Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Boarding School’s Association (E 76)

CLAUSE 42 INSPECTION OF BOARDING

I am Hilary Moriarty, National Director of the Boarding Schools’ Association.

The Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) is a membership organisation representing the interests of 480 member schools, the majority of which are independent schools in membership of the five Heads’ Associations in the Independent Schools Council (ISC). BSA is affiliated to, but not a member of, ISC. 38 of our members are state boarding schools. I will submit a brief separate response from the State Boarding Schools’ Association.

The BSA provides training for boarding staff, including university accredited courses, and has been supported in this work by the Department for Education. The Association has worked closely with Ofsted, as previously with the Commission for Social Care Inspections, to assist them in their inspection of boarding and to assist schools in preparing well for such inspection.

SUMMARY

The Boarding Schools’ Association welcomes the passing of boarding inspection in independent schools from Ofsted to independent inspectorates, specifically to the Independent schools’ Inspectorate (ISI).

We have no objection to Ofsted retaining a monitoring role in these inspections.

We approve of the intention to inspect boarding every three years.

We approve of the intention to continue inspecting all boarding or lodging accommodation arranged by schools (other than for a residential trip away from school).

1. The Boarding Schools’ Association welcomes the decision to hand over inspection of boarding welfare in its schools to the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate (ISI).

2. Independent schools’ experience of ISI inspection as currently conducted is that their model makes considerable use of peer review, using teachers from other independent schools – on their inspection teams - effectively ‘lent’ to the team - under the guidance of the Lead Inspector. This method has two benefits: costs are kept within reasonable bounds, with Team Inspectors paid an honorarium rather than a full commercial rate; and team inspectors come with a deep knowledge of the settings in which they are inspecting. Independent boarding schools have long contended that a similar method of team-building would be appropriate for the inspection of boarding.

3. Since Ofsted took over boarding inspections in April 2007, schools with more than 20 boarders lost their entitlement to the presence on the inspecting team of a Boarding Sector Professional Inspector (BSPI), a right which had pertained while the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) conducted boarding welfare inspections. These BSPIs were usually people working in boarding in other schools, again ‘lent’ to the boarding inspection team in the spirit of peer review. CSCI inspectors were more likely to be professionally involved in care settings, which are very different from boarding schools. CSCI reported at the end of its time inspecting boarding, that the BSPIs had made a considerable contribution to CSCI inspectors’ understanding of the boarding sector.

4. Ofsted was originally hostile to the idea of BSPIs, then relented and allowed such an inspector (re-badged as a Boarding Sector Additional Inspector, and properly employed by Ofsted as opposed to ‘lent’ by a school) to be added to a team where a boarding school had more than 50 boarders. At the last count, 146 schools in membership of the Boarding Schools’ Association had fewer than 50 boarders. Effectively those schools were deprived of properly expert inspectors, whatever other strengths in other settings the inspectors themselves may have had.

5. Many Heads therefore believe that since April 2007 their schools have been inspected by Ofsted teams which have lacked any real understanding of boarding schools. To see their boarding inspections conducted by ISI teams including inspectors with actual and usually current experience of the independent boarding sector would be seen as very positive progress by member schools.

6. In addition, this development is more likely to ensure that independent boarding schools have their inspections of boarding welfare and education conducted by the same inspectorate and at the same time. Whatever Ofsted’s intentions to synchronise their inspection of boarding welfare with ISI inspections of education, there has been limited success. This has meant the schools have had dislocated inspections of what they usually perceive to be one whole school. This has doubled the disruption for schools, and frequently doubled the stress for staff.

7. We believe that independent boarding schools would have no objection to Ofsted retaining a quality assurance role in boarding inspections conducted by other inspectorates, in much the same way as Ofsted currently monitors ISI inspections of independent schools. In fact, and perhaps ironically, we were not aware of any monitoring or quality assurance of Ofsted boarding inspections.

8. Independent boarding schools are aware that they are likely to have a boarding welfare inspection every three years in order to ensure the safeguarding of children living away from home. Schools welcome the fact that ISI will conduct these inspections also, so that in a six year period ISI will inspect education and boarding together once, and boarding alone at the three year point. We believe that our member schools have every confidence in ISI to conduct both kinds of boarding inspection appropriately and effectively. Though a boarding inspection would be conducted separately from the inspection of education, members would expect the ‘boarding only’ inspection to be rigorous and thorough-going, candidly reviewing a school’s performance against the new National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools.

9. The BSA approves of the intention to continue inspecting all boarding accommodation arranged by a school, other than for a residential school trip or visit, as is currently done under National Minimum Standard 51.

10. The Boarding Schools’ Association has worked very effectively with Ofsted since April 2007 to help schools prepare for their boarding inspections. We intend to continue this process when ISI takes over the inspections of boarding welfare. We currently run three seminar days a year entitled ‘Preparing for Boarding Inspection.’ These seminars are for 40 people and are always over-subscribed. We will work with ISI to ensure that such seminars are appropriate for what schools may expect under the new inspection regime.

11. The Chief Inspector of ISI has addressed our conference for Deputy Head Teachers of member boarding schools on the subject of the new inspections, how teams are likely to be composed, and procedures to be followed.

12. The Association will help ISI to recruit team inspectors from within the boarding community. While Ofsted has recently trained 100 new BSAIs, many original BSPIs fell by the wayside during the Ofsted regime. Moreover, if as we would wish, every boarding inspection were to include a BSAI (or BSPI as the nomenclature may be) many more will be needed. Professionals with experience of working in boarding schools should be part of the boarding welfare inspection teams and the community of boarding schools is happy to enable their use where possible. We want excellence; we therefore need inspectors who are confident and prepared to do more than count the loo seats.

March 2011