Ofsted-style inspections for fee-paying schools

The proposed inspections would aim to establish whether the same standards expected in the state sector are being met in over 1,200 fee-paying schools across the UK, including major public schools such as Eton and Harrow.

This would be the first time that private schools would be given overall rankings such as 'outstanding'. Fee-paying schools are currently regulated by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have recently consulted on a range of reforms to tighten up regulation in the independent school sector and to ensure independent schools are backed by robust inspections.

"This included arrangements for the approval of independent inspectorates. We expect to announce the outcome of that consultation in the near future.”

Head teachers in the independent school sector have criticised the proposals. Richard Cairns, the headmaster of private Brighton College, said: “ISI inspection is more focused on outcomes relative to the quality of pupils you’re getting, but under Ofsted there is a lot of box-ticking, everyone is nervous of a system that is overly bureaucratic.

“People would be more comfortable if the government was making Ofsted a bit more like the ISI.”