UK Boarding School Guide: Pastoral Care

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uk boarding school pastoral care

Pastoral care refers to how boarding schools care for its students’ welfare. Our guide explains what pastoral care is, how it may differ from school to school, and how this is measured in quality assurance inspections.

Table of Contents

Pastoral Care in UK Boarding Schools

Boarding schools care for the wellbeing of its students by closely monitoring their pastoral, academic, and co-curricular progress. Not only do they care for their students’ physical health, they also monitor their mental wellbeing too. Other important factors such as social integration and participation in co-curriculum can also impact student life. Holistic education is a big part of the boarding school experience. 

Teachers also establish a close relationship with the student and parents to ensure good communication about any potential problems that may arise. On top of that, the house system in boarding schools ensures that boarders have adequate opportunities for social interaction with other students under the watchful eye of the house tutors.

Inspection of UK Boarding Schools

The Independent Schools Inspectorate, or ISI, is the body in charge of inspecting independent boarding schools. They conduct inspections on each school every 2-3 years and release its reports to the public. Boarding schools are examined by ISI for a wide range of requirements that have been deemed important to the development of its students such as the following:

  • Quality of education
  • Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
  • Welfare, health and safety of pupils
  • Suitability of staff, supply staff and proprietors
  • Premises and accommodation
  • Provision of information (to parents and prospective parents)
  • Manner of handling complaints
  • Quality of leadership and management


Both OFSTED and ISI are tasked with inspecting UK boarding schools for quality assurance. OFSTED inspects non-associated independent schools and other educational services for children and oversees ISI’s services. Meanwhile, ISI is a government-approved inspectorate that is primarily in charge of conducting inspections on all independent schools. Both OFSTED and ISI generate reports on the inspected schools’ compliance with the UK Department for Education’s standards. You can read more about OFSTED in our article here.

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UK Boarding School ISI Inspection Checklist

There are two general areas that are assessed in ISI inspections – student achievement and personal development. The inspector will then write in their reports what they feel to be the strengths and areas of development for the school’s performance for specific criteria. 

Questionnaire responses from pupils and parents are also a part of the assessment. Inspections are conducted every 2-3 years for most schools, although schools that have been shown to have significant weaknesses may be inspected more frequently.

Students’ achievements

  • Academic progress over time
  • Development of students’ knowledge and understanding across all areas of learning
  • Development of the students’ communication skills, numeracy skills, competence in using IT, study skills
  • Achievements in scholarships and competitions
  • Students’ attitudes towards learning

School’s contribution to students’ achievement

The inspector will also note the school’s contribution to the students’ achievements in the following ways:

  • Curriculum and other opportunities, meeting the individual needs of students
  • Teaching, planning, delivery, learning opportunities
  • Handling information, especially about student progress in academics, co-curriculum, and overall wellbeing
  • Providing resources, qualified and trained staff
  • Management of evaluation, planning, implementation and monitoring processes

Students’ personal development

  • Development of self-knowledge, self-esteem, confidence, resilience, self-awareness as a student – including being adaptable, self-disciplined, showing perseverance
  • Understanding that the decisions they make are determinants of their own success
  • Possess spiritual understanding, appreciate non-material aspects in life
  • Able to work with others to solve problems, cooperative, accept responsibility
  • Knowledgeable about staying safe, taking care of mental and physical health
  • Respect and value diversity, sensitive and tolerant of those with different backgrounds
  • Contribute positively to society
  • Demonstrate skills necessary to thrive in their next stage in life

School’s contribution to students’ personal achievement

The inspector will also note the school’s contribution to the students’ personal development in the following ways:

  • Curriculum, including personal, social, health, economic education
  • Extra-curricular activities provided
  • Positive role models provided by teachers and other staff
  • Opportunities for students to develop independence, responsibility, and leadership
  • Promoting positive behaviour that is centred on student welfare
  • Being aware of the role of boarding to personal development
  • Providing resources, qualified and trained staff
  • Management of evaluation, planning, implementation and monitoring processes

ISI Grading Scale

ISI uses a four-point system for their grading of schools which indicate the school’s performance in student achievement and student personal development. The grading system is as follows:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Sound
  • Unsatisfactory

Frequently Asked Questions

Pastoral care refers to how boarding schools care for its students’ welfare. This includes their mental and physical health, as well as their academic progress and co-curricular participation.

ISI inspects independent schools while OFSTED inspects non-associated independent schools and other educational institutions.

They are inspected every 2-3 years, although schools that underperform may be inspected more frequently.

ISI grades boarding schools for their performance in two aspects, student achievement and personal development, using a four-grade system which is: Excellent, Good, Sound, Unsatisfactory.

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