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Why OFSTED Self Evaluation forms are a good thing

Yes Self Evaluation Forms (SEFs) take a while to complete but that’s not to say they are not useful. Here’s why:
1. Schools are multimillion pound organisations, any multimillion pound organisation needs to review what it’s doing, evaluate and plan improvement. That’s exactly the sort of strategic role that leadership teams need to take.
2. The form is actually very well structured. It balances exam attainment with wider Every Child Matters outcomes like achieving economic and social well-being, making healthy choices, and contributing to the community. SEFs therefore ensure that schools look at what they are providing to pupils holistically and therefore counter balance an obsession with academic results. Without the weight of community cohesion and ECM in Ofsted, the see-saw of school accountability tips disproportionately to the side of exam results.
3. One of the main reasons for the form is that it makes the actual inspection of schools less hefty. Inspectors base their inspection on checking the SEF and the hypotheses they draw from it. Inspections are therefore focused on checking that the school accurately understands where it’s at and how to improve. SEF’s therefore put the school in charge, thus making them less dependent on detailed, long inspections and the judgements of inspectors.
4. According to the DfE “It can run to over a 100 pages once it has been filled in.” – Sometimes they do. But they shouldn’t. Not if they’ve been written properly anyway.
5. Most of the SEFs (and SARs/SEDs– equivalents for employment based training and teacher training providers) that I’ve been involved in, have led to real improvements in the quality of provision by flagging up gaps and pushing the provider to improve. The organisations have therefore found it a genuinely useful process to go through.
So what will replace SEFs? Longer, tougher inspections without the guidance that SEFs provide? Adhoc self evaluation by schools without the framework that SEFs improve? Will leadership teams make the time for detailed self evaluation if it’s not a requirement? Will SARs and SEDs disappear as well?
It’s all well and good to talk about cutting bureaucracy but it’s a good idea to check first whether what you’re getting rid of is really that useless after all.


  1. Avatar
    Jon Barr says:

    Dear lkm,
    Thank you for talking the most sense on this matter that I have seen so far. I personally do not want the freedom to have to create my own framework which it will be difficult to compare with other schools and which a poor OFSTED inspection team may be able to dismiss. Are we going to surrender the self evaluationapproach to inspection this easily and return to the crude inspection regime that preceded it? Jon Barr headteacher Meadowbrook Primary School

  2. Avatar
    loic_admin says:

    Glad you agree Jon, I think the comparability point is really important. If OFSTED can’t trust that the school’s own evaluation has been done in line with what they are looking for in all different schools and hasn’t covered everything they need, then it becomes largely irrelevant to the inspection. There has to be an element of standardisation on this, if not they end up having to look at everything all over again and you end up with incredibly onerous inspections.
    I also heard today that they have now instructed Christine Gilbert (who is apparently being pushed out) that OFSTED should no longer look for Community Cohesion and Pupil Well-being. Have you heard this too?


  3. Avatar
    Beverly Jones says:

    Agree with all comments.

    I am all in favour of schools as small and medium size businesses adopting good business practice. Audit is essential. The current approved format for the SEF enables Governors, who are volunteers,and School leaders to undertake an efficient and wide ranging review of their services. A prescribed format enables updates to reflect current policy.

    Without the SEF it is important that Schools accountabilty for their use of public monies is captured in a format that is accessible to Governors and the community and efficient for school leaders. Will this become dependent on an external auditor – whether it is Ofsted or another body? I fear this change will not reflect the “Big Society” ambition to” pass power to Citizens and Communities”.

    Beverly Jones, Education Consultant and ex-Headteacher

  4. Avatar
    Jon Barr says:

    I heard Patrick Leeson (Ofsted) talk at the Innovation in Education conference run by The Guardian and The Innovation Unit in London last week. He reiterated that Self Evaluation was at the centre of school improvement and would remain at the centre of the inspection regime in England. He predicted a lot of commercial product would appear in 2011 to do the same job at the SEF. I am wondering of we should try to collaborate as schools and create our own model. I don’t think we can affors to wait until the new inspection evaluation schedule is published.

    • Avatar
      loic_admin says:

      That sounds like a really interesting talk Jon. Good idea too. Would you be interested in meeting up to discuss this? Maybe e-mail me if so?
      I’ve found you on Twitter too and will mention your comment: perhaps others might have some more ideas to add.

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