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Tips for writing your school self-evaluation form (SEF)
- 1 Download and use our list of prompts
- 2 Be concise and evaluative
- 3 Describe the impact of actions
- 4 Update your SEF periodically
- 5 Back up your statements with evidence
- 6 Ofsted has no preferred SEF format
Download and use our list of prompts
Our prompts are comprehensive and will enable you to properly assess the quality of your school's provision. Remember, though, that you don't need to address every point listed. We’d love to be able to tell you which points to focus on in your setting, but unfortunately you really do have to decide this yourself, based on your school's individual context.
Our contributing 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.
You should ensure 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 the following questions:
- Do the grades for each area of judgement link with each other? For example, do they show that the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is ‘good’ because the effectiveness of leadership and management is ‘good’? If not, have you explained the difference somewhere?
- Do the evaluations match the criteria in Ofsted's School Inspection Handbook?
- Have you been completely honest with yourself?
Completed SEFs from schools like you
Use these to see what you could include in your own SEF.
Describe the impact of actions
Your SEF should identify the impact of the actions you've taken.
You'll find an example of what this looks like in practice in guidance East Sussex County Council has published for its schools. You'll see a weak, descriptive evaluation of impact which is then reworked to be evaluative (pages 3 to 4).
Download the guidance from the following webpage:
Update your SEF periodically
Your SEF should be a working document to support school improvement, and not something you write for inspection.
Update your SEF at least once a term and base it on:
- A thorough and robust review of the outcomes of your school’s monitoring of teaching and learning
- Your analysis of the attainment and progress of all groups of pupils
- Your analysis of information related to pupil’s behaviour and safety
- The views of parents and pupils
You'll find this suggested in the East Sussex County Council guidance linked to above (page 1).
Back up your statements with evidence
For example, if you say that pupils enjoy coming to school, 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 provision and outcomes through robust self-assessment" (see paragraph 28 of Ofsted's CIF).
However, Ofsted does not require you to present your SEF in a specific format, or to grade it (see paragraph 29 of the School Inspection Handbook).
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.
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