Self-assessment reports should be produced on at least an annual basis by providers of government funded training in order to say 'this is where we are now'. It should make clear judgements linked to the Common Inspection Framework and grade areas of provision in the same way as Ofsted inspection reports.

How does your self-assessment process compare with that of the most effective provision seen on inspection?

The following strengths and areas for improvement have been taken from recent inspection reports across the Ofsted Learning and Skills remit.

Common inspection strengths

  • Thorough and accurate self-assessment
  • Thorough and inclusive self-assessment process
  • Self-critical, realistic self-assessment report
  • Effective monitoring and improvement of performance through on-going self assessment and stakeholder review

Common inspection areas for improvement

  • Insufficiently critical self-assessment process
  • Insufficient involvement of staff in self-assessment processes
  • Insufficient involvement of employers and learners in self-assessment process
  • Inadequate use of self-assessment to support improvement

If you were given a similar area for improvement bullet at the end of your last inspection, self assessed this area as an area for improvement, or want to work to avoid such areas for improvement, then consider what inspectors judge to be key.

Particularly effective practice identified in inspections includes:

  • All staff being aware of the main 'headline' content of the current self-assessment report, along with grades and the development plan.
  • Staff who are able to say "yes, I recognise us from this report".
  • Linking self assessment to quality improvement procedures so that the two cycles overlap and do not duplicate time and resources. Staff then see how what they are doing in terms of observation, gaining feedback from learners or employers, internal verification and programme review link to the production of the self-assessment report.
  • Having an 'inclusive' self-assessment process that involves all involved in the training process - learners, staff, employers and other interested parties.
  • In larger providers with many areas of learning having self-assessment reports for each area that feed up into the overall self-assessment report.
  • In larger providers with many delivery sites having self-assessment reports for each site (or cluster in a town or county) that feed up into the overall self-assessment report.
  • Good communication about the process of self assessment and final report - examples include holding annual events to bring underlying evidence together to form judgements, some national providers hold roadshows in different geographical areas where senior managers gauge staff views.
  • Being honest in evaluating strengths so that they can be maintained and built on; areas for improvement, so that they can be eliminated; and areas of normal practice which, if improved, could make a substantial difference to learners.
  • Using self assessment to identify which aspects of the training need to be maintained and which need to be improved.
  • Gathering views from those who know about the training and can contribute to its improvement, including learners, employers and training staff as well as other agencies.
  • Ensuring that all aspects of monitoring the quality of training are evaluated and considered as evidence.
  • Involving staff, and others, from the start of the process, not just to comment on the finished draft report - 'bottom-up' rather than 'top-down'.
  • Using samples of staff, learners and employers where it is not possible to consult every individual for feedback on a particular theme.
  • Focusing on the experience of the learners using the Common Inspection Framework as the basis for the report.
  • Focusing on gathering the sort of information needed to produce an effective action or development plan to improve provision.
  • Using data self-critically as a basis for making judgements - for example retention rates, success rates and progression rates as well as results of feedback and observations. Those who use data self-critically paint an overview of performance in different areas to demonstrate how they are doing, they do not simply include lots of data that is not used to make judgements.
  • Keeping the self-assessment report clear, concise and full of judgements, but including enough text for everyone to understand what is meant by a particular strength, norm or area for improvement. The report should include references to sources of evidence, but only the important ones. The worst reports are too long and not judgemental enough.
  • Using a structure which is similar to that of inspection reports has been a particularly effective structure in the best reports seen. It is easy to compare judgements with those in other providers' published inspection reports or the provider's own inspection report once it is available.
  • Being aware that inspectorates and funding bodies have specific requirements for self-assessment reports. Ofsted, for example, requires a set of self-assessment grades using the same grading scale and headings as that used by inspectors. You might be required to include other sections such as health and safety by other parties.
  • Focusing on issues which will really make a difference to learners.
  • Making grading decisions based on the 'weighting' of strengths, norms and areas for improvement and the overall experience of learners. Some strengths and areas for improvement have more impact on grading than others. If most learners are successful it is likely that their needs are being provided for well but if very few learners achieve, it is unlikely that provision is meeting their needs.
  • Moderation of proposed grades is used as a final 'quality check' by some providers. For example, some further education colleges use their Governors as a final check. Others use a panel of staff, learners and employers while others use 'critical friends', including people who are well-known in an area of learning or in training.

Healthcheck questions

Health check

Have the key strengths been identified or are they really normal practice?

Have you identified normal practice ('norms') to show what is satisfactory?

Have you been honest in identifying the major areas for improvement that impact on learners?

Have you made judgements (how good or bad an aspect is) rather than describe what is in place?

Have judgement been made on all the key questions of the Common Inspection Framework?

What evidence are your judgements based on (performance data, observations, outside views)?

Are your self-assessment grades consistent with the balance of strengths, norms and areas for improvement (one strength and three areas for improvement rarely reflect good provision)?

Who has been involved in developing the self-assessment report (does it reflect the views of all those involved in the delivery of training)?

Do staff have a sense of ownership of the report (a 'bottom-up' process)?

Do staff know the grades and key judgements for their area and other key areas such as leadership and management and equality of opportunity?

Do staff recognise the organisation that they work in from the report?

Have you moderated the proposed grades in any way?

Does the report reflect the progress that you have made in improving areas for improvement since your last inspection?

What could you do next to improve your provision?

  • Read inspection reports to identify what the best providers are doing in your particular type of provision or area of learning (also check other types of provision as good practice is usually transferable between inspection contexts - adult and community learning, college, DWP, work-based, etc). As well as looking at providers with ‘outstanding’ aspects or monitoring visit reports with judgements of ‘significant progress’, look at providers who are similar to yourself in terms of remit, size and what they offer – Ofsted inspection reports
  • Get a clearer and richer understanding of what you need to do to improve – Learner-centred self-assessment
  • Use downloadable quality-improvement resources to develop your staff team and to focus on actions that will help to improve your provision – Actions for quality improvement
  • Adopt or adapt the best bits of other providers’ work that inspection has identified as being particularly effective – Ofsted good practice database examples
  • Measure just how effective your initial-assessment system is and if your quality-improvement initiatives are working – Data projects
  • Develop a blueprint for initial assessment of your learners – Initial assessment and support
  • Check whether your self-assessment report is fit for purpose – Self-assessment surgery projects
  • Use the guidance developed by Ofsted to know what to expect in order to prepare for inspection, look at the Ofsted inspection handbook for your remit or the inspection toolkit – use the search box if necessary - inspection handbooks and toolkit
  • Use the Excellence Gateway as a first ‘port of call’ when researching areas that you would like to improve. As well as the Ofsted-related area, simple word searches will bring you a variety of information about what others in the learning and skills sector are doing to improve their provision. This is particularly useful for any newer areas that you may wish to research.