Why OFSTED Self Evaluation forms are a good thing

24th September 2010

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.