What is SKEIN?

"It is vital that performance management leads to professional development which improves  teaching and learning. This is a challenge for organisations in all sectors and why the work  of CUREE and SKEIN is so important - tracking and reinforcing the connections between development and results across the school.” 

Russell Hobby, General Secretary, NAHT

SKEIN: School and College improvement through evidence informed practice

SKEIN is a family of expert, school and college improvement services rooted firmly in research and evidence. SKEIN supports leaders in a range of circumstances diagnose what is inhibiting progress toward excellence, offers practical recommendations on steps to removing barriers and then supports effective action to accelerate your drive to excellence. Its starting point is the evidence about school and college improvement from international published research but also from CUREE's own research and development activities over the last 20 years. You can find out more about the evidence base from the CUREE website here

Schools and colleges from across the country have already made use of the SKEIN family of services to help them move forward. Find out what they had to say about the SKEIN experience here.

The Family

  • SKEIN Momentum - is for schools where progress has stalled and where an impetus is needed to regain momentum. The system works for you whether you are in measures, are borderline outstanding or any position in between. It is especially relevant to small and mid-size multi-academy trusts and federations. This, the latest addition to the Family, is offered in partnership with ASCL and you will benefit from both CUREE's deep research-based expertise and ASCL's cadre of consultants (all of whom have been fully trained in the SKEIN methodology)
  • SKEIN CPD - helps school leaders formulate the next steps for their CPD (continuing professional development) provision to best support the development of their staff and maximise impact on student outcomes. More tightly focused than SKEIN Momentum, SKEIN CPD is particularly suitable for schools (or groups of schools) who are looking to make that next step in school achievement, recognise that this can only be acheived through the staff but need to target scarce resources effectively
  • SKEIN FE - provides the same service as SKEIN CPD but has beens specifically adapted for colleges and other providers in the Further Education and Skills sector

The Service  

Each service in the SKEIN family follows a similar process, designed to be as unobtrusive and straight forward as possible. As a part of the SKEIN family of services we will:

  • Use your existing paperwork (no extra bureaucracy here).
  • Interview the senior leadership team as a group, a focus group of staff (over lunchtime or in a twilight session) and individual members of staff.
  • Use an online survey to surface existing practice and areas of concerns.
  • Provide a practical, detailed report identifying core strengths to build on and effective and efficient ways forward.
  • Carry out an (optional) follow up visit after 2.5 terms to track progress. 

What are the benefits?

SKEIN is an improvement service designed to support you on your journey whatever your starting point by:

  • Securing buy-in from all staff through access to strategies and under-the-skin evidence.
  • Growing outstanding professional skills as you reduce dependency on others.
  • Giving you the information you need to make stronger links between performance management, your CPD approaches and staff learning processes.
  • Making the links between staff learning processes and pupil/student learning visible at every stage.
  • Helping you target development effort and spendi on the things that make MOST difference, making your money go further.
  • Moving the learning of all staff up a gear because the evaluation process builds ownership of development from the start.

What does ‘SKEIN’ mean? 

Skein is the term for a formation of geese in flight and we think the image reflects a lot about what we are trying to do here – rapid progress through shared leadership, development and mutual support. The Skein represents both collective effort and individual effort. And they lay golden eggs!

It also means ‘reflect’ in Norwegian and an unspecified length of wool wound so it’s not tangled. We quite like the idea that we help you get and keep your professional development ‘untangled’.


“The report is great – we are really delighted with it. We are going to move on the recommendations as fast as we can. We are particularly keen to take on board your points about the learning trajectories of staff as individuals and as a group so it will be very interesting to connect up with another Skein school that has an established approach to this. It’s nice to know that we also have things to offer them.” 

Gill Maitland, Duchess School

“The report is fabulous. It was weird because as I was reading it the first time it made sense - it was a road to Damascus moment. Then Oftsed came in to do a pre-inspection and the agenda moved on to focus on that. Then when I came back to the report I thought – oh, the two really make sense together”

Anita Bath, St Thomas Moore School

Read more SKEIN testimonials here!

Want to know more? Find the SKEIN FAQ here.