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Self-evaluation is not working

The new system of inspections designed to allow schools to evaluate themselves is in danger of failing, a report has warned.

The study from Cambridge university blamed the fact that that the self-evaluation models used to monitor and assess schools were being imposed on them by the Office for Standards in Education, rather than being developed by the schools themselves.

The result, said researchers, was that the process was becoming one of self-inspection rather than evaluation.

Schools are required to fill out a self-evaluation form before an Ofsted inspection, addressing 16 areas such as "how effective is your school?", which is then referred to by inspectors during their visits.

The externally-imposed system, however, is preventing schools from developing their own structures for self-evaluation or arriving at their own solutions to problems, the report says.

The study, called A new relationship? Inspection and self-evaluation, by Professor John MacBeath of Cambridge university for the National Union of Teachers, found that "the Government needs to recognise that self-evaluation... cannot be imposed. "Schools must be encouraged to speak for themselves. Ofsted needs to pay attention to the many different ways in which schools have built self-evaluation into their practice and to respect and learn from models other than their own."

It continues: "Schools need to be encouraged to develop their own approaches without pressure or incentive to comply with a standardised format with attendant high-stakes consequences."

John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, said the system continued to leave schools in fear of failing their inspections.

"If you don't entirely trust schools and teachers you can end up with simply moving oppressive accountability structures from the outside to the inside," he said.

The study, of 192 heads and teachers in England, found that respondents believed self-evaluation was for schools, and not for external scrutiny by Ofsted or the local education authority.

One secondary teacher said self-evaluation should "promote open discussion of the results among teachers themselves and strategies for improvement...the school has a right to a non-judgemental atmosphere for discussing self-evaluation".

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