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Writing Your SEF for the New Education Inspection Framework (EIF)

All schools prepare Self Evaluation documents/forms (SEFs) to health check their schools, with the twin goals of being ready for inspection and to inform their school development planning (SIP/SDP).

The Ofsted framework, in place since September 2019, means old SEF formats have to be revised to accommodate the new Curriculum focused inspection approach. It would make sense to organise your SEF to provide evidence in the same structure as the EIF and laid out in the following fashion:


A brief opening that clearly sets out the school’s context. This is mostly points of fact (e.g. proportions of disadvantaged and SEND) but also evidence of the complex challenges that pupils and, therefore, the school face. This may well include destination information. It will also include progress made since the last inspection, including specific progress on areas for development identified in the last inspection.

Quality of Education

Ofsted’s intention is to put the complete education provision at the centre of the inspections. The idea is built around the connectivity of curriculum, teaching, assessment and standards. The heart of this idea is that curriculum passes through different states: it is conceived, taught and experienced, or looked at in another way, it has Intent, it is Implemented (Teaching) and it has Impact (Assessment and Standards). Leaders and teachers design, structure and sequence a curriculum, which is then implemented through classroom teaching. The positive results of pupil learning are: what they know, what they are able to do and what can be seen in the standards they achieve.

Therefore, all evidence presented in a SEF must reflect this concept and approach. Evidence will need to:

  • explain how leaders have planned and sequenced the delivery of the curriculum to ensure the knowledge and skills of all pupils (particularly the disadvantaged and SEND) build to a sufficient and ambitious point to cater for their future learning and employment needs;
  • show teachers have good subject knowledge and appropriate pedagogical skills to ensure key concepts and knowledge are transferred to pupils’ long-term memory – this will in large part be supported by evidence from lesson observations, work scrutinies, pupil discussions and assessment;
  • review national tests and examinations at school and key group level;
  • provide clear picture of reading and pupils’ ability to access the full curriculum.

Particularly in secondary but also applicable to primary, the self-evaluation of the Quality of Education should also take place at subject level. This will inform departmental planning and staff development, and importantly will prepare curriculum leads for the “Deep Dives” that may take place on inspection. In departmental SEFs curriculum leads need to evidence:

  • their rationale for their content choices and sequencing across their year groups;
  • how they know what their teachers are teaching and how;
  • the progress pupils are making and the knowledge they are accumulating.

Behaviour and Attitudes

This needs to be positively focused and not dominated by attendance and behaviour/exclusions data. Initiatives that have been undertaken to ensure the school is safe, calm and orderly should be noted and the impact they have had (ideally supported by case studies, surveys or discussion group notes). Where attendance and behaviour data is summarised, it needs to be supported by analysis that demonstrates the school understands how this breaks down across key groups (disadvantaged/SEND) and the complexity of issues that need to be addressed within the raw data.

Personal Development

Often schools will have too much to cover in this area so the evidence in this section of the SEF needs to be particularly well structured. Practically, the best way to keep this manageable is to start from grade descriptors and assemble the evidence accordingly. Remember the judgement in this area “evaluates the school’s intent to provide for the personal development of all pupils, and the quality with which the school implements this”. Ofsted recognise the impact will often only be recognised once the pupil has left.

Leadership and Management

This area needs to evidence the “high expectations of all pupils in the school”. Leaders and those responsible for the school’s governance need to be providing “a clear and ambitious vision for high-quality education for all”. The evidence in this area must address safeguarding and staff well-being but it should demonstrate an unswerving focus on what is taught and how it is taught. It should demonstrate how leaders know all pupils are receiving their entitlement, that staff practice and knowledge is developing, and that all internal and external influences are focused on pupil outcomes in their widest sense.

Finally, a few good practice reminders that remain unchanged for preparing a short focused SEF:

  • For each section of your SEF use the Inspection Handbook grade descriptors to inform the evidence you seek.
  • Be concise and clear with your evaluation – avoid descriptive statements, where possible provide data, always consider impact.
  • Summarise – by all means know where supporting evidence can be found for things such as lesson observations, work scrutinies, etc, but stick to the high-level messages.
  • Remember the SEF is your opportunity to show the evidence for all the good thing you have been doing for pupils, but also recognise and learn from those challenges you face. Remember your SEF will help to steer your inspection.
  • Review regularly – saves you from a daunting once a year task!
  • Reach clear and consistent judgements in each area that are supported by the evidence.

*Much of the above is taken directly from School inspection handbook – November 2019 and Inspecting the curriculum – May 2019 – both Ofsted publications.

Easily Create Your SEF Using Lessons Learned

Our online system Lessons Learned provides a ready-made SEF structure using the new inspection judgement areas. Grade descriptors from the school inspection handbook are included by default and can be RAG rated to help you arrive at an overall judgement for each of the key areas included in Ofsted’s evaluation schedule. It allows for different formats of evidence to be easily uploaded and provides specific areas for keeping track of any identified strengths and areas for improvement.

Book your free online demo of Lessons Learned today via our website or by calling 0800 788 0555.

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