Gove axes SEFs in bid to cut red tape

24th September 2010 at 01:00
Minister promises to free up time to teach but move gets mixed response

Michael Gove announced yesterday that he is scrapping the school self-evaluation form as part of a raft of new "bureaucracy-busting" policies.

The Education Secretary said he is axing the form, a major part of the way Ofsted judges a school, because it is too time-consuming.

The document can be more than 60 pages long for all-through schools, and is often 50 pages for secondaries, but once completed can run to well over 100 pages.

Mr Gove said the time it takes for a school to fill in the form, which is submitted ahead of an inspection, varies but his Department had been told by teachers that it can take weeks to collect all the data, and then heads days to verify it all.

Speaking at the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association autumn conference in central London, he said it was time to set schools free from the "suffocating levels of bureaucracy and red tape".

"For too long teachers have been held back by over-prescription, complicated inspection systems and paperwork," Mr Gove said. "I am today making it clear that teachers will no longer be expected to waste valuable hours collecting data to fulfil an unnecessary box-ticking exercise.

He added: "But this is just the start. Our whole relationship with schools needs to change, and all our policies will have bureaucracy-busting measures at their heart."

From September, schools will no longer have to fill out SEFs, and it will be up to schools to decide how best to self-evaluate.

Although the form was seen as being overly-prescriptive and time consuming by teachers, many heads said they saw a use for them.

Kathryn Wong, head at Upper Horfield School in Bristol, said her school was achieving some of the worst key stage 2 results in the country four years ago but recently received a "good" rating from Ofsted.

"(SEFs) give you a good framework to think about every aspect of the school and what we have in place. I think I would still use the forms if they were scrapped," Ms Wong said.

The Department for Education has said it will still keep the forms available for schools to use, but stressed it that it was up to them.

Bobby Sutton, head at Bowhill Primary in Devon, said the forms should reflect a school's circumstances better.

Ms Sutton said: "We've all got mixed feelings about Ofsted inspections, but we have just had ours and the inspector said they need not have come out because what we put down on our SEF was exactly the case as they saw it. I would be concerned if each school had a different self-evaluation because it would be hard to tell who was doing well and who wasn't. SEFs should be more flexible but there needs to be a certain standard."

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