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Vanessa Ward

Chief Inspector - Independent Schools Inspectorate

Vanessa joined ISI in February 2021 in this newly merged role, which embeds the fundamental and supportive connection between effective inspection practice and high-quality education provision.


After graduating from the University of Edinburgh with MA (Hons) in English Literature, Vanessa attended the College of Law in London and Guildford before qualifying as a solicitor with first class honours. She practised for a number of years in London, specialising in commercial and media law. Having retrained as a teacher, her career in schools was spent entirely in the state sector, concluding with headship of The Tiffin Girls’ School, one of the highest performing state schools in England. While a headteacher, Vanessa was a member and elected vice-chair of the local authority schools forum. Vanessa joined Ofsted as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors Education (HMI), where she led Ofsted inspections under a succession of Ofsted inspection frameworks. In 2016, Vanessa was seconded to Ofsted’s newly-formed Unregistered Schools Taskforce, where she was specially trained to lead inspections into illegal ‘schools’.


Vanessa also has commercial experience building a successful education consultancy practice supporting school improvement. She combined this with her work as a School Improvement Partner (SIP) for Achieving for Children, a not-for-profit social enterprise providing services for children in Kingston, Richmond, Windsor & Maidenhead and beyond. In her consultancy and SIP work, she has worked closely with school leaders and governors from diverse education providers, including primary and secondary academies and maintained schools, special schools, multi-academy trusts, independent schools and international schools. Until her appointment as Chief Executive-Chief Inspector at ISI, she continued her work with Ofsted as an Ofsted Inspector.


Vanessa has also served on a school governing body as both foundation and parent governor, including chairing the governors’ personnel committee.

Upcoming Sessions

  • The 2023 Framework

    November 30, 202212:00 am - 12:30 pm