§ Mr. Austin
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proposals he has for the inspection of independent schools; what will be the role of Ofsted in such inspection; what representations he has received about the inspection of independent schools; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Byers
[holding answer 12 Janaury 1998]: Independent schools in England are currently inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) from Ofsted on a broadly 5-year cycle, and periodically by local fire brigades and—in the case of boarding schools—by local social services departments. Newly registered schools, or those causing concern, are inspected mor frequently and at least annually. Save in exceptional cases, these inspections do not normally lead to published reports.
Discussions are under way with the independent school organisations on proposals to develop their own inspection arrangements so as to yield regular published reports consistent with the inspection framework and standards operated by Ofsted. This would allow Ofsted to concentrate more on strengthened inspection with published reports on schools which are not covered by those arrangements and which include pupils assisted from public funds. We will announce the new arrangements when they are finalised.
Additionally our Green Paper "Excellence for all children: Meeting Special Educational Needs" proposes that all independent schools that provide specifically for children with Special Education Needs, but are not approved for this purpose under section 347(1) of the Eduction Act 1996, should be inspected at least every five years by HMI. Independent schools approved under that section are already inspected by Ofsted in the same way as maintained schools.