School and University Investigations


The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is the regulator of all state schools and childcare facilities in England and is responsible for maintaining and regulating schools, colleges, apprenticeship providers, prison education, teacher training and childcare agencies.

The Secretary of State for Education is the regulator of independent schools in England and maintains a register of these institutions.

According to the Education Act 1996, the legal definition of an independent school is one which provides full-time education. It is a criminal offence for a person to run an independent school that is not registered, under section 96(2) of the Education and Skills Act 200 and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months custody or an unlimited fine (or both).

Ofsted and the Department for Education have powers to prosecute for a number of offences, for example conducting an unregistered independent school or using corporal punishments on a child.

The equivalent regulator and inspectorate for childcare in Wales is Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW), jointly with Estyn.


The Office for Students (OfS) is the main regulator of universities and higher education establishments and holds them to account for quality of teaching. It was established by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, which also grants powers to OfS to investigate and prosecute regulatory offences.

Every higher education provider in England must be registered with the OfS and abide by the regulatory framework set out in the conditions of registration. The OfS then monitors each provider and may intervene in the event of a potential or actual breach.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) regulates the higher education sector in Wales and administers Welsh Government funding for students and universities.

Our experienced Regulatory and Criminal Lawyers at Nicholls & Nicholls can provide advice and assistance to establishments facing criminal prosecutions or investigations into regulatory breaches.

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