IAPS, ISA, Society of Heads). Unless a school requires improvement or there are immediate concerns, Ofsted inspects boarding once in a three-year cycle under the Social Care Common Inspection Framework (SCCIF): boarding schools and residential special schools. This framework came into use on 1 April 2017, with minor updates most recently in November 2020.

“Reports do not comment in any detail on the Boarding Schools: National Minimum Standards (NMS) but will state clearly any which are deemed not to have been met.”

Inspections of boarding and education are fundamentally separate processes. However, if the scheduled boarding and education inspections of a school fall within the same year, Ofsted will try to ensure the two inspections are aligned. More information can be found at: Click here
Most inspection activity was paused in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, but has now resumed.

The evaluation criteria for Ofsted boarding inspections are used to make a judgement of the overall experiences and progress of children, taking into account: 

  • how well children are helped and protected
  • the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

Details can be found in the framework document. 

Reports do not comment in any detail on the Boarding Schools: National Minimum Standards (NMS) but will state clearly any which are deemed not to have been met. Schools, and indeed Ofsted, consider the NMS to be a minimum requirement which schools should aim to exceed considerably.

The education provision at the school will be inspected in the same way as it is at any day school which Ofsted inspects, other than where it has been possible to align or integrate the inspections as above. A new framework for inspecting education provision was launched on 1 September 2019 and can be found at: Click here

As well as giving a judgement on overall effectiveness, inspectors will report on:

  • quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management.

The Ofsted report grades both education and boarding in four categories: 

  • Outstanding
  • Good
  • Requires improvement
  • Inadequate.  

Prospective parents and boarders who are considering a state boarding school or an independent school inspected by Ofsted should read the school’s most recent reports, available at Click here

Education and boarding reports are usually listed under separate registration numbers. To focus on the boarding element, click on ‘Children’s Social Care’ and then check the box entitled ‘Residential and boarding’. The education report can normally be found simply by searching under the name of the school.

There are two government documents which relate to safeguarding and safer recruitment:

Keeping children safe in education (2020) (KCSIE)

Click here

Working together to safeguard children (2018) 

Click here

About the author
Dale Wilkins, Director of Safeguarding, Professional Development and Accreditation (BSA)

Dale Wilkins became a boarding tutor at Norwich School in 1987, shortly after taking up a post there as a language teacher. From 1990 to 1992, he and his wife ran a junior girls’ boarding house at Tettenhall College, before moving to Old Swinford Hospital, a state boarding school where Dale was Housemaster of both senior and junior boys’ houses, Director of Boarding, Deputy Head and Designated Safeguarding Lead. From 1998 he was also involved with BSA as a course tutor and in 2002 he was among the first group of boarding inspectors trained to inspect against the then new NMS. Since 2017 he has worked full-time for BSA, originally as Head of Safeguarding and Standards and now, as Director of Safeguarding, Professional Development and Accreditation. Dale lives in Stourbridge in the West Midlands, close to his former school. Dale is also a Deputy District Commissioner for the Scout Association, Chair of Youth Services for the Rotary Club of Stourbridge, and Chair of the Friends of Dudley Performing Arts, the music, art and drama service for schools in Dudley Borough. He enjoys travel (when COVID-19 allows!) and is a former sports coach and referee, who still plays cricket occasionally.