August 2018

The know zone

  • Summer term blues...
    'Common knowledge' has it that teachers not only spend a large proportion of the year on holiday but also have a full half-term to recharge their batteries in preparation for that big six-week 'sit-off'. If only it were that simple, says one head... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • What's your favourite book?
    With the end of the summer term in sight, bringing with it a chance, hopefully, for you to unwind and maybe read a book or two, we asked what you enjoy reading. Fiction or non-fiction, novel or biography, here are a few suggestions from ASCL members and staff. More
  • Ready for transition?
    Kevin Gilmartin examines the proposed 'transition year' for 16 year-olds. More
  • Time for reflection
    Self-evaluation is almost always a useful process, but as with most leadership activities, the trick is to ensure the cost/benefit ratio works in your favour, says Stephen Rollett. More
  • Hub of expertise
    A new website, supported by ASCL, offers schools and colleges a valuable chance to share best practice and resources on special educational needs and disability (SEND). Anna Cole highlights the details. More
  • New starting point
    As the pace picks up on plans to introduce the controversial new Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA), Julie McCulloch looks at how the assessment will work and how it will be used. More
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Self-evaluation is almost always a useful process, but as with most leadership activities, the trick is to ensure the cost/benefit ratio works in your favour, says Stephen Rollett.

Time for reflection

The first step is to ensure your self-evaluation process and any resultant documents are useful in driving improvements. You will need to identify strengths and weaknesses by looking at a range of evidence. Performance measures and other historic data are an important part of this, but don’t forget to explore the full richness of your provision – including the views of parents, pupils and staff, the wider curriculum and the progress of pupils currently at your school.

Second, recognise that the act of reviewing provision across your school does not necessarily mean you have to comment on every aspect in your self-evaluation framework (SEF). The danger in commenting on every nuance, foible or quality is that the document can become unwieldy. Moreover, don’t allow your SEF to drift into unhelpful description. It should be focused, evaluative and supported by meaningful and revealing evidence. In short, however detailed your final document, you need to be able to see the wood for the trees.

ASCL SEF Toolkit

ASCL has built on the well-received SEF Toolkit, produced over several years by ASCL member Tony Thornley, so that it now meets a range of needs. For those leaders who want to rate and record performance across a wide range of aspects, the Extended Evaluation Framework walks you through a highly structured and detailed approach.

Many schools, however, find that a slimmer SEF document encourages a sharper focus on the things that really matter. The Intermediate Evaluation Framework provides a less structured way of reviewing the areas judged by Ofsted, such as leadership and management, and teaching, learning and assessment.

The leanest of the ASCL SEF frameworks is the Summary Evaluation Framework, which encourages you to write about only the school’s most significant strengths, weaknesses and improvements. In order to ensure the evaluative process underpinning the document has breadth, there is an accompanying table against which performance can be judged and rated numerically. This helps to ensure the process leaves no stone unturned, but the resultant SEF document remains manageable and focused.

Know your audience

It is important to know that Ofsted does not dictate how you self-evaluate. In fact, Ofsted’s useful myth-busting information says, “Ofsted does not require self-evaluation to be graded or provided in a specific format. Any assessment that is provided should be part of the school’s business processes and not generated solely for inspection purposes.”

You may find it useful to read the accompanying Criteria Document in our toolkit, which highlights the Ofsted criteria that schools are judged against. You can use these to inform judgements you make on your SEF. First and foremost, it has to work for you and your school. In particular, think about your governing body. Is your SEF accessible to governors who may not be educators? Does it outline clearly what the school is doing well and what needs to improve? While you won’t write the document purely for Ofsted, governors will fare better during inspection if they are familiar with an accurate, incisive and accessible SEF.

Some schools choose to share their SEF with middle leaders or more widely with staff. If you are going to share your SEF, it is far better to introduce it to staff face-to-face and be sensitive to how it may be received or interpreted. You may choose to share a summary version if necessary. Discuss the findings in advance where appropriate so that staff do not feel ambushed when it is published.

A strategic narrative

Your SEF should give a strategic narrative of your school. Someone reading your SEF should be able to readily understand what is going well and where further improvements are necessary.

As such, the document should closely align with your school improvement plan.

Above all else, the process that underpins your SEF must be right. If producing the document is merely a paper exercise conducted through gritted teeth, then you’re missing the point. It is far better to pour your valuable time into gaining genuine and useful insight and to produce a one-page SEF, than to spend hours at the computer producing a tome that no-one will read or find useful. You may also find it useful to make this process a team activity, so it is underpinned with a shared understanding and a range of perspectives. If you are doing it right, then writing the document itself is the easy bit.


For further information and details of how to obtain the ASCL SEF Toolkit, see


Book your place at one of our Ofsted Seminars taking place throughout 2018–19. The first seminar is on 18 September in Manchester – see

Stephen Rollett
ASCL Inspections and Accountability Specialist