Independent schools registration

All independent schools in Northern Ireland are required by law to be registered with the Department of Education. A completed application form should be sent to the Department of Education within 1 month of the school opening. An application form and guidance on the process can be accessed on this page.

Application form

The completed application form can be sent to:

Department of Education
Governor Policy and Appointments Team
Rathgael House
43 Balloo Road
BT19 7PR

You can contact the Governor Policy and Appointments Team  for assistance. Each application will be dealt with objectively and impartially.

The school timetable should be submitted with the application and must include for each class:

  • name of the teacher
  • number of pupils in the class
  • length of time of instruction
  • subject of instruction
  • an analysis showing the number of hours of instruction received weekly by each class in each subject of the school curriculum
  • the dates on which the school will be in operation during the school year

Registration requirements

If you are responsible for, or engaged in the management or operation of, an independent school, you must comply with public policies and legislation. This includes public health and safety, which incorporates premises health and safety requirements. This is to safeguard the welfare of children and young people. Information about the vetting of adults working with children is available on the AccessNI pages on the nidirect website. Information about public health and safety can be read on the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland website.

The premises should be suitable for use as a school. You should consider the number, ages, gender and abilities of the pupils in attendance.

You should provide efficient and suitable instruction having regard to the ages, gender and abilities of the pupils in attendance.

The Department may refuse an application for the registration of your school, if you do not meet these requirements.

Registration process

When all the documentation associated with the application form is received, the Department (DE) will advise you that the school is provisionally registered as an independent school. This is providing that the persons holding registered positions have complied with the AccessNI rules. Only AccessNI compliant persons can be engaged in the operation of the school. At this initial stage, DE will advise you of the time period for the full registration process and the means of redress in the event of the application being refused.

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) is responsible for inspecting the standards of education provision in independent schools. ETI will arrange an inspection visit after the date of the receipt of an application form for the registration of a new school.

DE will notify you in writing of the outcome of the full registration process. However, if a complication arises which justifies a delay in taking a decision on the registration of independent school at the end of the six months, DE is entitled to extend the six months deadline by a limited period. If this happens, you will be notified of the period of the extension.

When your school acquires full registration as an independent school, you will be required to provide DE with up to date information on an annual basis about its operation. This includes the number of pupils and staff at the school. The school will also be subject to regular inspections by the ETI and will receive an inspection report. These are standard procedures which apply to all schools.

You should immediately notify DE in writing of any change in the proprietorship or teaching staff or postal address of an independent school.

Back to top