Conclusion

This collection of narratives shows how some schools 'do and use' effective internal evaluation for improvement. In all of the 13 schools, internal evaluation was valued by leaders and trustees, who made sufficient time and resources available for genuine, improvement-focused inquiry into the areas that mattered most for their learners.

Through widespread participation in internal evaluation, supported by access to internal and external expertise, these schools were building the capacity and capability to engage in robust evaluative reasoning at all levels of the school. This participation also provided a vehicle for the sharing of expertise, building of shared understandings, and ongoing improvements to practice.

These schools all shared a commitment to finding out what is really going on for their learners. This meant collecting data from multiple sources. It meant gathering data in a way which allowed learners to speak for themselves. It meant really interrogating the data - moving from asking "what is so?” to "so what?” In some cases it meant confronting some previously unexamined notions and beliefs about what good quality curriculum design, assessment and pedagogical practice looks like. Teachers, leaders and trustees were ableto interrogate professional practice honestly with a commitment to continuous improvement. In doing so, these schools have been able to make decisions to address the issues relevant to their learners. The schools have understood for whom and how their interventions have been successful, and where they need to be adjusted or stopped.

Making improvements for learners is a complex business. Decisions often need to be made without the luxury of time. These schools understood this, and prioritised their efforts in areas where they had identified the greatest potential impact. Widespread and embedded evaluative inquiry meant that the door was always open to recognise potential improvements, to be aware of potential pitfalls, and to generate useful knowledge for decision-making leading to improved outcomes for all learners. 

Evidence-informed internal evaluation helped leaders and teachers to understand the strengths and needs of their learners, and what to do to respond. To the degree that they learned from their successes - and from their setbacks - they were well placed to sustain improvement, while adapting to the unique characteristics of the learners in their school community.