Ofsted 2014 - Linking the SEF SIP and PM
to empower school improvement
Compiling the Self-Evaluation Report for Ofsted can ensure sustainable
improvement across the school if school leaders combine the SEF the SIP and PM. This is made so much easier when using The iAbacus - which is designed to make things simpler.
Where we are now...
As Autumn term 2014 starts, school
leaders and classroom teachers are leafing through another updated Ofsted Framework here Heads
and Principals are introducing Performance Management and some are wrestling
with the New Curriculum. One head tells me, he’s preparing for Ofsted
scrutiny of each three expectations, “By getting my revenge in first and
updating both my Self-Evaluation Form (SEF) and School Improvement Plan (SIP)!”
That word “both” worries me. Why is he
keeping these two critical processes separate? And, why keep the third,
Performance Management (PM) out of it? This is all too complicated.
I want to help him keep it simple because we now know that sustainable
improvement can only be achieved when all three processes are brought together
in one common system. One system for everyone in the school to: “Look at
what they do, with a view to doing it better”. I try to explain that SEF+SIP+ PM = Sustainable School Improvement but I see he’s in a state of learned
helplessness and it’s only day two of term - so I say no more.
How did we get here?
The first Ofsted framework, in the early 1990s relied almost exclusively on inspector
judgement. That reliance on the primacy of others’ judgement is hard to
unlearn. OK, later frameworks
introduced Self Evaluation and greater reliance on in-school, self evaluation
was slow but sure until we had the SEF. “The
importance of teaching” – the schools' White Paper 2010extended the
trend with a clear expectation that schools will be in control of their own
development and set their improvement. The
Framework for School Inspection 2011stated,
“Increasing the school’s confidence: by endorsing
its own view of its effectiveness when that is accurate, and offering a sharp
challenge and the impetus to act where improvement is needed..... The quality
of self-evaluation is a good indicator of the calibre of the school’s leaders
and managers and of the school’s capacity to improve.”
That was joy to school improvers, like me. I
had pointed up the learned helplessness in training of Ofsted Inspectors and
NCTL Facilitators in“The
Giant Awakes – the third age of evaluation” in Improvement Magazine Summer2009. I wanted toexpose the
professional hypocrisy of believing students learn best through peer
assessment, or assessment for learning whilst believing that teachers and
Support from theory and research
beginning to know that when students, teachers and leaders can say, “Looking at
what we do with a view to doing it better next time, is part of our job - and
most of us do it most of the time” there is a sustainable model in place.
Researchers had shown this to be true but the force of John Hattie’s
final conclusion from his meta-analyses of achievement is perhaps most
powerful. In,“Visible Learning” 2009he
references symmetry in the learning process for students and teachers,
“School leaders and teachers need to create
school, staffroom and classroom environments where error is welcomed as a
learning opportunity, where discarding incorrect knowledge and understanding is
welcomed and where participants can feel safe to learn re-learn, and explore
knowledge and understanding”
Many have written about simplifying
complex processes by stepping back to see the overall pattern of things.
Peter Senge in ‘The Fifth Discipline’ (1990) described Systems Thinking when a
holistic view is useful because it enables the simplicity of detail to be
understood as part of the whole, rather than separate parts. Writing about medicine and surgery,
Atul Gawande in ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ (2010) made an observation that
strikes at the heart of this,
“We have accumulated stupendous
know-how… and highly trained highly skilled and hardworking people… nonetheless avoidable failures are
common and persistent, not to mention demoralising and frustrating…. the reason
is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know and the
systems we use have designed, exceed our ability to deliver the benefits... we need a different strategy for
overcoming failure, one that builds on experience but also makes up for our
inevitable human inadequacies. And there is such a strategy – though it seems
almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy, to those of us who have
spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and
technologies. It is a checklist!”
How do we get there?
So, if it is established wisdom that developing the
capacity to self-evaluate and plan for improvement is a requirement, how do we
I was one of those first Ofsted Inspectors to be trained in the early 1990s and
after one inspection I became an evangelical school improver. Like others, I preferred helping schools work
on their key issues. After a decade of school improvement in some very
challenging schools we began to see a pattern in the schools that did improve.
I becamesure that the capacity to self improve can be
judged by asking three key questions of students, teachers and leaders, indeed
anyone undertaking any endeavour. The language varied but the essence
1.JUDGEMENT- How well are we doing?
·How do we know - are we using objective criteria?
2.ANALYSIS- What is helping and hindering progress?
these are in our control?
·What are our priorities for action?
3.ACTION- So, what are we planning to do next?
·Who can help? When will it
·How will we judge success?
Confident answers to the questions, in this hierarchy, require an
understanding of a cyclical processes like: PLAN-DO-REVIEW
The questions link EVALUATION with PLANNING and deal with
PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT along the way by ensuring: judgement is matched to
criteria – analysis is linked to planning and – evaluation of impact leads back
to new judgement. This was becoming that check-list
I took an ABACUS, perhaps the oldest gadget in the world, as a visual
simplification of the complex concepts whereby staff and, at best, students
understood they had the capacity to self-improve. Sliding a bead
from left to right, across a competency grid, proved to be amazingly powerful.
Combining this with the computer, one of the newest gadgets, was achieved in
2012. We called it The iABACUS and now describe it as a unique school
improvement tool – self evaluation and action planning for everyone.
The key questions, above, are built in and it is linked to solid theory
It is no irony that The iAbacus has a
range of competency grids built in including because we wanted it to be a check against agreed criteria. So, it comes pre-populated with The latest September 2014 Ofsted
Framework, all the National Curriculum subject criteria and Headteacher
and Teacher Standards. They are all there, all those supposedly separate pieces of work SEF+SIP+PM unified in one process - and users check their way through it.
Our users tell us again and again - it's deceptively simple. My evangelism about school improvement has never been stronger. I promise you'll like t, if you take time to try it.. if you don't believe me look at the testimonials and articles under MORE INFORMATION on the top bar here
So, I emailed and offered a licence
to the head I spoke to at the start of this BLOG – he’s yet to come back to me.
Indeed, we’ve emailed all secondary heads in England this week -
primaries will be contacted later. I wonder if they’ll have
time to read it.
If you want
a free trial, or licence click here or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org To see a short video of it working click here