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Linking the School Self-Evaluation (SSE) Guidelines for Primary Schools and SALF:

 - Click HERE for a print-friendly pdf of this document - 

In the introduction to the School Self-Evaluation Guidelines for Primary Schools, and in answering the question: Who are the Guidelines for, it is stated: The Guidelines are: ‘intended to support, in a practical way, the inclusion of the voice of pupils and parents in school self-evaluation’. (School Self-Evaluation guidelines for schools pg. 9).

Why pupil voice?

In his synthesis of a wide range of research relating to educational achievement, Hattie (2009) identifies,

“that feedback was amongst the most powerful influences on achievement” (pg 173).He clarifies that research shows that not all types of feedback are equally effective and proposes the idea that feedback is most powerful when it is from the student to the teacher.

“When teachers seek, or at least are open, to feedback from students as to what students know, what they understand, where they make errors, when they have misconceptions, when they are not engaged-then teaching and learning can be synchronised and powerful.” (pg 173)

The Challenge of Pupil Voice

The value of including pupil voice can be further contextualised when we consider research carried out by Nuthall (2005). Nuthall’s work describes how personal learning is to each child, and how much of this can be missed in teachers’ observations. In the classrooms that Nuthall studied, talking about learning (both teacher and student) was not common, and there was over-reliance on visible indicators such as pupil engagement and the responses of small number of students to inform teachers’ understandings about learning.

A challenging finding from this work was that:

“the students lived in a personal and social world of their own in the classroom, they already knew at least 40% of what the teachers intended them to learn, a third of what each student learned was not learned by any other student in the class, students learned how and when the teacher would notice them and how to give the appearance of active involvement”. (pg 241)

Additional context factors such as socio economic background of children and inclusion of SEN and migrant children in mainstream settings may further inhibit children from active participation in their own learning.

In using the messaging system of assessment, SALF enables children to learn the language of learning, to develop a value system on their personal learning and to share insights into personal learning. In the School Self-Evaluation process children who are experienced in the SALF process have the potential to contribute insightfully to pupil voice.

SSE process

As you have seen earlier, the Guidelines propose a six step self-evaluation process for schools to engage in as follows:

  1. Gather Evidence
  2. Analyse Evidence
  3. Draw Conclusions
  4. SSE Report
  5. Improvement Plan
  6. Implement and Monitor

In thinking about gathering evidence, pupils’ work (copies, files, folders, displays, portfolios, demonstrations of skills-SSE Guidelines pg 48) is cited as an important source. Another important source of evidence is ‘the views of pupils and parents’. (SSE Guidelines pg 48).

As pupils develop a deeper understanding of the language of learning and assessment through their engagement in the SALF process, they are better equipped to collaborate and provide insightful feedback that supports their own learning and the teaching they are experiencing.

In the SSE guidelines a ‘quality framework for evaluating teaching and learning is provided’. (SSE guidelines pg. 22) Teaching and learning are looked at from three main themes - Learner outcomes, Learning experiences, Teachers’ practice. These are then further broken down into subthemes, as outlined in the diagram below:

TeachingLearning Table

Each of the sub-themes then has a specific ‘Evaluation Criteria’. The criteria identify what quality means in terms of each of the sub-themes and help schools to make ‘judgements about pupils’ achievement or aspects of teaching and learning’. (SSE guidelines pg. 28)

In step one of the SSE process, a school gathers evidence on teaching and learning in the school. While pupils’ work samples are often readily available, a pupil’s deeper insights into their own learning and in evaluating their own learning are often more difficult to source in a concrete format. Many of the SALF methodologies provide a valuable insight into the pupil’s perspective.

Outlined below are just some examples of how various aspects of the SALF process support the collection of evidence to use in discussions on what is working well or needs to be improved in terms of pupil contributions. (See Chapter 4 of the SSE Guidelines for Primary Schools.)


  • Nuthall, G A (2005). The cultural myths and realities of classroom teaching and learning: A personal journey. Teachers College Record, 107 (5), 895-934
  • Hattie, J (2009.) Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge


SSE  SALF Linking Table

  - Click HERE for a print-friendly pdf of this document.

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