In a letter to Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of Ofsted, dated 23 September, education secretary Michael Gove asked her to ditch the SEF for the maintained sector. He described it as the first step in a series of changes to school inspection aimed at removing 'central prescription' and trusting teachers 'to get on with their jobs'.
Mr Gove wrote, 'We need to ensure that we refocus inspection on the principal purpose of schools improving teaching and learning, and dramatically reduce the time and energy spent on other existing bureaucratic duties. To that end, I look forward to working more closely with you to identify how we can move our inspection framework towards ensuring that inspectors can focus on four principal areas - the quality of teaching, the effectiveness of leadership, pupils' behaviour and safety, and pupils' achievement.'
However, the Department for Education confirmed that nurseries in the private and voluntary sector will still be expected to complete the SEF. A spokesperson said, 'The announcement applies to nursery schools inspected under Section 5. For all other early years settings, the Department continues to look at how to reduce bureaucracy, including through the independent review of the EYFS. Further announcements will be made in due course.'
The scrapping of the SEF for the maintained sector was welcomed by some headteachers and unions.
Kate Dethridge, head of Churchend Primary School in Reading, Berkshire, said, 'Removing the SEF will free up huge amounts of time. Many heads spend most of their summer holidays updating the SEF, then you would need at least two or three senior management meetings to discuss it.'
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said, 'NAHT welcomes the removal of the bureaucratic, form-filling, one-size-fits-all approach.'
However, Lesley Staggs, vice-president of Early Education and former nursery head, said, 'It seems to me that "cutting down on bureaucracy" is increasingly used as a good excuse to get rid of anything that reflects the complexity of working with children. I am a great fan of the SEF - any good practice has to be based on continued reflective self-evaluation. In the inspection process, the school will inevitably be judged by those who do not know the school, and probably know very little about early years, on the basis of a very short visit and assessment outcomes.'