SKEIN for Schools

CUREE takes the international evideEnquire Nownce about staff and leadership learning to offer SKEIN CPD, a professional development evaluation service focusing on four key aspects which will lead to improved pupil and teacher outcomes. SKEIN CPD can enable you to ensure your CPD is cost effective, evidence the quality of your existing CPD provision and build capacity to support progression and development.

Who is it for?

SKEIN CPD is designed to help school leaders formulate the next steps for their CPD (continuing professional development) provision to best support the professional development of their staff and maximise impact on student outcomes. The service provides practical action points for schools to build on and use to focus their CPD efforts.

The SKEIN CPD service can also help schools looking to evidence the quality of their CPD provision through a comprehensive report, providing evidence of the schools commitment to CPD as featured in the New Inspection Framework;

Inspectors will make a judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management by evaluating the extent to which leaders, managers and governors:

  • Improve staff practice and teaching, learning and assessment through rigorous performance management and appropriate professional development
  • Evaluate the quality of the provision and outcomes through robust self-assessment, taking account of users’ views, and use the findings to develop capacity for sustainable improvement.’ (The Common Inspection Framework: education, skills and early years, 2015)

SKEIN CPD works for Primary and Secondary schools, and the alternative SKEIN Light service is available for schools with a limited budget. SKEIN CPD can also be used across your alliance or MAT, with opportunities to train colleagues as SKEIN Facilitators.

How does it work?

A dedicated, expert research team will analyse your existing data and school documents whilst gathering evidence from the school community via staff surveys, school visits and discussions.

Capacity for and ownership of progress within your staff team is built through developmental focus groups designed to minimise disruption to your timetable.

You’ll receive a personalised profile against recognised benchmarks plus a practical set of recommendations unique to your school based on the research and diagnostic undertaken. After two-and-a-half terms you'll also have the opportunity for a follow-up visit to capture your progress.

Following your evaluation you'll receive the regular SKEIN newsletter as well as 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 CPD uses high quality research tools and internationally recognised evidence about the role of leaders in improving learning, the accelerators for school improvement and the barriers to progression. CUREE has made use of this research and evidence to identify the key aspects of professional development 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. 

CUREE’s quality assurance processes which underpin SKEIN CPD provide a rigorous diagnostic and action plan which focusses on what will make the most difference for your specific school.

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?

Over thirty schools have already engaged in SKEIN CPD, and you can read what they had to say about their SKEIN CPD experiences on the testimonials page.

We really appreciate the depth of the report and what we are able to draw from it. No-one has ever engaged with us in this depth before” - Melanie Warnes, Head of Castle School

I want to know more!

In 2015, CUREE presented a paper detailing the key findings from SKEIN CPD. This presentation has since been adapted into an article you can read here.

Want to know what a SKEIN CPD report looks like? Click here to view an anonymised report.

For any specific queries, or to find out how SKEIN CPD could help your school, email Joe Askew at joe.askew@curee.co.uk or call on 024 7652 4036.

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost for schools?

This is a bespoke service priced individually (depending, for instance, on the size of your school). As a broad guide, the service would cost from £1150 for primary schools or from £1500 for secondary schools. Please contact us to discuss the price for your school.

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 school for up to one day and will use documents that will already exist within your school, 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 school. 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 school and how many members of staff will be involved?

We will need to visit the school to interview the leadership team and some individual staff members and hold a focus group with staff. The numbers of staff involved will depend on the size of your school. The SLT 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 school 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 school leadership team for validation. There have been instances when schools 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 school do all the work, fill out any forms or provide standard answers to questions;
  4. builds capacity in the client school 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 school 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 school receives its own report which is fully confidential to them. It’s up to each school to decide whether and how they want to share the findings internally or otherwise. E.g. some school 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.

Some schools use their reports during OfSTED visits; others publish a sentence or two about their particular strengths on their website or other marketing materials or e.g. when recruiting new staff.

You claim that professional learning and development is the key to school improvement. What is the evidence?

Probably the best known report supporting this view is the McKinsey study of the world’s high performing schools which contains the much repeated quote “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”.

Some countries (like Finland) attain this high quality by having very high academic entry standards. The current British government is trying to do something similar by raising the bar on entry (in England) and providing a range of alternative entry routes for some highly academically qualified teacher candidates (e.g. Teach First).

However, raising teaching quality just through better ‘quality’ of new entrants would take, according to experts like Dylan Wiliam of the Institute of Education, a  "generation just to close the gap on Finland by 20%".  You can read the report here.

Professional learning and development of existing teachers and support for it is therefore key to improving teaching and learning in individual schools and system-wide. Hang on a minute, you might say, the McKinsey report and the one they followed up with, also highlighted the key role of effective leadership. There is a lot of evidence about what leaders contribute to pupil learning - helpfully, if rather densely, synthesised in a major international Best Evidence Synthesis “School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why”.

Happily, you can find CUREE’s much more accessible summary of the report here.The ‘killer fact’ in this study was that the activities of “promoting and participating in teacher learning and development” by leaders had an effect size of 0.84. This is twice as large as the next most significant leadership activity – “planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum”. 

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 schools to better focus their energies and money on professional development processes, systems and activities which deliver actual benefit for pupils. Schools, that are in general enthusiastic, organised supporters of their staff development, rarely evaluate (or know how to evaluate) the impact of the CPD they provide or pay for.

Those who see CPD 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.

How does Skein relate to OfSTED?

SKEIN helps schools address CPD weaknesses as identified e.g. by OfSTED.

In 2006 and again in 2010 OfSTED looked at the state of professional development in schools. They found much that was good but there were common weaknesses even in those schools that were otherwise good or outstanding. To quote the 2010 report:

“First, there were continuing weaknesses in the evaluation and assessment of the value for money of professional development. Second, teachers’ knowledge of subjects other than English and mathematics was seldom refreshed by suitable professional development, especially in primary schools. Finally, schools whose staff, particularly leaders, lacked skills in self-evaluation and in dealing with weaknesses, and needed help before they could meet their professional development needs”.

Since the mid-90s, CUREE has been collecting and analysing the international evidence about effective (and cost-effective) CPD. “Effective” in the sense that it has discernible positive impact on pupil learning. Much of this work is distilled in a series of systematic reviews which you can find here. From this we were able to identify with confidence the defining characteristics of effective CPD and of learning environments that enable it. We have been able to augment this international knowledge with our own large scale, empirical research in the English system. The most recent of those studies was a large scale evaluation of CPD provision offered to schools by a wide variety of providers. The study found much that was good (for instance collaboration and informing participants about the demands of the CPD) but also weaknesses (e.g. needs analysis and supporting teachers to consider the impact of their CPD on outcomes for their learners). We also found a very wide range of cost and value for money.