How are colleges going to rise to theEnquire Now challenge of making the quality of teaching and learning good or outstanding? Are you developing your staff in effective and cost efficient ways? How can your performance management and appraisal systems connect more directly with PDL (professional development and learning) processes to raise standards and deliver value for money? 

CUREE, in collaboration with 157 Group and supported by LSIS, has developed a system for evaluating and fine tuning these processes in FE colleges. Rooted in international research and already proven in schools, this fully adapted service is now available to colleges.

Who is it for?

SKEIN FE is designed to help college leaders formulate the next steps for their PDL provision to best support the professional development of their staff while ensuring value for money. Colleges benefit from SKEIN FE in six key areas. SKEIN FE;

  • enables colleges to make better, more cost effective choices about using scarce PDL resources;
  • offers the means systematically to focus PDL on specific aspirations for students and a coherent PDL approach across the college;
  • links staff learning explicitly with student learning, enhancing the college's Ofsted evidence base;
  • develops internal PDL capacity for all groups of staff;
  • raises colleagues' expectations of PDL and what it can contribute to student success; and
  • provides the strategic leadership with an overview of the effectiveness of the professional development systems and and process across the enterprise.

How does it work?

Data about the current systems and processes are collected via;

  • group interviews with executive team and/or faculty/department/division heads (face-to-face and/or via conferencing);
  • individual interviews with a sample of staff;
  • one or more focus groups;
  • a staff survey; and 
  • documentary analysis.

The processes have been designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, to use data and documents that the college has created for other purposes and serve as interesting developmental experiences in their own right.

The college will receive a personalised profile against recognised benchmarks plus a practical set of tailored recommendations based on the research and diagnostic undertaken.You'll also have the opportunity for a future follow-up visit to capture your progress.

Following your evaluation you'll have access to an online archive of helpful resources and 'Golden Eggs' - examples of great CPD for you to consider within the context of your own practice.

Why is it different?

SKEIN FE uses high quality research tools and internationally recognised evidence about the role of leaders in improving learning, the accelerators for college improvement and the barriers to progression. With the help of the 157 group, CUREE has made use of this research and evidence to identify the key aspects of professional development and learning which actually improve learner outcomes and what each looks on a scale from developing to transformatively integrated into the systems and structures of the school. 

The quality assurance processes which underpin SKEIN FE provide a rigorous diagnostic and action plan which focusses on what will make the most difference for your specific college.

The entire process is driven by generating outcomes that you can actually implement to create a pathway towards providing exceptional learning experiences and results.

Does it work?

Here's what college leaders had to say about their SKEIN FE experiences.

"The report is helpful: it validates and evidences impressionistic judgments we’ve previously made for ourselves; it provides an authoritative contribution to on-going but unresolved discussions about strategy for achieving greater impact through CPD; and it suggests new possibilities and ideas which have not previously been part of our thinking” - Steve Griffin, Director of Learning and Teaching at Cornwall College

"Speaking on behalf of our senior team, our light bulb moment came when Philippa succinctly revealed to us the Holy Grail that we should be pursuing. This turned out to be that our staff were focussed on getting more knowledgeable and skilled within their subject or field rather than on improving their skills as a teacher. It has been a very powerful message for us and one we have taken on board very seriously and we have made changes to support a change in focus. Philippa's insight really helped us in the appointment of Matt Bromley as our Director of Learning and Teaching Improvement and he has continued to shine a light on improving those key skills across the College" - Bernadette Doyle, Derby College

I want to know more!

Want to know what a SKEIN FE report looks like? Click here to view an anonymised report or read the executive summary.

For any specific queries, or to find out more about how SKEIN FE could help your college, email Joe Askew at or call on 024 7652 4036.

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost for colleges?

This is a bespoke service priced individually (depending, for instance, on the size of your college). As a broad guide the service would cost from £1500, but please contact us to discuss the price for your college.

How much of my time will be taken up?

We understand that your time is very precious and endeavour to ensure the process takes up as little of your time as is possible. We will need to visit the college for up to one day and will use documents that will already exist within your college, so you will not have to create any paperwork. We recommend that you involve junior colleagues in e.g. assembling the documents or preparing a schedule for the visit day.

What documents do I have to prepare?

None! We will use documents that are already in existence within the college. We will send some clear guidance about what we need so all the documents will be easy to assemble.

How much time do you need to spend in college and how many members of staff will be involved?

We will need to visit the college to interview the leadership team and some individual staff members and hold a focus group with colleagues. The numbers of staff involved will depend on the size of your college. The leadership team interview will take 60-90 minutes, the individual interviews will take about 20 minutes and the focus group will take 60-90 minutes. We will suggest how to organise the day most efficiently, making the most of the timeslots when staff are not teaching and causing the least disruption to your normal operations. We also ask members of staff to complete an online survey, which is very short and can be completed when convenient to colleagues.

How long does the whole process take?

The overall process tends to take about 6 weeks. We try to allow for around 3 weeks before the visit to collect and analyse college documentation, agree the schedule for the visit and provide all staff with an opportunity to respond to our on-line survey.

After the visit, it takes us 2-3 weeks to analyse the data and prepare the draft report which is then sent to the college leadership team for validation. There have been instances when colleges have wished to proceed faster than this in order to align SKEIN with their timelines for strategic planning and development and we always try to accommodate that.

Why should I choose SKEIN over other evaluation services?

Unlike (superficially) similar services, SKEIN;

  1. is focused on education, its core business (teaching and learning) and links between staff and student learning;
  2. is NOT an externally validated self-assessment. The assessment is undertaken by trained experts using benchmarks derived from research;
  3. does not make the college do all the work, fill out any forms or provide standard answers to questions;
  4. builds capacity in the client college and leaves them with additional capabilities and resources; and
  5. is cheaper than the (non-self assessment) alternatives.

Do you monitor us to see if improvements have been made?

We offer a follow-up service, which involves us visiting the college after two and a half terms to track your progress and offer advice.

Will the outcomes of your work with us remain confidential to us?

Each SKEIN college receives its own report which is fully confidential to them. It’s up to each college to decide whether and how they want to share the findings internally or otherwise. E.g. some college leaders we’ve worked with chose to share excerpts from their report or report summaries with their staff whilst others decided to just use them to inform their organisation’s strategic development.

But I already do a lot of staff development. What is the SKEIN service going to tell me I don’t already know?

SKEIN can help even the best colleges to better focus their energies and money on professional development processes, systems and activities which deliver actual benefit for students. Colleges, that are in general enthusiastic, organised supporters of their staff development, rarely evaluate (or know how to evaluate) the impact of the PD they provide or pay for.

Those who see PD as an add-on or something to buy in from others from time to time find SKEIN helps them ensure that their CPD becomes focused on doing the day job better and paying attention to important longer term goals at the same time as addressing urgent priorities.