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Self-evaluation forms (SEF)

Selwyn Ward is the TES's inspection 'agony uncle', here to answer your questions on the new Ofsted process

I have just read our self-evaluation form (SEF). I found it really damning, a lot harsher than I think we deserve. Do I just have to go along with it? Is there any point in trying to counter some of the negativity?

By all means talk to your headteacher and senior management team members if you think they've got it wrong and are painting a too negative picture of the school. But I don't think it would be a good idea for you to produce a dissenting report! I suspect that, particularly in these still early days of the new framework, some leadership teams are producing SEFs that are overly cautious. Maybe they think inspectors will be more impressed with an exaggeratedly self-critical SEF than one that seems to view the school through rose-tinted spectacles.

If inspectors are on the ball, though, heads who do not see the school's strengths should be criticised just as much as those who fail to notice the weaknesses. If leadership is to be most effective, then it needs to be accurate, enabling the school to build on what it does well. So if a school's SEF judgments are consistently a grade lower than those found by the inspectors, that ought not to be considered to be to the credit of the leadership team.

Of course, it's possible that your head has got it spot on and you may only be seeing part of the picture. I've certainly been in secondary schools where some departments have a picture that is detached from the rest of the school!

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