What is a STEEP Analysis?

STEEP stands for Social, Technical, Educational, Environmental, and Psychological.  A STEEP analysis is a tool to audit the influences on, and environment of, a school and its pupils.  This information is then used to establish ways to overcome barriers to the aspiration, access, and achievement for CLA.

STEEP analysis (and other variants such as PESTLE, STEP, ETPS, and PEST) has been widely used across business and industry for over a decade.

A school cannot solve all the Social, Technical, Educational, Environmental, and Psychological issues it and its pupils face, but a STEEP analysis can provide a way to understand the wider school environment and its influences and challenges, especially those experienced by specific groups of pupils.

The aim and approach

STEEP analysis, as part of London Fostering Achievement, aims to mobilise a wide group of school staff and stakeholders to work collaboratively to uncover and explore the issues and barriers in the school faced by CLA. 

The issues and barriers identified could be both big and small, and include themes and concepts that may seem so obvious to some stakeholders that they could easily be overlooked – some issues that may seem obvious to a teacher may not be obvious to a governor or a carer.

The keys to a successful STEEP analysis are:

  • Engaging a wide variety of stakeholders (teachers, carers, governors, school leadership, the wider workforce, etc.).
  • An ethos of “no wrong suggestions”.
  • A spirit of all partners working together as equals.

Techniques that could be used in schools to collaboratively identify issues and solutions include:

  • On-line surveys.
  • Small-groups of stakeholders focussing on specific topics.

All stakeholders collaborate in identifying issues, barriers and possible solutions, responsibilities and timescales.  These findings are then recorded, shared, and used as a basis for planning for provision.  The solutions should also include any positive activities or actions that are already in place.

The STEEP analysis is not designed to provide all the answers.  Rather, the analysis will begin the process of thinking about the needs of CLA, identifying some of the barriers those pupils face, and suggesting possible changes to practice and approach.  The STEEP analysis will also serve as an informed basis for the work of the Virtual School Head, School Champion and Achievement Coach in the Fostering Achievement Project.

Learning in Family Teams STEEP Model

The STEEP factors

Social

Social factors are those barriers that relate to the social environment and lifestyle experienced by the pupils. 

These environments may be the school, the foster home, spaces such as community centres, youth centres, or commercial social areas; or virtual spaces where pupils socialise with each other and other children and young people. 

Stakeholders should avoid making uninformed assumptions about pupils’ social networks and norms (real and virtual).  Barriers should be based on informed observations whilst avoiding naming or identifying any particular pupil or sub-group of pupils.

Technical

Technical factors are those barriers related to access and use of technology and information.  This definition includes access to, and the positive and negative aspects of digital, online, and social technologies but also includes issues of access to other technologies – printed books and newspapers, telephones, television, radio, calculators, kitchen scales, even alarm clocks.

Stakeholders should avoid making assumptions about pupils’ access to technology, and the ability of carers to mediate the use of technology and to model good use of digital devices and information.  Carers with access to a wide variety of technologies and information can be poorly informed about on-line safety and responsible access, just as carers with limited access to technology can consider the cutting-edge usage of information and on-line resources to be part of their everyday lives.

Educational

Educational factors focus on barriers within the school environment, teaching and learning and the support of carers in educational achievement. 

The barriers identified within this category should be specific to the group of CLA but should avoid criticising any particular teacher’s practice, or the behaviour or beliefs of any carer or pupil.  However, positive current practice and engagements can be recorded as solutions, if they are felt to be transferable to other settings or classrooms.

It is recommended that stakeholders are encouraged to consider barriers beyond practice in teaching and learning to include issues relating to:

  • Deployment such as the use of teaching assistants, specialist staff, community and peer mentors, and/or the use of resources.
  • Accommodation can the needs of a group of pupils be better met through alternative timetable/venue/homework for some parts of the curriculum/week?
  • Engagement are there any identifiable and common ‘points of difficulty’ for the group of pupils? For example, are there identifiable patterns of absence or non-completion of homework?  Why might this be and what could be done to change this? 

Environmental

Environmental factors are those barriers relating to:

  • The physical spaces within which the child lives (predominantly the home setting or the setting where the child spends the majority of their time when not in school).
  • The impacts (positive or negative) of the other children and young people and adults that share and/or control that space.
  • The impacts (positive or negative) of the other public or private spaces that children and young people spend time in. These impacts will often interact with, and be interdependent on, social factors and barriers.

In identifying environmental barriers, stakeholders should avoid criticism of particular environments (especially specific foster home environments) in favour of considering the more generalised barriers and impacts of the environments populated by pupils and young people.  For example:

  • Do these environments provide spaces that are conducive to self-directed study and reflection and help pupils effectively prepare for learning both before and after school? Do these environments provide a calm space that promotes a comfortable transition between school and home at the end of the school day?
  • Do these environments contribute to the pupils’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being?

Stakeholders may find themselves unconsciously basing their analysis of environmental barriers upon the circumstances of specific pupils.  Whilst this should be avoided, specific insights can be useful to building up a ‘composite picture’ of the pupils’ environment.

Psychological

Psychological barriers include the personal psychological circumstances of pupils and how the people interacting with the child (in school, at home, and elsewhere) impact positively or negatively on the psychological and emotional well-being of the child.

As with the other STEEP categories, stakeholders should avoid referring to barriers faced by any specific pupils, or carers, or to any specific interventions being undertaken in the school or in partnership with any health or social bodies.  Rather, stakeholders can use their knowledge to establish general barriers that may be faced by groups of pupils.  These may include, for example:

  • Support and environments that promote good mental health, taking account of the impact of previous experiences such as trauma and attachment.
  • The positive and negative effects of peer pressure.
  • Bullying and discrimination.
  • The ‘emotional landscape’ of the foster family unit.
  • Emotional wellbeing.
  • Resilience and motivation.

Solutions and targets

Solutions and targets arising from the STEEP analysis should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound):

Specific

  • What exactly do we want to achieve?
  • Why are we making changes or putting in place interventions?
  • What will be the benefit of these changes or interventions?
  • Who is involved? Who is responsible and/or accountable?
  • Where will the changes or interventions take place (school, home, another location, a combination of these?)?

Measurable

  • What are the measurable criteria for assessing progress and improvement?
  • How will we know when we have achieved our goal for improvement?

Attainable

  • Can we actually put in place these changes or interventions?
  • Are they possible (perhaps in terms of resource, staff availability, partnerships with other bodies, or likely pupil and carer engagement)?

Realistic

  • Are teachers, stakeholders, pupils, and carers willing and able to engage with the changes and/or interventions?

Time-bound

  • Can the suggested interventions be put in place in time to make a difference?
  • Will the interventions or changes produce real improvement within a realistic timescale?

A fictional example of a school using a STEEP analysis

In the following example, a secondary school had identified a group CLA, all of whom were additionally identified as falling behind in behaviour, attendance, and achievement.

A workshop was held for stakeholders on a Saturday morning (to help improve the access of carers and governors to the process), which was designed to explore the issues relevant to this group of pupils.

The session was led by the Head teacher, the local Virtual School Head, a Fostering Champion, the School Champion, and the Achievement Coach.  The stakeholders invited to attend included teachers, support staff, professionals from children’s services, governors. The Designated Teacher telephoned and emailed carers to maximise their inclusion in the session.

The session leaders explained the intended outcome of the activity and set out the ground rules for the workshop:

  • No naming of individuals.
  • No criticising of any specific teacher, member of staff, pupil, or carer.
  • Respect for all parties attending as professionals supporting the well-being and achievement of CLA.
  • Positive practices and approaches can be highlighted but should be ‘recorded and parked’ until the wider group consider solutions.
  • No overruling of others’ ideas – there are ‘no wrong suggestions’.

The stakeholder group was then split into five small groups with a mixture of different stakeholders.  Each group was given one of the STEEP categories to consider.  Each group was facilitated by a teacher.

The first session concentrated on identifying barriers.  Each group was reminded of the ground rules by the facilitating teacher who then scribed on a flipchart the barriers identified by their group.  After 15 minutes, each group fed back their findings to the other four groups and asked for comments.

During a coffee break, the facilitating teachers transcribed the five flip charts into one ‘group’ level list of barriers in the five STEEP categories.

After coffee, the groups reassembled.  The facilitating teachers explained the concept of SMART solutions.  Each of the five groups was then asked to suggest solutions to the barriers identified in a STEEP category different from that which they had examined earlier.

Following this session, the groups fed-back their suggestions to the other four groups, (who were also asked to contribute any positive aspects of practice that they had ‘recorded and parked’ in the first session).

After the end of the workshop, the facilitating teachers and session leaders wrote-up the analysis from the whole stakeholder group.  This write-up was then used to inform a meeting of the Senior Leadership Team and teachers to add responsibilities and timescales.  This final ‘product’ was then circulated to all stakeholders who had been present at the workshop, and used as a key reference document in the development of strategies and approaches to be undertaken as part of the school’s Fostering Achievement in London journey. The progress against the action planning was monitored by governors.

The ‘product’ (the analysis and plan) is here.

Download and edit your own STEEP template here