When I say SEF I’m talking about downloading and completing the Ofsted Self Evaluation Form.  How useful do you find it? Do you have to complete it? The answer to both of them is Not very and No! So why do we do it?

Because Ofsted ask us to.  But nowhere does it say we have to do it, and I don’t know about you but I don’t find it a very effective evaluation tool! I completed it because I worried it would have a negative impact on my inspection, I knew it didn’t have a positive impact on evaluating my provision.  So now I have a generic SEF completed for Ofsted that evaluates what  we deliver overall, but we do not use it to evaluate our provision on a regular basis.

We have much more effective methods in place to evaluate everything we do, which not only includes myself and my staffs thoughts, but also the opinions of everyone else who we work with; from parents, children, other professionals, agencies, schools and shared care.

How do we do it?

Where do I start?!  Self evaluation covers so many areas, and is done in so many different ways.  Ours is done on a daily basis and is a working document.

We don’t rely on one Quality Assurance System, we cherry pick what’s best for us! (remember what works for one setting might not work at another because we are all different).

To start with we have high expectations in place from our Leaders and Managers, which is also documented through policies and procedures to ensure we are all singing from the same song sheet.  When taking on new staff they have to agree to these high expectations through job descriptions, our ethos and etiquette and induction for example.  Then if they do not adhere to these high expectations we use our training, support, SMART targets and our supervision process to improve or enforce these.

One measure on its own is not enough.  For example you may send your staff on training.  But how effective was it? Did the staff understand it? Do they know how to implement it? And how is it cascaded to all staff so the whole provision benefits from it?  So going on training alone is not enough.  To give you an idea of our training procedures I’ll list the following:

  1. Training is identified through individual or business need.
  2. This can be identified through observing staff practise, through supervisions or recognising a weakness in the setting or an area you want to improve on.
  3. They attend the training
  4. They fill out one of our evaluation forms to identify the strengths and weakness of the training and what they gained from it. (We then feed back to the training provider on the staff’s feedback, this then supports if the training needs improving or strengthening)
  5. Staff feedback and present what they have learnt in the staff meeting .
  6. Peer observations evidence if the training has been effective in practise.
  7. Staff supervisions are to discuss the effectiveness on a one to one basis.
  8. If it has not been effective then SMART targets are set.

Another example is how we monitor the quality of teaching and learning in our provision.  Now this is a lengthy one so I won’t go through all the ways in which we evaluate this, but we don’t just focus on what happens in our setting.  Once children have left to go to school, we ask for feedback from the school after the children’s first term.  This then forms part of our tracking to monitor any gaps in teaching or to support what we are doing well. From this we would then evidence this in our self evaluation and set any actions if necessary.

So remember, you do not have to complete the Ofsted SEF online, use what quality assurance systems work best for you and your provision. (Small settings or childminders may choose to have no written documentation to evidence their self evaluation or improvement plan because they can verbally evidence it!) As long as you can evidence how you are improving outcomes for children, it’s up to you to decide how you do it.