School Self-assessment that Achieves Excellence

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Self-assessment is the first, essential step that people with an interest in the success and well-being of a school take when they seek to integrate continuous improvement into its culture. What that means in practice is that the school’s community sees consistent excellence in its activities as a foundation that supports progress along a clear pathway to a preferred future.

A self-assessment process turns knowledge, skills and experience into action; effective action. It means challenging the School Governing Body (SGB), the school’s leadership and staff, and your main ‘customers’ – the people whose lives are most strongly influenced by their experience of learning in the school years. 

As anyone who has been involved in a process of self-assessment and planning knows, the experience of working through it with people who have strong interest in the success of the school is as important as the improvement that is achieved. The different interests and interest groups involved in the process are able to focus on what aligns them all behind a shared purpose, where the school’s Mission plays out in the potential to change the lives of the people who are the reason the school exists in the first place: its students.

Before starting on the journey of discovery that is a self-assessment process, leaders must understand why the school is doing it, who must be involved, and how the process can be designed and managed to make sure that it works well and adds significant value for both the main customers (learners), and the secondary customers as well; parents, the school’s leadership, staff and the community it serves. 

The process of self-assessment requires visionary leadership and diligent management that inspires and aligns the staff, learners and the community to commit to the focus and discipline that turns dreams into results and a preferred future. Leading the process is the Chair of the SGB and the Principal or school leader who must embody what is valued in the school Mission Statement – its reason for existing at all – and champion the activities and tasks that are the measures of the school’s job done well or not. 

The Self-assessment Process

The Indigo Schools Self-assessment Process is a method for assessing what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you must do to 1. to deliver consistent excellence in results achieved and 2. to deliver a preferred future. It is built around generating thoughtful answers to Five Important Questions.

The inquiry into what the questions mean in an educational context is supported by an easy-to-apply framework that enables people with an interest in the well-being of a school to transport it to its vision for a preferred future. This inquiry will enable the school to narrow the gap between the excellence aspired to and what is actually being achieved. 

The Five Important Questions are:

  1. What is our Mission?
  2. Who is our main (and secondary) customer?
  3. What does the customer value?
  4. What are the results we want to achieve?
  5. What is in the plan to transport the school from where it is now to what we want it to become in future? 

1. What is our Mission?

Self-assessment is the first step in acting to take control of the pathway your school takes on the way to the preferred future envisaged in its Mission. We define a Mission as a ‘task with a purpose’ that provides the school community and the people in it with a clear sense of direction when they get distracted by ‘busyness’. It is the star that nudges people back into line in support of a school’s main focus when it is doing the job it exists to do: achieve the results aspired to by your main customer. 

2. Who is our main (and secondary) customer?

It is not possible to arrive at the right definition of results if the needs, interests and potential aspirations of a school’s main ‘customers’ are not met by the services it provides. So, whose lives are most strongly influenced by how well schools do the job they exist to do? Who must be satisfied?

The main customer is the person whose life is most transformed by the services that the school provides – ie the student. Secondary customers are all other stakeholders: parents and caregivers, board members, teachers, teachers’ unions, textbook and resource publishers, government departments and community groups.

3. What does the customer value?

There are so many secondary customers in education that the ultimate users of schools’ services (the students) can become obscured and even lost by the noise they generate. If you are uncertain about who your main customer is it is extremely easy to let the noise distract you. Further, if you believe you know what satisfies the customer you will almost certainly be making the wrong assumption.

4. What are the results we want to achieve?

How can you judge how good your school is and what are the results you want to see achieved? In the self-assessment process you are invited to examine the dimensions of school life that most strongly influence the effectiveness of learning. A set of indicators on a scale enable you to identify what the school excels in and what the priorities are that might be addressed to make sure they get even better in future. The indicators consist of a series of value-free statements which invite you to best identify what is happening in your school.

5. What is in the plan we establish to transport the school from where it is now to what we want it to become in future? 

The plan provides the measures of excellence, a picture of the preferred future and a means of establishing priorities in enabling the transition to a new level of school evolution and problem-solving complexity. The plan transports the teaching and learning and assessment services provided by the school to previously unimaginable levels of excellence:

  1. Why the changes are inevitable and essential (the rationale);
  2. What must be done to make them possible (the action to be taken);
  3. How the excellence and the preferred future made clear in the Mission and results to be achieved by the school’s operational work will be achieved.

The moment one thinks seriously through the five important questions above, the process of self-assessment is underway. The self-assessment process takes place in three phases, which include the details of preparation, implementation and review of the school improvement plan. Such details include securing commitment to the process, developing a shared understanding and commitment to the school’s Mission; its vision, what it values and its goals, and engaging directly with the different groups that have a vested interest in the school’s health.

The Indigo Schools Self-assessment Process is a resource for school leaders that has been designed to enable them and members of school communities to collaborate in thinking through what the school is doing, how it is doing the job to be done, and why it is being done in this way. 

In the world we have been accelerated into by Covid-19 and modern computing power, the challenges of change has every caring parent, professional educator and community leader asking: “How good is our school and what can we do to achieve and maintain consistent excellence in what we provide our learners?”

The Indigo Schools Self-assessment Process provides a comprehensive guide to what must be done in a systematic approach to school improvement. The model upon which it is based and the resources available to its users make it easy for leaders in schools, teachers and parents to get-to-grips with what is entailed in the process, how to do it, and then to put together a dynamic school performance and improvement plan relevant to the context in which you live, learn and work.

If you’re interested in self-assessment in schools and learning more about how the Indigo Schools Framework can be successfully applied within your context, send us an email at

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