A Guide To: Early Years Self Evaluation

The term ‘self evaluation’ can often bring practitioners to their knees, it is often seen as something to complete for Ofsted purposes and many settings often rush the completion of their self evaluation form to ‘get it out of the way’.  However, effective early years self evaluation can often transform a setting from satisfactory to outstanding.

What is Self Evaluation?

Self evaluation is an ongoing reflective process which should be part of your day-to-day activities.  It is necessary to recognise success and identify areas for development in order to set out your vision for the future.  There are four key points that should be at the heart of self evaluation – reflect, evidence, priorities and impact.

Why should I complete a Self Evaluation Form?

Ofsted have produced an Early Years Self Evaluation Form that can be completed on-line or handwritten.  Ofsted have updated their Self-Evaluation form to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (2012), if you complete your SEF on-line then it will be automatically updated in line with the new SEF.  Although there is no legal requirements for settings to use the Ofsted EY SEF there is an expectation that settings will self evaluate their practice and inspectors will make judgements about a settings ability to self evaluate.

By completing a self-evaluation form it will enable you to consider how best to maintain and improve your provision, so that you can offer the best possible experiences and environment for young children.  The EY SEF provides key questions for you to evaluate and improve your practice in relation to the provision, Early Years Foundation Stage and outcomes for children leadership and management.

Top Tips for  Self Evaluation 

Ask yourself what do I do now?

  • Get the views of all users and stakeholders – a manger may have a different vision to a parent…

Ask yourself how do I know?

  • Collect evidence including photographs, children’s progress trackers…

Ask yourself what do I need to do next?

  • Record your future priorities and share these with all stakeholders…

Ask yourself what difference have the changes/has your practice made?

  • Provide examples – what have you changed because you reflected on practice…

How to write a Self Evaluation Form

It is important to remember that when writing any type of self evaluation you are evaluating your provision not just describing it.  Here are some words I would suggest using when making judgements about your provision: If you are outstanding why not use words such as dynamic, extremely or exceptional.  For a good judgement try to add the words comprehensive, enthusiastic or mostly.  If you consider your practice to be satisfactory then adequate, competent or sufficient may be used.  In the unlikely event that any aspect of your provision is inadequate then you may choose to use words such as insufficient, ineffective or few.

Where do I start?

Your self evaluation process should be ongoing throughout the year, and the sections can be completed in any order, however it is important to involve everyone when writing your SEF.  Many settings choose a specific focus each half term or month and use this to form the basis of a staff meeting, however if you are a childminder your SEF may be completed individually or as past of a group if you visit a childminder drop-in.  Writing a SEF can be daunting but it is your record of your achievements and goals, sometimes we forget just what we have achieved!  It is also helpful to have a well written SEF with evidence for inspection purposes as the inspector will use your SEF to pick out any areas they wish to ‘look at’.

The SEF is broken down into 6 sections -

  • Your Setting,
  • Views of those who use your setting,
  • Quality of Provision,
  • Contribution of Children’s Wellbeing,
  • Leadership and Management
  • Overall Quality

I have put together a document with helpful tips plus over 350 reflective questions based on the October 2012 Ofsted Early Years Self Evaluation Form.  A Guide to Early Years Self Evaluation can be purchased through the Essentials 4 Early Years website here.

Further help and information

  • Ofsted’s Early Years Self Evaluation Form can be found here along with some guidance
  • Ofsted have also produced a couple of useful documents including A Passion to be Outstanding and Early Years: Leading to Excellence, the documents can be downloaded here and here.
  • The Scholastic website has a couple of free articles, written by Sue Cowley, relating the the Early Years Self Evaluation, they can be found here and here.
  • A few practitioners have shared their views and experiences on the SEF over at Silky Steps, the discussion can be found here.
  • Dorset Quality Improvement Scheme have developed a top 10 tips poster which could be printed off and displayed, click here for the poster.
  • The National Childminding Association (NCMA) have a useful document – Being Self-Reflective which can be downloaded here.
  • What does quality look like – a useful poster from the DCSF can be found here.

Please note…

There are many completed self evaluation forms from various settings that can be bought on eBay, I would strongly advise against purchasing these as a quick fix solution.  From my own personal experience, as an Early Years Advisor, I am often asked to read through a setting’s SEF, however in most cases they have been unable to demonstrate a number of statements they claim, and quite often they are irrelevant to the setting as they have simply been copied and pasted from a purchased SEF.  Also many of the successes and achievements are missed due to the bought SEF not including any information about them.  However I will add that it can be useful to see a SEF from other settings to see how they are written e.g. bullet points or paragraphs or how much information is included, but it is dangerous territory to copy and paste somebody else’s work.  A SEF is a self -reflective tool, there is only your setting that can shout about the things you do and identify your areas for development.  A Guide to Early Years Self Evaluation supports the reflective process.


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