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School switches school regulators, undergoes Ofsted inspection

Sophia Bassi and Oskar Doepke
The school will switch inspectors from Ofsted to the Independent Schools Inspectorate, according to Director of Safeguarding and Compliance Richard Harrold. The decision to switch was made because the ISI is more tailored to independent schools’ needs.

The school will switch regulators from the Office for Standards in Education to the Independent Schools Inspectorate, according to Interim High School Principal Jack Phillips. In an email sent to the school community Nov. 14, Phillips said an Ofsted inspection was scheduled to take place Nov. 14-16. 

ISI is an independent organization under the Department for Education created to inspect independent schools across England. Created under the Education and Skills Act of 2008, ISI caters specifically to independent schools’ needs and does not strictly follow the national curriculum like Ofsted. 

Director of Safeguarding and Compliance Richard Harrold, who is managing the switch, said “the ISI is more used to our kind of school.” Harrold said this led to a proposal for a regulator change, which was accepted by the Board of Trustees through a unanimous vote earlier in the school year. 

Correspondingly, Student Council President Marcus Chae said Ofsted does not align with the school’s type of education and switching to ISI will be better tailored to the school. 

“Obviously, the American School in London is a very unique school, in terms of what the education system provides,” Chae said. “I’ve always thought that Ofsted maybe doesn’t best fit the type of education that the American School is offering, just because we are so different from what they’re usually inspecting.”

“I’ve always thought that Ofsted maybe doesn’t best fit the type of education that the American School is offering, just because we are so different from what they’re usually inspecting.”

— Marcus Chae ('24)

Harrold said school reports should be “useful, meaningful and relevant,” and Ofsted does not share the same priorities as the school.

“When I read into the weeds of that [Ofsted] report, I realized that there’s a bit of a disconnect with what they were expecting and what independent schools set themselves up to do,” Harrold said. “We might think that something we’re doing is completely legitimate and aligned with our values, but Ofsted come in and say ‘this doesn’t really align with what my picture of what a good school should be doing.’”

Phillips said the Ofsted inspection Nov. 14-16 was “a surprise,” especially as the school had recently announced its intention to switch inspectorates. Phillips said Ofsted inspections happen once in three-year cycles and the school happened to be inspected at the beginning of a cycle despite the upcoming switch to ISI. 

Nonetheless, Phillips said the inspection gave the school an opportunity to showcase its improvement since it was downgraded by Ofsted after an inspection in December of 2021.

“A bit of the goal is to show everybody what happened in 2021 was an anomaly and that we are a great school,” Phillips said. “I think now is a chance to officially demonstrate that.” 

Meanwhile, Chae said he had mixed feelings about the recent Ofsted inspection. 

“On the one hand it is interesting to see that they’re being quite thorough about the whole process,” Chae said. “At the same time, is it really necessary for them to be coming back to ASL so soon?” 

Looking forward, Harrold said partnering with the ISI offers several advantages that “Ofsted isn’t set up to offer.” For example, ISI can visit the school at any time, not solely during inspections, and they offer more development opportunities. 

“We can avail ourselves to lots of advantages in belonging to the Independent Schools Association, such as resources, training, expertise, guidance courses,” Harrold said. “There are conferences that we can send teachers to, administrators to.”

Furthermore, Phillips said a key difference between the Ofsted and ISI reports is the detail provided. 

“At the end of the inspection, what they [Ofsted] give you is one phrase,” Phillips said. “There’s a report written up but they give you like one phrase either outstanding, needs improvement, or whatever else it is. ISI doesn’t do that. What they give you is a multi-paragraph write-up in detail about, sort of, the character of the school and all the things that they found.”

Phillips said he hopes the new arrangement with ISI will allow for a more collaborative environment between the school and the regulator.

“What I am hoping for is that with ISI, it is a real partnership in terms of we can take critical feedback and we can always get better,” Phillips said. “We’re looking for an inspector that kind of wants to work with us to improve those things rather than in any kind of antagonistic fashion.”

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About the Contributors
Oskar Doepke
Oskar Doepke, News Editor: Print
Oskar Doepke (’25) is the News Editor: Print for The Standard. Before moving to London, he joined his old school’s newspaper due to a love for writing and passion for politics, which he continued upon joining the Standard in Grade 10. Outside of the newsroom, Doepke leads the mock trial club, plays cello and enjoys social studies. 
Rahil Punshi
Rahil Punshi, News Editor: Online
Rahil Punshi (’25) is the News Editor: Online for The Standard. Punshi’s passion for politics and writing spurred him to join The Standard at the start of high school. Outside of journalism, Punshi is a member of the Secretariat for West London Model UN and is an avid squash player.

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