Governor's Corner #3

This space is about and for school governors, one of the most underrated sections of leadership in our schools today. It is here for you to share so please leave a comment with your views and any topics you might like to explore!


The SEF is gone – glad or sad?

In recent weeks there has been an audible noise coming from many school leaders. For some it was a sigh of relief. They had seen a huge burden removed from them. For others, it was a sigh of regret that they were no longer required to carry a certain tool in the tool box. What am I referring to  – the SEF – The Self Evaluation Form.
This is the document that details all the schools data, information, progress and areas for development. It was introduced in 2005 as a common summative self-evaluation form expected to be around 20 pages in length. Although not statutory, around 96% of schools use it and many can be 100+ pages in length!. It is an on-line document that is accessible to Ofsted as well as school leaders. The premise is that it is regularly updated so that when an inspection is called, the SEF can be frozen and used as part of the evidence.
It is far more than a paper exercise for Ofsted though. Dianne Spencer illustrates well how she and her team use it – ‘SEF – Which SEF?’  For Governors, it is a effective part of their monitoring and evaluating role particularly if they can contribute to the writing as well as read it. In many schools the sections are reviewed in line with the external ‘core visits’ of the School Improvement Partner so that over the year a detailed picture of where the school is and where it needs to progress to are clear.
The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, recently announced that Ofsted had been asked to ‘ditch’  the SEF. It was no longer going to be a feature of the inspection regime. The decision was taken as part of the Coalition’s commitment to reducing the bureaucracy in schools. Certainly, starting with a blank SEF is not only daunting but will take a great deal of time to complete. However, once set up, I believe that used appropriately and closely linked to the school development plan, it can be the back-bone of school improvement. In order for schools to provide the best experience for children, they need to ask three questions: How well are we doing? How do we know? How can we improve things further? Answering these questions is self-evaluation!
We are due a new inspection framework from Ofsted and a continued expectation that schools will undertake self-evaluation. That does not mean there will be a new SEF or that schools will have to start again. The dear old SEF is a document that Ofsted, school leaders and hopefully Governors understand. Any replacement will have to provide a robust system for all those involved to understand and engage with if schools are to continue to improve.
 What are your views? Are you sad or glad to see the SEF go?

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