Looking at data

Using data for school improvement: What the Cambridge School Self Evaluation service tells us about reflective practice in education

The School Self-Evaluation service from Cambridge International is designed to help schools review their performance. It allows the school to use evidence and data to make informed decisions about areas of school practice that need improvement, as well as identify areas of strength.

The Cedar School in Pakistan are one of the first schools to trial the service. They take us through the process of implementation and how they are using the results to make positive changes in their school. 

What is School Self-Evaluation Service?

The surveys are based on a set of standards for School Self-Evaluation that were developed specifically for Cambridge International Schools. The standards are grouped into five areas (‘domains’) – mission and values, management and leadership, quality of teaching and learning, resources for learning and school community engagement. Each one contains a set of standards that helps to define the features of an effective school. We used the surveys provided by Cambridge International to collect feedback from parents, students, and teachers.

School Self-Evaluation: The Five Domains and Standards

The process:

Planning for data collection

We started by identifying who would be asked to fill out the survey forms. We selected those participants who had been with the school for at least one academic year as they would be better suited to comment on our programme. Then, once we received the login details for the surveys, the team initiated the data collection procedure. Within two weeks, we collected the data in different phases where parents, teachers, and students were contacted separately. To maintain the integrity of the surveys, Cambridge issues individual IDs and passwords for each respondent.

Surveying parents

We sent an email to the parents explaining the purpose of this exercise and the instructions for filling out the survey. A reminder email was sent after a week to ensure that most of the parents submitted their responses.

Surveying teachers

We decided to organise an online meeting with the chosen teachers. We wanted to ensure confidentiality and so no members of the school administration were invited, including the Head of School. The team was mindful in answering questions during this process to avoid influencing the responses of the participants.

Surveying students

This was the most challenging task because the strategy used for the other stakeholders could not be applied to the students, as they needed more guidance on following the instructions. We were surveying students in both middle and high school and wanted to use the same data collection process for both year groups. We decided to support them in filling out the forms and held an initial training session to talk them through the process.

We involved more staff in carrying out the surveys which allowed us to conduct them simultaneously across all our campuses. The main team also visited the campuses at least twice to assess and ensure proper implementation of the data collection guidelines.

The results

Once we carried out the surveys, Cambridge produced a detailed report based on our results that combined and compared responses from parents, students, and teachers. The report helped us in highlighting and celebrating our strengths, identifying challenges and areas for improvement, and establishing priorities for future development. Once we received the report, we held a meeting with the senior management and the Board to share the rationale of this exercise, the processes followed, and key highlights from the report. This provided an avenue for the decision-makers to have a substantial and enriching discussion that was backed by concrete data.

In the report, the survey results were divided by the domain (compared results) and by stakeholders (combined results).

Comparing the ratings of different stakeholders was beneficial as it allowed us to learn which domain holds higher value for each group. Certain domains received higher ratings from more than one group of stakeholders. For instance, students, parents, and the senior leadership community rated the school’s mission and values the highest. This makes the results consistent as all these stakeholders submitted their responses in different phases and yet they ranked this particular domain the highest.

Similarly, combined results were also very crucial for us as the school scored the lowest for dealing with bullying within the school. This provided the senior management with the opportunity to discuss this issue in detail and propose new initiatives to combat bullying at the school.

The outcome of the report for 2019 to 2022 was very positive for Cedar School. The result of the report shared by Cambridge International rated the performance of our school as “Outstanding”.

“Overall, the performance of this school is outstanding.”

Each of the stakeholder groups was invited to make an overall assessment of the school’s performance. They were presented with the above statement about the school’s overall performance and asked to rate their level of agreement or disagreement.

Learnings from the whole process

Conducting this school-wide survey was a good opportunity to get a reality check and receive affirmations and find discrepancies in what we perceive in our school programme.

What would we do differently next time?

•  Middle and lower administration staff should be included in this exercise alongside parents, students, and teachers, to capture their responses as well. They are the key people implementing the policies and dealing with students, teachers, and parents daily, therefore it is useful for them to be included in the data collection and decision-making process

• The survey should be conducted at the end of the academic year as this would allow management to revise its policies and introduce initiatives before the new academic year begins

• The data collected showed that there was a variance between two or more stakeholder groups against some of the domains and standards. This highlights that there are different perspectives from the different stakeholder groups about school performance of particular areas in the school

Register for the School Self-Evaluation service from Cambridge:


This article was co-authored with Humayun Ansari.

Humayun Ansari is also a co-founder of CSTEC and holds an MPhil in Education Leadership and Management (2021) and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics (2014) from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Humayun has worked with renowned organizations in education-related projects including UNICEF, USAID, The Citizens Foundations, LUMS Learning Institute, Society for International Education, American Consulate, Punjab Examination Commission and Cedar College, where he held leadership positions. Humayun has also represented Pakistan in international forums including Youth Leadership Summit (Colorado), Youth Exchange and Study Program (USA), Education without Borders (Dubai), and Rhodes Youth Forum (Greece).

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