From education to employment

Private Colleges and English Language Centres – are you prepared for inspection?

In March 2011, the Government announced that all Tier 4 sponsors must become Highly Trusted Sponsors (“HTS”) by April 2012. In addition, Tier 4 sponsors must meet a new inspection criteria, a process termed “educational oversight”, by the end of 2012.

This requires all education providers to be inspected by:

  • Ofsted
  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education
  • Estyn
  • Education and Training Inspectorate
  • Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)
  • Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)
  • Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI)
  • School Inspection Service (SIS), or
  • Education Scotland.

Previous accreditations held, for example with the British Accreditation Council (BAC), will no longer be sufficient for UKBA purposes, despite still being important accreditations to hold. None of the bodies on this new list of UKBA approved inspectorates have previously inspected Private Colleges or English Language Centres.

So where does this leave Private Colleges and English Language Centres?

After a period of concern for the sector, a solution has now been offered. Some of the above listed UKBA approved inspectorates have recently confirmed that they will begin inspecting Private Colleges and English Language Centres, in accordance with UKBA requirements.

Who will inspect us and when?


Type of course

Predominately FE Courses/English language providers

Predominately HE courses

UK Base

England and Wales


Northern Ireland



Neither religious purpose, Montessori or Steiner

Institutions with clear religious purpose

Montessori or Steiner




Inspection provider

Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)

Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI)

School Inspection Service (SIS)

Education Scotland


Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)

Inspection application deadline








Preparing for an inspection

Most inspections will take place between October 2011 and December 2012. Institutions are therefore under considerable time pressure to comply with the new requirements and preparation will need to be rigorous. In most cases there will be a three day inspection, where your institution will be assessed against a framework and a set of standards which for most will include: the curriculum, teaching, learners achievement, student welfare, governance, leadership and management.

Top Tips

  • Ensure you have in place the required policies, for example curriculum and safeguarding policies.
  • Ensure you have effective and compliant procedures in place, for example your health and safety, fee, admission and complaints procedures.
  • Ensure appropriate checks have been carried out on all staff and volunteers and you are aware of and comply with the necessary safer recruitment procedures.
  • Ensure your staff and students are prepared for inspection, as they may be interviewed.
  • Ensure your accommodation arrangements are in accordance with national requirements.
  • Ensure you comply with your sponsorship duties.

VWV has vast experience in assisting all types of educational institutions on preparing for inspection. Please contact us if you would like assistance with any of the necessary steps, we will not charge for an initial discussion. In the first instance, please contact Claire Wilkins on 0117 314 5274

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