Self-evaluation as a process, and sets out a step-by step approach

2.1 What is school self-evaluation?

School self-evaluation is a collaborative, inclusive, reflective process of internal school review. During school self-evaluation the principal, deputy principal and teachers, under the direction of the board of management and the patron and in consultation with parents and pupils, engage in reflective enquiry on the work of the school. It is an evidence-based approach which involves gathering evidence from a range of sources and making judgements with a view to bringing about improvements in pupils’ learning. Self-evaluation requires a school to address the following key questions with regard to an aspect or aspects of its work:

  • How well are we doing?
  • How do we know?
  • How can we find out more?
  • What are our strengths?
  • What are our areas for improvement?
  • How can we improve?

A useful tool for self-evaluation

2.2 School self-evaluation and inspection

School self-evaluation and external evaluation are complementary processes, both focused on improvement. The school self-evaluation process gives schools a means of identifying and addressing priorities, and of ensuring a whole-school focus on improving specific aspects of teaching and learning. External evaluations, in particular whole-school evaluations, take note of schools’ identified priorities and assess their teaching and learning practices. Given this common focus on improvement, the Inspectorate in the course of its evaluations will take account of schools’ engagement with self-evaluation and the outcomes of that engagement.

 2.3 School self-evaluation and school development planning

School self-evaluation builds on and develops the process of school development planning. It is a way of working that contributes to both the permanent and developmental sections of the school plan. Through school self-evaluation, schools reflect on and review their day-to-day practices and their policies, with a particular focus on teaching and learning. It provides all schools, including DEIS schools, with an internal process for developing and progressing action planning for improvement. School self-evaluation involves reflective enquiry leading to action planning for improvement that is informed by evidence gathered within each school’s unique context. The process enables schools to use this evidence to identify meaningful and specific targets and actions for improvement that focus on teaching and learning practices and outcomes. It enables them to create and implement improvement plans, to measure their progress, and to identify their achievements. School self-evaluation provides a meaningful context in which boards of management can further develop and review the policies and practices contained in the permanent section of the school plan to ensure they support continuing developments and improvements in teaching and learning.

2.4 School self-evaluation and curriculum change

The self-evaluation process can be used to support the introduction of the Primary Language Curriculum (2015) with its new approaches and emphases. This will give teachers an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the strands and elements of language learning outlined in the Primary Language Curriculum, particularly in the key area of oral language in the first instance. The progression milestones and continua will support teachers as they analyse their current teaching approaches to language learning and make judgements regarding current strengths and areas for improvement. All teachers will begin at the same starting point which involves asking: Where are the children at and where are they going in their language learning? The progression milestones and continua which are linked to the learning outcomes in the Primary Language Curriculum will help teachers answer these questions. Working collaboratively or alone, teachers can use examples provided in the support materials to reflect on and to introduce the changes in teaching, learning and assessment that are necessary to meet the requirements of the Primary Language Curriculum.

2.5 The school self-evaluation process

The process is iterative, in that it facilitates repeated cycles of analysis or a return to a previous stage of the cycle as required. The framework below (Figure 2.1) highlights a six-step school self-evaluation process. This supports the building of teachers’ expertise over time in looking at the evidence of pupils’ learning, analysing it, interpreting it and acting on it to improve outcomes.


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