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Independent schools are so-called for good reason. They are autonomous in their management, governance and chosen educational path. The schools are not-for-profit, so not “private” as commonly referred to. 

Independent schools are not isolated from their communities and they follow, and contribute to, the highest standards of academic delivery and pastoral care across Scotland.  They are held to account like all other schools.  

SCIS seeks to support those high standards through a range of guidelines supported by professional learning courses, as well as engagement with a range of Scottish Government and other public body standing committees and working groups.

School inspections – Education Scotland

Education Scotland has responsibility for school inspections, and it makes clear that “Independent schools are open to inspection by Education Scotland in the same way as those maintained by education authorities”.  

The inspection framework is applied in independent schools in parallel with all other schools, but in a way that is responsive to the size, nature and particular aims and values of the independent school concerned. This also includes recognising the educational philosophy of the individual school. 

In addition, the inspectorate has developed quality improvement and professional engagement visits to contribute to school improvement and capacity building, and to support a more proportionate, intelligence-led engagement model.

Boarders and nursery day-care – Care Inspectorate

As with school inspections, boarding services are unable to operate unless they are registered by the Care Inspectorate, the national regulator for care services in Scotland, which is responsible for the oversight of school care accommodation. Education Scotland may also inspect the care and welfare of boarders, as well as school nursery day-care provision, in conjunction with the Care Inspectorate. 

The same standards apply as to local authority or private sector providers, both the Scottish Health and Social Care Standards and the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 apply in this case.

Registrar of Independent Schools

Anyone seeking to run an independent school in Scotland must have that school registered with the Registrar of Independent Schools in Scotland. The Office of the Registrar of Independent Schools requires a range of information from applicants including; the type of school, maximum pupil numbers, proposed curriculum, health and safety information, statement of aims and school prospectus, Child Protection Policy and Procedure, and the admissions policy.  

Every school must also undergo a pre-registration inspection by Education Scotland before it is can be declared operational. This inspection will check that the proposed accommodation is fit for purpose and ensures that appropriate consideration has been given to the care and welfare of pupils. 

A school application will only be granted if it has been demonstrated that an efficient and suitable education will be provided, that pupils’ welfare will be adequately safeguarded, and all teachers are adequately qualified to teach in a school. After registration, schools must undergo a post-registration inspection within nine months.  

Additional requirements for school teachers, support staff and governors

On top of these institutional requirements, all teachers working in independent schools must be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). School or house staff of independent boarding schools, and staff of day care of children services (including nurseries), must be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council if not registered with another regulatory body.

Governors and Directors of any school which is registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator must comply with the general and specific duties of charity trustees. In addition, while not members of public bodies, there is the expectation that trustees also follow the Code of Conduct for ethical standards in public life promoted by the Standards Commission for Scotland.

SCIS work closely with our member schools to support the highest standard of care for all pupils. If you’d like to know more information, have a look at our ‘Information for Parents’ or get in touch with us directly and we’d be delighted to help.