Recent decades have witnessed a remarkable rise in the regulation of public services and servants, education being a case in point. External evaluation and inspection has been an important element of this trend. Increasingly, however as the limitations of external surveillance systems have become clear the concept of internal or self-evaluation has grown in importance. This paper explores the concept of self-evaluation in education and gives an account of some of the possibilities and problems associated with it. In particular it is argued that enabling individual schools and teachers to self-evaluate effectively is a complex task that will require help and support from the community of professional evaluators. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.