Louise Doyle, Director, Quality Assurance Specialists Mesma

Effective self-assessment and the improvement plan that shakes out from it, is a mechanism for developing provision; not simply a document to satisfy Ofsted. Louise Doyle, director of quality assurance specialist, Mesma, considers how to make the whole process more beneficial.

If you are a new apprenticeship provider it’s important to consider how self-assessment can work for you; the balance of time, effort and impact in the context of other priorities.

In the current Ofsted Common Inspection Framework it sits prominently under ‘Effective Leadership and Management’‘The rigour of self-assessment, including through the use of the views of learners, employers and other stakeholders, its accuracy and how well it secures sustained improvement across the provider’s work, including any sub-contracted provision’.

It’s important to say Ofsted has no expectation that you ‘…prepare a self-evaluation or equivalent in a specified format or with specific wording; any assessment they provide should be part of the provider’s usual evaluation work and not generated solely for inspection purposes.’ So, what steps can you take to achieve more effective self-assessment?

Clarity is critical

It’s important to embed self-assessment in your culture, rather than see it as a bolt on to the day job.Therefore, document your process in a quick, easy-to-understand diagram, and share this with your team so they understand it and their role in self-assessment.

Ask yourself when does self-assessment take place? Who needs to be involved at which points? How does the timeline sit alongside availability of any data you intend to use as evidence? 

Involve others

Writing a self-assessment should be an inclusive experience, involving others who might have something useful to contribute. Failure to do so, risks judgements being made from a too narrow perspective. Involve staff, including support areas, from the outset, and gather input from employers and learners in whatever form is realistic. Consider also peer review with others outside of your organisation.

Here’s what Ofsted might pick up if it doesn’t permeate throughout your structure:

 “Leaders and managers have put into place a comprehensive process to evaluate the provision, which they monitor termly. This has focused managers on the key strategic improvements required, but curriculum managers are not yet routinely able to identify areas for improvement and do not focus enough on improving the quality of teaching and learning. As a result, managers do not secure the rapid improvements required”. 

Self-critical

An honest report is the best way to build a realistic and sensible improvement plan. Don’t be afraid to be self-critical. If you took Ofsted out of the equation, you’d rightly ask yourself what on earth the point of a rose-tinted self-assessment approach is.

But be sensible. If you identify an absolute clanger of an issue, fix it immediately. For example, writing about safeguarding training being inadequate is a bad idea when your time would be better spent on actually instigating improvements.

Beyond the extreme examples though, being self-critical is crucial. Why? Because if Ofsted identify weaknesses that you haven’t outlined yourself, a credibility gap can occur, shedding doubt on your ability to have a firm grasp on your provision.

Celebrate success

Sharing good practice can be good, empowering and energising. Capture good work as it happens and celebrate it with the team.

However, don’t overdo it too much: a slot on a team meeting agenda or a shared space to allow staff to log examples is all that is needed. 

Wise words

Use your data wisely. Self-assessment requires you to focus on the important bits, supporting progress and outcomes for the benefit of all learners. The data you choose to use helps to measure the quality of teaching learning and assessment.

So it’s easy to see that ‘good’ self-assessment uses the data to inform judgements rather than relying heavily on opinion.

Self-assessment has changed a lot over the years, as has the expectation of Ofsted. But it still relies on clients to write less and think more. You’ve got enough on your plate without self-assessment adding to it, by turning it into a long-winded exercise in story telling. 

Louise Doyle, Director, Quality Assurance Specialists Mesma

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