Private schools will get the shorter, more frequent inspections already used in state schools, Ofsted said today.
They will be visited every three years and get a single inspection lasting a maximum of three days, by no more than two inspectors.
But failing schools will face a tougher regime to make sure they meet at least 90 per cent of the standards set by the Government.
All English private schools which are not members of the Independent Schools Council are subject to inspection by Ofsted. Around 1,100 independents are in this "non-association" category.
Ofsted said the new system, which also cuts the notice of a visit from up to eight weeks to two days, would reduce the burden of inspection and focus its resources where they are most needed. At present, private schools are inspected every six years with a pre-inspection visit by the lead inspector followed by a four-day inspection involving two or more inspectors.
Schools that meet most regulations - including requirements for quality of education and child safety - will receive the new light-touch inspections.
But those who fail to do so will, like failing state schools, face tougher inspections, with Ofsted returning to check on their progress within 12 months.
Miriam Rosen, Ofsted's director of education, said the changes were needed because the proportion of schools meeting at least 90 per cent of the statutory regulations for independent schools has risen from about 50 per cent when the current inspection cycle began in 2003 to two-thirds today.
The new system, being piloted in 29 schools, will be introduced in April 2008, subject to the results of a consultation on the changes which ends on October 13.
Short-notice, light-touch inspections were introduced in state schools last year. From this term, successful schools will get ultra-light inspections while more resources are targeted at those with weaknesses.
Details of inspection at non-association independents is available at: www.ofsted.gov.uk