An ISI inspection: what to expect

How does an Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) compare to Ofsted? Suzanne O’Connell spoke to an independent school recently inspected

Author details

Suzanne O'Connell has more than 25 years' teaching experience, 11 years of which were as a junior school headteacher. She has a particular interest in special needs, child protection and extended services and is currently a writer, editor and...

School information

Name of schools: Brockwood Park School and Inwoods Small School
Location: Hampshire
Leadership teams: Antonio Autor, Dr Gopal Krishnamurthy and Mary-Ann Ridgway
Other information: Brockwood Park School is an international co-educational boarding school for pupils from 14 to 19 years old and Inwoods Small School is a co-educational day school with children from four to 12 years of age.

Earlier this year the ISI undertook an integrated inspection of Brockwood Park School and Inwoods Small School. Founded by educator and philosopher J. Krishnamurti in 1969, the schools are both governed by the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd.

Antonio Autor and Dr Gopal Krishnamurthy are co-principals of Brockwood Park School. Mary-Ann Ridgway is the headteacher of Inwoods Small School. It was the school’s first inspection by ISI.  

Not only was this the first integrated inspection for the school, requiring them to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Education Regulations 2014 (Independent School Standards), but they must also meet the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools 2015.

‘As this was our first ISI inspection,’ explains Antonio, ‘the whole process, from the moment we received the call until we received the report, was an exciting and challenging experience.’

There were five inspectors including the lead inspector, two team inspectors, an inspector for boarding and one for early years. The inspection lasted five days.

Independent Schools Inspectorate (I​SI)

Both Ofsted and ISI report against the Independent School Standards Regulations but have different frameworks and different criteria. There is no single overarching judgement from ISI but they do use the descriptors ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sound’ and ‘unsatisfactory’.

In an integrated inspection inspectors report against:

  • the success of the school
  • the quality of academic and other achievements
  • the quality of the pupils’ personal development
  • the effectiveness of governance, leadership and management.

The inspectors at Brockwood found that its academic and other achievements were good and that its personal development and governance were excellent.

The inspection process

Antonio identifies three stages to the inspection process: pre-inspection, inspection and post-inspection.

Pre-inspection is from the time you receive the call from the ISI to notify you of the inspection until the inspectors arrive at the school. ’The amount of work the inspectors do before they arrive is amazing,’ says Antonio.

‘They had a good understanding of all the school policies and documents as well as the school in general.’

The school was impressed by the professionalism and the support the inspectors provided prior to their visit. The inspectors reviewed the policies and documents on the ISI portal and school website and raised questions which were addressed before the visit.

The inspectors met almost every staff member and student either in a small group or one-to-one interview

In addition, parent and student questionnaires were sent out and the responses were surveyed so that they could follow up on any concerns during their visit.

During inspection, all the areas of the schools were observed and investigated. The inspectors met almost every staff member and student either in a small group or one-to-one interview.

The inspectors observed the school meeting, morning meeting, morning jobs, rota, morning assembly and observed classes and academic advising sessions too.

Despite months of preparation and build up, the inspection was still a challenge for the school. ’Everybody in our community rallied together and worked hard in meeting this challenge,’ says Antonio.

A positive report

Although the final ISI report was complimentary about all areas of school life, it was particularly the pastoral areas and SMSC where the school stood out as being excellent.

Antonio puts this down to the special ethos they have. ‘We have a different philosophy and we look at learning together with our students. We learn about life and explore areas of enquiry together.’

At the end of the inspection the inspectors read out the draft report to the leadership team.

The report’s publication then followed a similar process to that of maintained schools. ‘We were allowed to correct any factual errors but not content as such,’ says Antonio.

The school is compliant and the feedback ranged from good to excellent. Nevertheless, the inspection team did have recommendations to make

What next​?

‘We were relieved that the team were supportive and we were pleased with the results,’ says Antonio.

‘We understand that it is very rare for a school to be fully compliant on its first inspection. Where a school is healthy and running well this must be reflected in the inspection report. The inspectors dug deep and walked the school from top to bottom. They were very open with us and this came as a pleasant surprise.’

The school is compliant and the feedback ranged from good to excellent. Nevertheless, the inspection team did have recommendations to make.

‘We have to work at our recording and planning in the EYFS and provision of training opportunities for all our staff,’ points out Antonio.  

Antonio and his team are very aware that they still have a difficult job ahead of them ensuring their continued compliance against all the legislation that covers the breadth of provision they offer at Brockwood Park.

Action points and recommendations from the report are already being implemented or planned and the team is dedicated to ensure their ongoing compliance.

Last Updated: 
11 Jul 2016