Registration of independent schools: guidance for applicants, proprietors, and parents

Guidance covering topics topics such as how to register a new independent school or apply to amend the registration of existing independent schools in Scotland.

3. How does registration work?

The Scottish Ministers determine whether an application should be approved in accordance with section 98A of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. The Registrar of Independent Schools administers the process and is the point of contact for applicants.

Before registering a school, the Scottish Ministers must be satisfied that:

  • The school is able to provide a suitable education to the children and young people they aim to educate.
  • The school has systems and processes in place to safeguard the welfare of learners.
  • That the proprietor and teachers are 'proper persons' for their roles (i.e. that they have suitable qualifications and relevant experience and are Protecting Vulnerable Groups ('PVG') scheme members).
  • That the premises are suitable.

What should the applicant do?

It is often helpful for applicants to first contact the Registrar to discuss their application before starting.

An application form should be downloaded from the UK Government website and then completed and submitted to along with a copy of the proposed school's:

1. statement of aims

2. curriculum

3. prospectus

4. admission policy

5. plan of the school

6. fire risk assessment policy and procedures

7. health and safety risk assessment policy and procedures

8. child protection/safeguarding/first aid policy and procedures

9. proposed leadership and governance/arrangements

10. a statement confirming that PVG membership, appropriate to the positions, have been obtained and are in accordance with the school's child protection policy and procedures in respect of the proprietor of the school, all proposed teachers and all other persons in, or to be, in a child care position relative to the school

11. that all teachers are registered with the GTCS

12. an organogram for the school outlining staff number and management structures

13. an approximation of staff and pupil numbers

14. whether the school will provide (1) primary, (2) secondary, or (3) a mixture or combination of primary and secondary

15. confirmation that the school has both a child protection co-ordinator and deputy child protection co-ordinator trained to a suitable level

16. that all staff have completed recent and appropriate child protection training.

If an applicant has any questions on these requirements, they are welcome to contact the Registrar to discuss.

What happens next?

The Registrar will review your application and share it with HM Inspectors. Any feedback or areas for improvement will be conveyed to the applicant once this review has concluded.

If there are missing documents, or documents require to be improved, the applicant will be notified. The application will only progress when the Registrar and HM Inspectors are satisfied.

Next stage – pre-registration visit

Once the initial application has been submitted and found to be satisfactory, HM Inspectors will contact the applicant directly to arrange a pre-registration visit.

Pre-registration visits are usually 2 to 3 hours in duration and carried out by one or two HM Inspectors. During the visit, HM Inspectors will seek to meet the proprietor(s), representatives from the Board of Governors (or similar), the proposed headteacher and any appointed teaching staff, wherever possible. Inspection activities during the visit will include:

  • a tour of the accommodation, including review of furniture and fittings
  • review of the suitableness of school security
  • review of any available teaching resources/materials/curriculum plans
  • discussions with the proprietors/leaders/staff about: their plans for the commencement of the school; the intended curriculum and teaching approaches; suitability and numbers of staffing (teaching and non-teaching); child protection and safeguarding; arrangements for governance.
  • agreeing the maximum school roll – this is dependent on the ages of intended pupils; the available space; numbers of available pupil toilets.

The HM Inspectors will then provide the Registrar with a report outlining their findings and discussions. This will include a recommendation as to whether the school should be registered or not, and a recommended maximum roll [4].

It may be that, as a result of the HM Inspectors findings, the school is found not to be ready for registration. If this is the case, the applicant will be informed.

Otherwise, the Registrar will consider HM Inspectors' findings and application documents, before preparing advice for the Scottish Ministers, who will make the final decision.

The decision will be intimated to the applicant by the Registrar. If the school is registered, it will usually be effective from the date the applicant receives the letter and the applicant may open the school.

Post-registration inspection

In line with legislative requirements, HM Inspectors will carry out a post-registration inspection within nine months of a new school opening to pupils. This is to allow inspectors to observe learning and teaching; to meet with learners, parents and staff; and to evaluate the

quality of education, care provision, leadership and governance. The inspection will normally be completed in three days by a team of HM Inspectors, proportionate to the size and context

of the school's provision. HM Inspectors and inspectors from the Care Inspectorate will co- operate on inspections in respect of any school with early learning and childcare and/or boarding provision. The subsequent report following the post-registration inspection will be made available parents and the Registrar, and published on the Education Scotland website.

Following a successful post-registration inspection, the school will enter the normal programme of inspection and review for all schools in Scotland. The extent and nature of any further inspection activities will depend on the findings of the post-registration inspection. If significant improvement is required, HM Inspectors will continue to engage with the school to ensure the school takes action to improve.

More information about school inspections

Link HM Inspectors

After registration, your school will be assigned to a link HM Inspector. A link HM Inspector will visit the school at least annually, to keep in contact with the school to provide support and assistance where appropriate. Where a proprietor or headteacher is aware of an incident or concern, it is good practice to contact the school's link HM Inspector and the Registrar of Independent Schools. This allows HM Inspectors, at an early stage, to support the school and ensure any incident is responded to appropriately and in the interests of all at the school.

Amending the registration of existing schools

Where a school seeks to have their registration altered, the Registrar should be contacted at an early stage. The process for amending registration depends on the scale of the change.

For example, where a proprietor wishes to have their maximum roll increased for their existing premises, this is likely to be a relatively quick process, usually involving a short visit by an HM Inspector in order to consider whether the school has the capacity for an increase in numbers.

However, if a proprietor wishes to expand the school's provision, for example from primary provision to include secondary education, this is likely to be a lengthier process. The Registrar will require sight of the school's new curriculum and proposed plans for staffing. In such cases, HM Inspectors will visit the school to discuss the proposed plans and to view the school's accommodation in order to determine whether the request for variation can be recommended.

If a proprietor is seeking to reduce the maximum roll, the proprietor should notify the Registrar as soon as possible.

Closing a school

If a proprietor determines that the time has come to close their school, they should intimate this to the Registrar of Independent Schools as soon as possible. Proprietors will also wish to consider how best to inform and prepare learners and parents so that they can make the best decision for them in terms of identifying an alternative school for after the school's closure.

Proprietors of independent special schools, who will likely have learners referred to them by local authorities, should inform referring authorities as soon as possible so that authorities may work with parents and learners to develop robust transition plans and assist learners as much as possible in the lead up to, and after, the school's closure.




Back to top