School self-evaluation is a formative process embedded into the day-to-day practices of schools and can be a fundamental force in driving and achieving school improvement. It is a reflection on practice that is made systematic and transparent. 

Good schools are in the business of continuous school improvement and they are constantly amending and updating their self-evaluations to improve pupil, professional and organisational learning. They evaluate all they do and assess whole sets of progress and performance indicators but not necessarily all at once. 

What works?

Self-evaluation is an organic and ongoing process by which members of staff reflect on their practice and pinpoint areas for action to inspire improvement.

A ‘moving’ school sustains critical reflection and enquiry powered by a collective determination to secure continuous improvement.

According to research, teachers and school leaders are key agents of change and a culture of enquiry and school self-review are key drivers for improvement.

An appreciation of ‘what works’ in school improvement comes down to understanding that 

    • every school can improve
    • every individual in the school has a contribution to make to improvement
    • schools should help themselves and guard against creating dependency
    • everyone in the school should be learning from others

Self-evaluation is practiced by the whole-school community and school staff know how to

    • Collect and analyse data
    • Practice appreciative enquiry
    • Analyse causes and solutions
    • Debate implications
    • Learn together to implement the quality of provision
    • Action-plan for new and better practice
    • Build capacity for change
    • Harness their strengths
    • Consider ways to build on innovations/new ways of working
    • Use evidence-informed teaching
    • Challenge
    • Consolidate
    • Adjust
    • Transform

Good schools practice intelligent accountability initiated on their own views of how they are serving and supporting their pupils.  

Good schools ask questions and are very aware of what makes up their school. They never take success for granted and are always evaluating whether aspects of their organisation are developing, stagnating or declining.  They also have staff trained to interrogate data rigorously and probe their findings further.

So, what approach do they take towards self-evaluation? 

Self-Evaluation Approaches

Good schools engage in self-evaluation because it helps them improve even more, not just because they are ‘ticking boxes’ or getting ready for a school inspection.  They build in time for collective enquiry and reviewing evidence.

Brighouse and Woods (2008) comment that there are many approaches and combinations of approaches to effective school self-evaluation but good schools will usually combine the following:

    1. The stakeholder approach

This involves the school surveying the views and attitudes of pupils, parents, staff and the wider community. It is essential to demonstrate what action the school has taken in response to these views.

    1. The checklist/audit approach

This is where a school carries out an audit against a list of questions which seek to identify strengths and weaknesses with a view to establishing priorities for improvement or completes a self-assessment checklist to assess whether they are managing resources effectively. This might include a review of structural indicators for inclusive system development and is best done as part of a planned, regular cycle rather than a one-off event.

    1. The external review approach

This involves the school’s critical friends such as LA and education consultants who review a particular aspect of the school’s work and make recommendations for improvement.

    1. The performance management approach

This is one of a school’s key management systems and used as an ongoing focus of evaluation of teaching and learning.

    1. The benchmarking approach

This is where the performance of the school is compared to that of similar schools through performance and valued added tables. The school tests its performance against stretched benchmarks.

    1. The case-study/action research approach

This approach is the hallmark of an active, reflective, intelligent school community geared to school improvement. This is where the school’s capacity for innovation and improvement is reflected in its culture of professional reflection and practical case-studies. Action research is practiced and written up to advance practice on a strategic basis.          

Good schools embed the process of self-evaluation into everything they do and so have an inbuilt momentum of school improvement.  Their quest is restless and persistent. 

According to Chapman and Sammons (2013), a multi-dimensional approach to self-evaluation provides a means whereby a school can systematically keep under review a number of elements, including:

    • its effectiveness as a learning community
    • the effectiveness of its school improvement processes, particularly in respect of their impact on pupils’ progress and achievement
    • the effectiveness of the learning actually taking place in classrooms.

When self-evaluation works best, it is because schools use well devised, clearly understood systems which are built firmly into their management processes.

But what do schools use to self-evaluate?

Self-Evaluation Tools: SEFOnline

School improvement is a process, not an event and so school self-evaluation is best conducted within an intelligible framework and reinforced by a set of structures that support systematic processes to amass a range of data from diverse sources and inform action to advance pupil and professional learning.

Everything depends on the quality of the evidence you are able to present. So how do you collect evidence as a matter of everyday routine and embed a culture that develops and sustains critical reflection and enquiry to secure continuous improvement? 

One of the best ways for your school to demonstrate its unique and distinctive characteristics and contributions is to use a ready-made tool.   

This is where Educater’s online Self-Evaluation Tool can help because it is a powerful corporate intelligence solution for collecting, analysing, interpreting and monitoring a wide range of evidence to judge the effectiveness of your school so you can plan and promote improvement.

It’s also a workload time-saver too because SEFOnline guides you through an interactive school evaluation process based on key performance indicators and this can be completed in just a few hours. Setting up a system and process of self-evaluation doesn’t have to be laborious with Educater.

What SEFOnline does so well is to keep self-evaluation on the radar at all times rather than something considered at the end of a process or cycle. It collects a broad picture, makes sure that the data you collect captures the reality of what is happening in your school and helps you set targets that reflect your school’s context.  

This highly intuitive self-evaluation tool gives you invaluable support to shape your School Improvement Plans and to be on point when it comes to your next school inspection. It forms a key part of a self-evaluating culture by routinising collective enquiry, reviewing evidence and continually striving for betterment.

SEFOnline is a powerful and professional evaluation module that is smooth and easy to use and has been designed to make self-evaluation a simple and meaningful process. It is grounded in sophisticated, accurate and open analysis guaranteed to meet the needs of your setting.

Educater recognises that self-evaluation is not simply a paper exercise completed for bureaucratic purposes but is integral to the culture of effective learning organisations helping school leaders to become evaluation and data literate.

Although SEFOnline will be useful for inspection purposes, Educater also understands that self-evaluation is a continuous process, governed by the needs of individual schools rather than the requirements of external bodies.

And finally…..

The success of self-evaluation is reflected in the high priority given to it by senior leaders and when it is clearly built into management systems.

Rigorous school self-evaluation is the dynamic of school improvement and plays a vital role in supporting pupil and professional learning.

Schools that are organised as learning communities are organisations that use their collective and reflective intelligence to travel forward so they can continually expand to create a better future.    

As Brighouse and Woods (2008) say, “A self-evaluating school never thinks it has arrived: it is always on a journey towards new heights of excellence.”

The real value of adopting SEFOnline is therefore to focus self-evaluation specifically on the impact of provision on the outcomes for children and young people and to keep it an active part of school life.


Brighouse, T. and Woods, D. (2008) What Makes A Good School Now? London: Network Continuum.

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Author: John Dabell