The Self Evaluation Form (SEF) is the mechanism by which schools in the UK judge their own performance and capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. The form is a public document, typically developed by the school’s senior management team, in collaboration with governors, staff and other stakeholders. Intended as a living document, updated at least annually, the SEF is used as one of the most significant inputs into the lightweight inspection regime currently adopted by Ofsted.
There’s an interesting post on the Primary Teacher UK blog suggesting that Ofsted inspectors are not always rigorous enough in challenging the claims made by schools in their SEFs. I can’t really comment, other than to say that in the current environment it is understandable (though not necessarily acceptable) that schools will try to spin the system to their best advantage whenever they can.
In the case of the newly amalgamated primary school where I am chair of governors, we self-evaluated ourselves as ’satisfactory’ prior to our first Ofsted inspection and this was duly endorsed by the inspectors. We had little option. As a new school, however good we thought ourselves, we didn’t have the necessary evidence to back up any other claim… and the reality is that so much work is currently in hand, both in terms of setting new policies and practices and in terms of aligning pedagogic, assessment and other teaching and learning approaches across what used to be two schools, that to claim anything other than ’satisfactory’ at this stage would be unreasonable.