CooperGibson Research specialise in research and evaluation across the fields of education, employment, skills and public service improvement.

We have vast experience of working with a wide range of organisations, from individual education and service providers to local authorities, employers, Government departments and wider partners. Our research transcends a full range of professionals, service providers and children and young people. We are always aware of the burdens that research can potentially have for those involved and strive to reduce this as much as possible with a consultative and supportive approach to our work.

Our team has worked on wide range of projects. View examples of past projects of our team members below.


Health and social care


Improving Permanence for Looked After Children: Understanding Placement Stability at Local Level
The Department for Education commissioned CGR to conduct a short feasibility study to understand the facilitators and barriers to placement stability. The study involves close working with four local authorities to review case files, analyse local quantitative data and conduct interviews with practitioners, managers and service leads in Children's Services teams.

Assessment of the effect of the removal of the spare room subsidy on those who are, are seeking to be or might consider seeking to be a foster carer, adopter or special guardian (DfE, 2014-2015)
This project explored the effect of housing benefit reforms on current and prospective foster carers, adopters and special guardians and how effectively local authorities have supported these groups. It involved detailed work with local authorities to quantify the number of foster carers, adopters and special guardians affected by the policy change, understand the impact on recruitment of foster carers, adopters and special guardians and their attitudes to their role and make an assessment of the sustainability of agencies' responses to this impact going forward.

Foster Carer Research (Doncaster Children's Services Trust, 2015)
Doncaster Children's Services Trust commissioned CGR to support their research for the Department for Education on recruitment and retention of foster carers. We conducted a literature review on motivations, attitudes and barriers to fostering, value modes and profiling the fostering workforce. We have also provided advice and guidance in designing their research materials, analysing data and writing a report for the Department.

Review and assessment of web-based human rights education resources relevant to the health and social care sector
This was a good practice review (commissioned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, 2014) targeted at the health and social care sector in England. It utilised systematic web searching of key organisation websites and interviews with stakeholders and practitioners. The project culminated in a report identifying the availability, usage and effectiveness of resources, lessons learned and areas for development. A Compendium of resources for use by practitioners in the sector was also developed, signposting users to key resources.

View the Compendium here:

Research on Recruitment and Retention of Foster Carers
A longitudinal action research project commissioned by the West Yorkshire Consortium (Leeds City Council, Calderdale Council, Core Assets, Fostering Yorkshire, December 2013 – March 2015). It involves design of innovative targeted interventions to support improved recruitment and retention of foster carers in the region and measuring the impact of these interventions, patterns of take-up, models and approaches to recruitment and retention, motivations, levers and barriers to becoming foster carers and understanding their experiences and perceptions of foster care as a profession. The research also explores the effectiveness of innovative training offers for foster carers and new peer support models being piloted by the consortium.

Health and social care

Teaching and Teacher Training


Workload Challenge: Analysis of Teacher Consultation Responses: Research Report (DfE, 2015)
CGR were commissioned to analyse and report on the Department for Education's online Workload Challenge consultation which ran between 22 October and 21 November 2014 and received over 40,000 responses. It asked three key open-ended questions:

1. Tell us about the unnecessary and unproductive tasks which take up too much of your time. Where do these
come from?
2. Send us your solutions and strategies for tackling workload – what works well in your school?
3. What do you think should be done to tackle unnecessary workload – by government, by schools or by others?

CGR cleaned, coded, analysed and reported on over 1,600 qualitative survey responses within a period of 4 weeks. The final report was published on 6th February 2014 with a press notice where the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Secretary outlined plans as the results of the Workload Challenge survey were published.

Report on   See the press release here:

Longitudinal evaluation of Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses
CooperGibson Research have completed the final year of a longitudinal evaluation to evaluate the effectiveness of SKE courses in equipping trainees to specialise in mathematics, physics and chemistry teaching; and on investigating any differences between traditional entry to teacher training and SKE candidates through all stages of becoming a teacher. The project included data monitoring, a documentary review, baseline surveys and interviews (with students, newly qualified teachers, providers). The aims were to explore the effectiveness and impact of SKE courses and to gather evidence to support strategic planning of the programme and future teacher training.

effective report   effective guide
Reports on


research pic1

Vocational education and training


Effective teaching and learning in vocational education
Sarah Gibson managed this project which explored Vocational Education Training (VET) teaching models within further education. It aimed to promote more effective teaching and learning in vocational education, by encouraging thought, debate and discussion about vocational pedagogy. Using a series of observations and interviews, the project built a picture of commonly used teaching models and how they are used in practice and compared this to teaching models within literature. The report introduced a new Framework for Developing Effective Vocational Teaching and Learning which was explained with exemplars in a supporting guidance document, Developing Effective Vocational Teaching and Learning using Teaching Models: a guide.

View the report and guidance document here:

effective report   effective guide
Final Report   Final Guide


Equality and diversity, disadvantaged groups and LLDD/SEN


Evaluation and Analysis of Post 16 and Post 19 LLDD Provision
CooperGibson Research was commissioned by East Sussex County Council (in 2014) to review provision in Eastbourne for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The focus was to evaluate the support and provision currently provided to young adults with LDD and complex special educational needs and to identify gaps in provision. The review incorporated analysis of MI data, interviews and focus groups with college and school staff, learners, parents/carers and supporting agencies (such as Connexions staff and transition support workers).

Evaluation of Supported Internship Trial commissioned by the Department for Education
CooperGibson Research, in partnership with Disability Rights UK, were commissioned to undertake the evaluation of the Supported Internship (SI) Trial for 16-25 year old learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, on behalf of the Department for Education. This one-year evaluation established:

  • Whether the SI trials had been effective in enabling colleges to support young people with different learning difficulties and/or disabilities to progress into sustainable employment
  • How the initiative had been delivered and any lessons learned from the set-up, design and delivery
  • Whether the initiative provides value for money.

The evaluation enabled the Department to provide colleges across the country with a clear set of principles and good practice to draw from and led to development of guidance to support colleges, schools, local authorities and others to design, set-up and deliver supported internships.

Following the evaluation, CooperGibson Research were commissioned to write guidance for providers and local authorities to help them in designing, setting up and delivering supported internships.

View the report and guidance document here:

DFE Report   Supportive
Final Report   Final Guide

Qualifications and curriculum


Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and non-regulated provision - impact assessment
Sarah Gibson previously managed this Impact Assessment for the Skills Funding Agency. The project examined the potential impact of moving non-regulated formal and non-formal provision to the QCF and changes in funding allocations. It involved analysis of ILR data to gain a broad picture of learners and providers, followed by a telephone survey and face to face visits with local authorities, General FE Colleges and private training organisations. The focus was on the nature of provision, differences between providers in delivery of provision and their learners’ needs, fees and funding issues.


Learner voice, aspirations, progression routes


Mapping of Careers Services in Schools and Colleges in England (DfE, 2015)
The DfE commissioned CGR to map careers services in secondary schools and colleges to examine the careers services they provide and use. It involves 90 telephone interviews, supported by an online survey, with careers staff/those responsible for careers guidance and advice.

Information, advice and guidance (IAG) to support education progression
Commissioned by the University West of England (in 2014), following our previous work, Research to inform the deployment of student and partnership services (SPS) resources for the recruitment of home/EU undergraduate students, this project explored the availability, priorities and gaps for development and delivery of IAG to support education progression. It involved interviews and focus groups with a sample of pre and post 16 learners, parents/carers, college and school staff and employers. It also explored ways in which local providers and partners can work more collaboratively and efficiently to ensure IAG needs are fully met.

Cognitive Review of Survey Items at Postgraduate Level
Commissioned by the Higher Education Academy (in 2013), the aim of this work was to conduct a series of cognitive interviews with postgraduate students to review questions on the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) and explore proposed alternatives. The research aims to explore the face validity and interpretation of survey items and to contribute to a robust evidence base underpinning PTES design.

View the report here:

Cognitive Review
Cognitive Review

Mobile learning


mCommunity End of Project Evaluation
Commissioned by Pembrokeshire College (2013), this is an evaluation of a long running project testing the use of mobile technology to engage disenfranchised young people. It included designing an evaluation framework, designing and conducting an online survey/text wall to young people, interviews with young people and wider stakeholders. The evaluation explored how well the project has met its original objectives, successes and impact.

Mobile Learning

Workforce development for school and FE teachers and support staff


Gathering provider intelligence to inform the Education and Training Foundation’s agenda
A short project (commissioned by AELP, 2014) which involved designing questions for regional networks to gather feedback from providers across the country on key issues relating to teaching and learning, curriculum and quality improvement. Analysis of regional reports took place to provide an overarching report.

Initial Teacher Training and Continuing Professional Development for FE teachers, tutors and trainers
Sarah Gibson was overall Project Director for this research commissioned to LSN, aiming to explore the incorporation of the Diplomas into FE Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and CPD provision. The research identified the range of CPD activities available to FE teachers and FE ITT teacher educators to support Diploma delivery, examined models/approaches in which the LLUK Professional Development Units (PDUs) and occupational currency are incorporated into FE ITT and CPD, discussed effective ITT and CPD approaches to supporting FE diploma deliverers and developed guidance material for CETTs, ITT and CPD providers.

Research into minority ethnic support staff in schools
The aim of the project for the Training and Development Agency for Schools, was to explore the range of roles, activities and training needs of minority ethnic support staff working in schools. The information gathered helped to inform strategies and policies for workforce remodelling, deployment and training in relation to support staff. It involved intensive qualitative work with support staff, colleagues and pupils.

Research into existing resources available to support English as an Additional Language (EAL) training on primary and secondary initial teacher education programmes
Commissioned by the TDA, this was to investigate resources currently available to support teacher educators for the primary and secondary phases, including their currency, and how they are currently accessed. Resources were be mapped to the QTS standards and recommendations made as to how they might be integrated into a non-specialist programme. Findings supported the TDA’s EAL workforce development strategy.


Funding and strategic planning


Assessment of funding to implement universal infant free school means (UIFSM) (DfE, 2014)
This research involved 30 telephone interviews with head teachers of small schools, asking questions relating to funding to implement universal infant free school meals - their views on the funding which has been made available to date and on whether there is a need for further funding to support UIFSM implementation. It included questions about the costs incurred in providing school meals; the effectiveness of the UIFSM funding made available in 2014-2015; and what, if any, on-going transitional costs you are incurring to implement the UIFSM policy. Analysis and a report with recommendations was produced to inform discussions with Ministers on the roll out of the policy.

Research to inform the deployment of student and partnership services (SPS) resources for the recruitment of home/EU undergraduate students
The University of West of England, Bristol (UWE) commissioned this review to understand what interventions in local and regional schools and colleges would most effectively increase the number of appropriate students applying to and enrolling at UWE. It involved a desk review of established engagement activities, visits to schools and colleges to interview senior management teams, conducting focus groups with learners and interviewing parents/parent Governors. The report informed resource planning and strategic development/engagement activity for the university.

Discretionary Learner Support (dLS) funds monitoring
Commissioned to LSN by YPLA, this project involved liaising with providers to collate 2010/11 dLS MI forms. Providers receiving dLS funds need to submit each year to YPLA, a form outlining how the funds have been allocated. Sarah Gibson supported this work, her remit was to liaise with and support providers in completing their returns.

Evaluation of the Funding Models for Diplomas
Sarah Gibson managed a project for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), aiming to explore approaches to delivery of Diploma components shared across Diploma consortia and the costs that are incurred in delivering each component of the Diploma.

Research, analysis and strategic report of 14-19 provision
A project commissioned to LSN which Sarah Gibson managed. The aims of this project were to work closely with a Local Authority, the Partnership Group and key stakeholders to inform discussions around the options and implications for 14 – 19 education in the local area.

Strategic Review of Post 16 Provision in Wales
In line with their strategic priorities, a local authority in Wales commissioned CooperGibson Research to conduct a review of their post-16 provision to identify the case for change and quantify potential options. The purpose was to develop a strategic review of 16-19 learning pathways across the city to meet the Learner Entitlement and the post 16 progression routes of all learners. Detailed analysis took place of management information data and documentary evidence such as consultation reports and policy documents. A series of in-depth interviews were conducted across providers and partners in the area and were used with other evidence to form a series of options for the 16-19 system with analyses of these options and a preferred way forward for the city.

research pic4


Skills needs and key driver analysis, forecasting and trend analysis


Sector Skills Assessment
For Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK), this project investigated the drivers of skills demand, skills gaps and shortages, future skills needs and the availability of training provision. It involved gathering information from colleges and other providers across the four the UK nations.

Apprenticeship training agency – analysis of skills needs
A market analysis project aimed to support development of an Apprenticeship Training Agency. It mapped current demand and supply trends in Apprenticeship courses across the Oxfordshire County and neighbouring local authorities which fall within the M4/M44 corridor. It identified instances where there are either gaps in supply of apprenticeship framework offers according to local business skills needs, a surplus of supply or a mismatch in demand and supply for an area.

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