childminding-myth-or-factA few months back, primarily to make people smile, I posed the following question onto Facebook:

Honest answers please: which best describes how often you REALLY update your online SEF???

a. Weekly – at the same time I sanitise all my baby toys and check my fridge/freezer thermometers

b. Once a year – it helps me to plan, feel prepared and stay organised – like the spare stamps I always carry in my wallet

c. Every 3-5 years

d. The week before Ofsted comes

There were many over-achieving ‘B’s, most people answered ‘C’ and lots of very honest people who replied ‘D’. But what surprised me the most were the number of people who replied that they had NEVER completed the Ofsted Self-Evaluation Form and had no intention of ever doing so. Were these people taking an enormous risk by breaking an Ofsted rule?  No. Because it is a MYTH that you HAVE to complete the Ofsted SEF form. It is not a legal requirement.

So, if it’s not a requirement, why do so many people complete the Ofsted SEF form then?

Your Ofsted inspector looks at your answers to your SEF form to get ideas about your setting before she arrives. Your SEF is a chance to make a great impression on a stranger. You can use it to tell her about all the excellent things you are doing at your setting. I do think it would be very hard to get the top Ofsted grades showing only the evidence you can present during the short time of your inspection. The SEF allows you to communicate more information, the things that go on behind the scenes.

The Ofsted SEF form is also like getting a sneak-peak at a test before taking it because your inspector will ask you about the questions that are on it. Taking the time to write out your answers forces you to think about your answers so that when you are asked during your inspection, you have a good idea of how to respond. 

COEL examples for SEFKeep in mind that many people who will swear that they have never completed an Ofsted SEF form, still do their own forms of self-evaluation. Because you are expected to ‘reflect’ on your practice.  Some people keep diaries, or ‘folders of evidence’ with thoughts for self-improvement. Others (with good memories) read the SEF, think about their answers and just don’t bother to write anything down.  All of that is totally fine, but frankly, unless you feel especially strongly about using your own method, you might as well just do the Ofsted one.

For me, I would always do the Ofsted self-evaluation form prior to an inspection because I wouldn’t feel prepared otherwise. However much I hate filling it out, the questions are warm-ups for inspection day. For me, it is invaluable because I have to admit to myself that I don’t have a brilliant memory and I simply couldn’t trust myself to remember everything I wanted to say to my inspector on inspection day if I didn’t have it written down.

Whether you chose to complete an Ofsted SEF form or not, you may want to take a look at these SEF model answers which give you an idea of how to answer the questions, including the new sections added in Sept 2015.