“Inspections were scheduled well in advance, giving the school enough time to clean up its act, hire a fake teacher, and instruct pupils on how to respond if questioned”
All state-funded schools in England and Wales must be inspected at prescribed intervals, as is required by section 5 and section 28, respectively, of the Education Act 2005. In England these inspections are carried out by Ofsted, and in Wales by Estyn.
However, in state schools with a religious character, faith-based religious education (RE) and collective worship are inspected by inspectors appointed by the school’s governing body. Such inspections are known as section 48 inspections in England and section 50 inspections in Wales. Consequently, Ofsted and Estyn inspectors carrying out standard section 5 or section 28 inspections of ‘faith’ schools are not entitled to specifically inspect faith-based RE or the content of worship. Rather, they may only visit lessons and assemblies to help them evaluate how they contribute to pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development, as well as their personal development, behaviour and welfare, in more general terms.
In private schools in England the situation is largely similar, but with some important differences. Ofsted currently inspects only around half of all English private schools, while the other half, made up of schools belonging to independent school associations, is inspected by one of two independent school inspectorates of their choosing: the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and the School Inspection Service (SIS). The SIS was founded by the Exclusive Brethren and inspects their schools and Steiner schools. Until September 2015 a third inspectorate – the Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI) – operated and inspected private Muslim and Christian Schools’ Trust schools, but its operations have now ceased. As is the case in state-funded schools, if an independent school that is otherwise inspected by Ofsted has a religious character, it may appoint its own inspector to inspect the content of denominational RE and worship.
In Wales, all independent schools are inspected by Estyn. (ISI also carries out Education Oversight inspections of private further education colleges and English language schools in Wales, but this is a voluntary programme which fulfils requirements surrounding the sponsorship of international students.)