Professional development, consultancy and research for those working in early childhood education and care.

We are the authors of the SSTEW scale and the only trainers who can ensure the reliable and consistent use of the SSTEW scale for audit, regulation and research.

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We believe that everyone working with children aged birth to seven should have the chance to achieve their full potential and enjoy the benefits and pleasure of delivering high quality education and care.

We provide support and evidence based courses specifically designed to meet clients' needs.

We promote pedagogy and practices which provide children with experiences and opportunities known to impact on children’s outcomes; that is, experiences which support and enhance learning and development.


About us

What is the Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Wellbeing (SSTEW) Scale?

The SSTEW scale is an Environment Rating Scale (ERS) – a tool to assess quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). It is designed to measure and promote practice that supports children in developing skills in sustained shared thinking (SST) and emotional well-being (EW). It supports the development of strong relationships, effective communication, self-regulation and concept development.

The SSTEW scale looks at the quality of interactions that occur between the adults and the children and between the children themselves. It considers the responsiveness of the adults to the children and how they intentionally support children’s learning and development.

Fundamental to the SSTEW scale is the understanding that the adults need to know the children well and develop positive relationships with them in order to successfully engage in sustained shared thinking. In addition, they require a good understanding of the children’s current development, their cultural heritage and achievements, their feelings, behaviours, and responses to learning. An effective early childhood educator would need to be able to recognize when the children are thinking, and sensitively extend language, periods of concentration and support perseverance.

The 14 items in this scale consist of clearly defined ‘indicators’, showing… Practices that support emotional development as well as task focus in problem-solving all rest on communication between adult and child. Narrative is important here but so too is guided thinking based on open questions and the sharing of views. The complex communication described so richly in the scale is multilayered in its focus on the external world, the world of things and events, but also on the internal world of feelings and wishes.

Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Oxford

Professional Development and training on the SSTEW scale

We have already begun devising and running professional development and training on and around the SSTEW scale in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. We have supported researchers and those engaged in auditing ECEC settings to become reliable with their observations, and devised bespoke professional development for ECEC settings following the use of the SSTEW scale combined with other environment rating scales (e.g. Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales-Extension) which identified their areas for further development.

In an endorsement of the scale Collette Tayler, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Care, University of Melbourne wrote:

The SSTEW Scale is set to make a real contribution to EC professionals wanting to improve their pedagogy in support of advancing children’s learning, as well as serving researchers interested in early education method and the behaviours of adults as they bring everyday early childhood programme experiences to life with groups of young children.

Collette Tayler, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Care, University of Melbourne

What we offer


Professional Development


1. Using the Environment Rating Scales (ERS): ECERS-E and the SSTEW scale for self-assessment and improvement (ERS-SA01).

The course consists of five days in total:

  • Two initial days where participants learn about the evidence base for the scales and how to use and score them consistently and reliably.
  • Two observation days where the participants spend two days in settings/schools, arranged by themselves but supported with materials etc by us, making observations using the scales.
  • One reflection and discussion day where participants share experiences, challenges, successes and scores. They learn how to analyse the findings of their observations and use them to develop quality improvement plans.
Note: If participants are more interested in quality related to children under three years of age we will adapt the course accordingly .

2. Reliability and Moderation Training (RM01) (RM02)

RM01: Reliability and moderation training to support the use of the SSTEW scale for research, audit or regulation. This training will typically follow initial training on using ERS for self-assessment (e.g.ERS-SA01). It supports reliability and moderation for the SSTEW scale. Participants are accompanied during observation visits to settings/schools (typically in groups of 3 or 4) by a trainer acting as a ‘gold standard’. This is a whole day training course. Each day will typically accommodate two cohorts or groups of 3 or 4 participants. Following the observations, the scales are scored, compared and discussed.

RM02: Training to support ongoing standardisation, reliability and moderation is offered on an annual basis for those using the SSTEW scale for research, audit or regulation. Training is offered where participants (usually in groups of 3 or 4) making observations are accompanied to settings/schools with a trainer acting as a ‘gold standard'. This is typically completed in the morning, which leaves the afternoon for discussion of observations, reflections, analysis of the findings and discussion and planning to ensure that the whole team is consistent and reliable. This is typically achieved by staff who have attended the standardisation visit making joint visits with the rest of the team.

3. Professional development designed to strengthen intentional and relational pedagogical quality informed by and using ECERS- E and the SSTEW scale. (Courses vary in length from 1 to 5 days: PD01, PD02, PD03, PD04, PD05)

These courses consider individual areas within the scales. They are tailored to the specific needs of the participants on the course in areas of practice identified (usually through observations undertaken using the ERS) as likely to benefit from strengthening.

Individual areas include science and exploration, mathematics, communication and language, literacy, self-regulation, high quality interactions designed to extend thinking and critical processes, planning and assessment for learning and leadership for learning.

The length of the courses is dependent upon the number of areas covered, however, the course is typically delivered in full day sessions (courses vary in length from 1 to 5 days). If more than one day of training is chosen then these days are best delivered separately to allow time for the adults to put the information, ideas, materials etc into practice in between sessions. The following day(s) of training can then incorporate time to evaluate and reflect on this practice, supporting a cycle of improvement.

4. Using the SSTEW scale for Quality Improvement (SST-QI01). This course if for early years educators who are already familiar with the Environment Rating Scales, including ECERS-E, and wish to add the SSTEW scale to their portfolio of ERS for quality improvement.

  • One initial day where participants learn about the evidence base for the SSTEW scale and how to use and score it consistently and reliably.
  • Two observation days where the participants spend two days in settings/schools, arranged by themselves but supported with materials etc by us, making observations using the SSTEW scale.
  • One final day where 3 or 4 participants are accompanied to a setting to use the scale and the trainer acts as a 'gold standard'. This is followed by an afternoon session where all participants attend to discuss their observation/reflections. They analyse the findings of their observations, consider challenges and successes and discuss how they could be used to develop quality improvement plans. Finally, discussion and planning around ensuring that all participants are consistent and reliable is undertaken. Usually this will entail joint visits between participants who attended the morning visit to the setting/school with the trainer and those who did not.


Advice, Support & Consultancy

We provide advice, support and consultancy for quality improvement projects. We design and provide advice and support to suit clients' needs. We support planning, implementation and evaluation of projects which are time efficient, practical and include measures which are linked to children’s outcomes and known to make a real difference.

We can support strategic approaches to quality improvement, including providing materials and information for meetings as well as personal attendance at meetings if required.

We provide support with data management and analysis to ensure that planning is targeted to support the specific needs of those working in early years settings and schools and that the impact is clearly documented.

We have a track record of being involved in and running many successful quality improvement projects. See evaluation and research for current research projects.


Evaluation & Research

We are currently involved in a number of different evaluation and research projects. They include:

  1. Investigating the quality of effective early education for 2-5 year olds: A manual for the SSTEW rating scale.

    The SSTEW Scale is currently being used in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. A training manual is required to ensure consistency amongst researchers as they rate interactions. This project is drawing to a close and a comprehensive manual has been compiled and is being piloted with colleagues in Australia, where several research projects are underway, and within the UK.

  2. Quality Interactions Studies. Working with ECEC pre-schools to strengthen quality of intentional and relational pedagogy

    Phase One of the project involved using the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-E and the SSTEW Scale) as a baseline measurement of the quality in 40 pre-school classrooms.

    Phase Two of the project was the delivery of Professional Development, in areas identified as in need of enhancement during the analysis of the baseline findings, to the staff in 20 of the pre-school classrooms.

    Phase three will start in Autumn 2015 and will involve a repeat of the baseline measures to see if any changes in practice are evident.


Further research projects using this quasi-experimental design are due to start shortly. Typically they include:

  • a baseline measurement is taken using Environment rating scales such as ECERS-E or ITERS-R and SSTEW (together with some child measures in some studies)
  • the settings/schools are matched together (by aspects such as scores on the scales, qualification levels of staff, size of setting/school, demographics etc) and placed in random and control groups
  • the training group receives bespoke professional development on areas identified as requiring strengthening by ECERS-E/ITERS-R and SSTEW
  • the baseline measures are repeated to see if any significant changes can be found.


Voluntary work & aid


We believe in supporting the adults working with children and families across the world and are currently working with the Mukwashi Primary School in Zambia.


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