© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This paper explores approaches used to support schools to engage in self-evaluation for the purpose of improvement. General models of support are outlined which emphasise evaluation capacity building however the usefulness of this approach is questioned. Instead the role of the critical friend as a provider of external professional support is explored. An approach which emphasises facilitation and the engagement of an external professional to lead self-evaluation processes in schools is suggested with a view to making the process 'easier' and more 'useful'. Research in relation to such an approach carried out in a range of educational contexts is presented. Implementation issues which will have relevance for schools, and for self-evaluation policy and practice in other jurisdictions are outlined.