More than 1,000 independent schools will have just two days' warning, rather than six to eight weeks, before an Ofsted inspection, under new plans.
The best independent schools will receive less attention from Ofsted
The schools watchdog for England also plans to visit the schools every three years, rather than every six.
Ofsted inspects schools which do not belong to recognised independent school associations - these are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
The plans, now out for consultation, would come into force in January 2007.
They are aimed at bringing the 1,300 independent schools falling under Ofsted's remit closer into line with the new regime for inspecting state schools.
'Reduce the burden'
The best independent schools will receive less attention, while those which are told to improve will receive more.
Ofsted's director of education, Miriam Rosen said cutting the notice period would help reduce the "burden" of inspections on schools
She said: "The proposed new inspection arrangements for non-association independent schools will be more efficient, have a greater impact on improvement, and incorporate schools' own self-evaluation into the inspection process.
"Whilst maintaining the rigour of the current arrangements, lighter touch inspections will reduce the burden of inspections on the most successful schools and enable us to focus our resources on schools which are failing to meet the regulations and therefore letting down their pupils."
Ofsted said pilots of the new system, which involves independent special schools, Steiner schools and primary and secondary schools, have been successful.
Avondale School in Salisbury, Wiltshire, received a pilot inspection in June.
Its head teacher, Richard McNeall, said: "We found that the new-style inspection was far more helpful in sharpening our focus and the self-evaluation form was helpful as a tool for evaluation and development.
"The inspectors were supportive, discreet and helpful, and the short notice reduced the feeling of stress ahead of inspection."