Since the publication of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (the ISSRs), the aim of the Department for Education was to produce non-statutory guidance to sit alongside the ISSRs to help proprietors and others understand their obligations.
This non-statutory guidance has now been produced in April 2019. Inspectors will take the guidance into account when reporting to the Secretary of State on the extent to which the ISSRs are being met, or are likely to be met, in relation to an independent school.
The DfE will also take the guidance into account when taking decisions about regulatory or enforcement action with regard to individual schools.
The aim of the guidance is to provide best practice in complying with the ISSRs. A number of obligations under the ISSRs require a proprietor to ‘have regard to’ guidance or standards. This does not mean the guidance must be followed to the letter, but if you are departing from it, you will need to consider why and record the justification behind any such departure.
The Secretary of State has signalled that they will be taking a ‘firmer’ approach to enforce of the ISSRs where there is evidence of non-compliance.
In terms of next steps, it is essential that school proprietors (including governing bodies) and senior staff are aware of the guidance and read it, especially if they are involved in drafting policy documents or schemes of work and plans. It is expected that the guidance will be reviewed before December 2020 so possibly a developing area for independent schools.