Tips for writing your school self-evaluation form (SEF)

Get help with writing your SEF, so you can be confident it's set up to support your school's development.

Last reviewed on 21 October 2022
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 3357
  1. Be concise and evaluative
  2. Describe the impact of actions 
  3. Back up your statements with evidence
  4. Ofsted has no preferred SEF format

Our associate education experts David Driscoll, Gulshan Kayembe and John Dunne helped us write this article. 

Be concise and evaluative

Make sure your self-evaluation summary is concise. You could do this by using bullet points, as they're easy to adapt as your school changes.

Make sure that:

  • You're completely clear about the differences between attainment, progress and achievement
  • All of your sentences are evaluative and none are purely descriptive

When you've finished, go back through the text and remove any unnecessary details. Ask yourself:

  • Do the grades for each area of judgement link with each other? For example, do they show that the quality of education is ‘good’ because the effectiveness of leadership and management is ‘good’? If not, have you explained the difference?
  • Do the evaluations match the criteria in Ofsted's school inspection handbook?
  • Have you been completely honest with yourself?

Describe the impact of actions 

Your SEF should identify the impact of the actions you've taken. 

  • How has your school changed?
  • What do pupils and staff do differently now?
  • What does success look like?
  • Who has benefited from this?

Back up your statements with evidence

If you say that pupils enjoy coming to school, for example, you could support this using attendance data or pupil and parent voice activities. 

There's no single set of evidence that you should use, as it will depend on the information you normally use to assess your school. However, you should take the following into account as a minimum:

  • Observations of teaching and learning
  • Scrutiny of pupils’ books
  • Records of special educational needs (SEN)
  • Child protection records

You may also wish to refer to:

  • Your previous inspection report
  • Your most recent Analyse School Performance (ASP) report
  • Your school improvement plan
  • The Ofsted evaluation criteria, as set out in the school inspection handbook

Ofsted has no preferred SEF format

Remember that inspectors evaluate the extent to which your leaders and governors evaluate the quality of your provision and outcomes through self-assessment.

However, Ofsted does not require you to present your SEF in a specific format (see paragraph 16 of the school inspection handbook).

You can use our template to save you time creating your own. 

What inspectors are looking for 

Inspectors use your SEF to get a picture of how your senior leadership team and governing board see your school. It's therefore helpful to give them:

  • A judgement on your school's performance in each of the main areas of inspection
  • An explanation of why you have given these judgements


David Driscoll is an independent consultant and a senior partner with an education consultancy. He has considerable experience of supporting schools to analyse their data to improve achievement, teaching and leadership.

Gulshan Kayembe is an independent consultant who has experience of inspecting schools. As a consultant, she provides mentoring for senior leaders and has worked as an external adviser on headteachers’ performance management.

John Dunne has extensive experience of school leadership in secondary schools. He is also a former inspector.

What did you think?

Rate this

Why did you give this rating?

Your feedback helps us to ensure our content is helpful to all members.

Our researchers read every comment.

Can't find what you need? Try searching, or ask us a question.

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.