As all school leaders know, it is a requirement to complete an online self-evaluation document (SEF) prior to an inspection. Whether this is an annual event or a longer period of time depends on the school’s location in the UAE.
Schools have been consistently encouraged to engage in self-evaluation by all governments. The necessity for demonstrable systems of self-evaluation has grown and KHDA has provided a SEF as an aid to this process. Documents such as these are most useful when it becomes a dynamic endless process which is at the heartbeat of the school and the lifeblood of learning as John MacBeath, Director of Leadership for Learning at Cambridge identified in 2005. The key word here is ‘dynamic’. School self-evaluation is not just about looking back to judge, but about looking ahead in order to act.
However, school leaders inevitably have different views about the purpose and/or usefulness of the SEF, particularly when it has to be sent in the week before inspectors visit the school. This can prove to be a stressful time for school leaders, particularly if they are newly appointed to the UAE and have to quickly familiarise themselves with the requirements. Some say it is a very large task to do in a short amount of time. Many are only just beginning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their school, when the phone rings to say that an inspection is to take place.
Good and better schools (from previous inspections) will probably use the
SEF to help challenge senior and middle leaders on the attainment and progress of different phase and year groups, as well as different groups of students during the year as internal and external examination information becomes available. Jason King, Head of Secondary, Sunmarke School, states “School self-evaluation is a crucial part of any schools ongoing review cycle and planning identifying key strengths and areas for continued effective improvement.”
KHDA advises schools to use a number of external sources of information to provide quality indicators of a school’s performance. These indicators need to be compared with a school’s own internal information and judgements about the quality of its provision. “For senior leaders the process is holistic and provides important milestones in navigating the geography of school improvement,” said Julian Williams, Springdales School. A school will therefore use a range of external evidence alongside their own internal sources to validate their own judgement. When this information is triangulated with internal assessment data, lesson observations, work scrutinies, reports from eaders at all levels on all aspects of student achievement and feedback gained from students, the school is in a good position to judge itself. Internal information gathered by the school, will also include the school stakeholders and as outlined in the school inspection framework — partnerships with parents and the community. School self-evaluation is an integral part of the school improvement process. It is not a separate activity. The process is about discovering what is effective in the school and what needs improving. The gathering of information on a regular basis will provide schools with an important basis for determining its own improvement planning.
The writer is chief of School Improvement and Inspections at The Boston Initiative and has more than 25 years of school improvement and inspection experience, having held the post of National Director for Science at the Department of Education and Skills in the UK