‘A Practical Guide to the Independent School Standards – September 2023 Edition’ by Sarah McKimm


Paperback: 978-1-916698-17-8
Published: September 2023
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While the state has extensive powers and duties in relation to state-funded education, independent schools largely sit outside that regime on condition that they meet prescribed standards. ‘A Practical Guide to the Independent School Standards’ introduces the standards from a rights-based perspective and explains their role in connection with registration and inspection of independent schools. Busy practitioners are signposted to the key guidance and regulations incorporated into the deceptively short standards. The parts of education law which do and do not apply to the independent sector are clearly identified.

After outlining the standards and linking to relevant legislation and recent case law which helps with interpretation, this book shows how the standards can be applied to common issues affecting pupils such as SEND, mental health, peer-on-peer abuse, admissions and exclusions.

The closing chapters consider the role of the standards when things go wrong whether it is a parent wishing to complain about a school, a school questioning the findings of a compliance inspection and/or responding to action by the regulator.

Intended primarily for education lawyers, ‘A Practical Guide to the Independent School Standards’ will also be an invaluable accessible resource for independent schools, bursars, governors and trustees, and parents.

Now, thoroughly updated for September 2023, this Practical Guide covers the changes to statutory guidance for 2023, such as those about making ‘material changes’, Keeping Children Safe in Education, including Working Together to Improve School Attendance, the new Filtering and Monitoring Standards and Cyber Security Standards, and new case law on RSE. The recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are explicitly woven through the text where relevant. There is an expanded section on responding to non-recent institutional abuse, plus sundry updates and additional information throughout. A schedule of changes is available here.


Sarah McKimm is a solicitor who, after a first career in commercial litigation, has been specialising in education law for over 20 years. In 2008 she became Principal Solicitor and later Deputy General Secretary for the Independent Schools Council. She was also until recently Head of Legal & Policy at the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).


List of Terms and Abbreviations


Chapter One – State and Independent Education – How They Differ and Why
Chapter Two – Registration Requirements for Independent Schools
Chapter Three – Overview of The Independent School Standards
Chapter Four – Key Provisions of The Equality Act 2010
Chapter Five – Regulated Activity


Chapter Six – The Quality of Education Standards
Chapter Seven – The Curriculum Standard – ISS Part 1
Chapter Eight – Relationships, Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)
Chapter Nine – The Teaching Standard
Chapter Ten – The SMSC Standard (Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Development of Pupils) – ISS Part 2
Chapter Eleven – The Safeguarding Standard – ISS Part 3
Chapter Twelve – Other Welfare, Health and Safety Standards – ISS Part 3 Continued
Chapter Thirteen – The Suitability Standards – ISS Part 4
Chapter Fourteen – The Premises and Accommodation Standard – ISS Part 5
Chapter Fifteen – The Provision of Information Standard – ISS Part 6
Chapter Sixteen – The Complaints-Handling Standard – ISS Part 7
Chapter Seventeen – The Leadership and Management Standard – ISS Part 8


Chapter Eighteen – What the Standards Say About Pastoral Care
Chapter Nineteen – What the Standards Say About Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse
Chapter Twenty – What the Standards Say About Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
Chapter Twenty-One – What the Standards Say About Mental Health Issues
Chapter Twenty-Two – What the Standards Say About Admissions and Exclusions
Chapter Twenty-Three – When Things Go Wrong
Chapter Twenty-Four – In Conclusion – Future Developments


‘This detailed, practical guide provides authoritative guidance for senior leaders in independent schools seeking to remain up to date with the requirements of the Independent School Standards Regulations.’
– Julie Robinson, Chief Executive Officer, Independent Schools Council

‘A clearly written, fully comprehensive reference book which is a must-have for all senior leaders and governing bodies in both independent schools and academies.’
– Kate Richards, former Chief Inspector Independent Schools Inspectorate, Chair of Governors and educational consultant.

‘A really handy resource for schools which provides a route map through a blizzard of guidance, old and new. Great to see it updated for September 2022.’
– Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, CEO Independent Schools Association

‘Highly detailed and most useful.’
– Clive Rickart, Chief Executive Officer, The Society of Heads.

‘This book is the definitive work for those involved in the detail and setting policy for safeguarding in schools. The information is accessible logical and entirely up-to-date.’
– John Murphie, Chief Operating Officer, the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association

‘For several years I had the privilege to work alongside Sarah McKimm whose unparalleled knowledge of and authoritative insight into the Independent School Standards Regulations were crucial to the success of the inspectorate on many fronts; now anyone with an interest in understanding the standards can have access to her knowledge and insight, expressed succinctly and practically.’
– Durell Barnes, Head of Governance and Compliance at RSAcademics, former Chair of the Independent Schools Examinations Board.

‘Having worked with Sarah McKimm for several years and benefitted from her expertise and knowledge, I thoroughly recommend this excellent book for anyone who needs to understand and apply the Independent School Standards.’
– Elizabeth Coley, Chair of Governors and former Head of Inspection Support at the Independent Schools Inspectorate

‘An essential guide for school leaders and inspectors which also provides a valuable overview for governors.’
 Sue Bennett, Chair of Governors, retired Head and ISI Duty Team Reporting Inspector

‘For anyone working with schools, this practical guide is a vital, accessible tool for making fair judgements about meeting the necessary standards.’
Lady Fiona Mynors, Chair of Governors, Trustee, retired Head and former ISI Reporting Inspector