Evaluation framework

This report was originally published 21 May 2014.

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Summary

The NSW Department of Education and Communities Evaluation Framework should be read in conjunction with the department’s Evaluation Policy.

Key features of the policy and framework

Policy context

The department’s Evaluation Framework provides guidelines to support the implementation of the Evaluation Policy. The policy and framework were developed in response to the NSW Government Evaluation Framework issued by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Primary objective

The aim of the policy and framework is to strengthen evaluation practices across the education and community cluster to improve performance and accountability of government programs. Evaluation should support more informed, evidence based policy and decision making to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and appropriateness of government services.

Audience and applicability

Business unit managers and staff are expected to evaluate their programs in accordance with government policies. The Evaluation Policy applies to staff in state office portfolios, directorates, schools, TAFE NSW institutes, divisions and entities.

Consistent with government commitments to increase transparency and consistency in evaluation, students, parents, industry, communities and partner organisations may also be interested in the policy and the frameworks.

Key definitions

A program is broadly defined as a set of activities managed together over a sustained period of time that aim to deliver outcomes for a client or client group. ‘Program’ is sometimes used interchangeably with policy, strategy, project, initiative or intervention. Programs may include one or more projects that aim to deliver a specific product or output and achieve a strategic outcome within a specific timeframe and budget.

Evaluation is defined as a rigorous, systematic and objective process to make judgments about the impacts and merits or worth of a program, usually in relation to its effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness.

Approach

This Framework identifies the key concepts, principles, processes and structures that will guide and direct program evaluation within the department. Individual business units are responsible for implementing the policy and building their evaluation capability.

Key principles

  • Evaluation will be planned early during the design of programs.
  • Evaluation will be appropriately resourced as part of program design, taking into account what is feasible and realistic to achieve within time and budget constraints.
  • Evaluation will be rigorous, systematic and objective, with appropriate scale and design.
  • Evaluation will be conducted with the right mix of expertise and independence from program managers.
  • Stakeholders are to be identified and actively involved in the evaluation process.
  • Evaluation will be timely and strategic to influence decision making.
  • Evaluation will be transparent and open.

Key requirements

Program evaluations and reviews will be conducted according to rolling evaluation schedules that will be approved by the department’s executive and submitted to the Cabinet Standing Committee on Expenditure Review each financial year. All programs should undergo some form of periodic review and/or evaluation.

Sound evaluation is an integral component of any program that is central to the achievement of state, corporate and national goals, involves large scale investment or is resource intensive. The scale of an evaluation should be proportionate to the size and strategic significance of the program. Major initiatives of strategic significance must incorporate an evaluation plan with appropriate budget in their implementation plan.

Evaluation findings must be made publicly available, except where there is an overriding public interest against disclosure, in line with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPAA).

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