1. Be honest
Effective leaders are open about both their school’s strengths and areas for improvement, and will use a process of self-evaluation to inform their improvement planning.
2. Be concise
Keep things sharp and crisp. Your SEF is a summary and distillation of all the information you’ve gleaned from your monitoring and evaluation. Avoid reproducing details and data already available elsewhere – the sharper your SEF is, the more effective it will be as an improvement tool.
3. Involve key stakeholders
Have others contribute to the process of self-evaluation and agree the judgements made, but ensure there’s a single ‘voice’ running through the document; provide any other contributors with a clear template and house style to follow.
4. Be accurate
Ensure that your evaluation is informed by a range of internal and external evidence that’s valid, reliable and quantified where appropriate. You should already have processes in place for regularly engaging with stakeholders and seeking their views.
By definition, your self-evaluation should be evaluative – i.e. providing evidence of the impact of the provision. Resist the urge to be too descriptive!
6. Be consistent
Ensure your judgements are consistent and that there are no contradictions within the document. The judgements in your SEF should properly triangulate with other key evidence – if pupil outcomes are judged as ‘Requires Improvement’, can you really state that the leadership is ‘Outstanding’?
7. Organise it
If you’re writing your school self-evaluation using Ofsted criteria, make the Ofstedbased judgements for each section clear with key supporting evidence. Split the criteria into sub-headings, as per the Framework – by, for example, judging attendance separately within pupil behaviour, safety and welfare, and governance within leadership and management.
8. “Even better if…” / ”To further improve we need to…”
Include these in each section to demonstrate aspiration and signpost future action. If you’re using Ofsted gradings, it’s worth identifying from the grade above what the school needs to achieve to improve further.
9. Share it
Make everyone aware of their role in the school’s success and how they can contribute in future. Think about how to communicate your judgements (if you wish to) to pupils, parents, teachers, senior leaders, governors, Ofsted, the LA – will the one document be appropriate for all audiences?
10. Revisit iT
Update your self-evaluation regularly – ideally at least once a year – and include information about the impact of actions taken on learners. You might want update key sections at certain times of year to fit in with your monitoring and evaluation cycles.
Grahame Smith is school improvement manager at Havering School Improvement Services.