How we saved the Sheffield CEP time and money

The Sheffield Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) engaged with Paper at a pivotal moment in their project. Before committing to significant investment in multiple strands of work the Sheffield CEP asked Paper to give them insight into the needs of their users.

Stephen Betts (CEO of Learn Sheffield) says, - “I suspect we will look back in five years’ time and say that Paper saved us a lot of effort, time and money!”

What is the Sheffield Cultural Education Partnership?

The Arts Council England - Cultural Education Challenge asks art and cultural organisations, educational institutions and local authorities to come together to drive a joined-up art and cultural offer locally.

The aim is to share resources and bring about a more coherent and visible delivery of cultural education so that children & young people can have access to great arts and cultural opportunities.

Sheffield is one of the first wave of cities that are launching a Cultural Education Partnership.

Sheffield Cultural Education Partnership

Three organisations have joined forces to create this opportunity, Learn Sheffield, the Culture Consortium and IVE.

Uncovering what teachers need

A key part of the programme is to provide a brand new way of creating, curating and accessing learning resources for the people of Sheffield, particularly young people. These resources need to be designed to be used by teachers in Sheffield schools. Sheffield CEP wanted to find out the needs unique to teachers working in Sheffield.

Sophie Hunter (Development Manager at IVE) says, - “Observing the testing was more useful than I could ever have imagined - you think you know what people think, and then it’s clear you don’t!

Paper conducted one-to-one user research interviews with 12 teachers from a mix of primary and secondary schools. We conducted the interviews with the teachers with the aim of gaining a qualitative understanding of:

  • how teachers plan their lessons

  • how teachers gather learning resources

  • what teachers expect from the Sheffield CEP

  • what teachers need from the Sheffield CEP

Some of what we found out?

We uncovered a large volume of insights. It’s important that volume doesn’t become overwhelming. So we look for themes and key insights that we can highlight.

Sophie Hunter (Development Manager at IVE) says, - “I learnt so much from listening to the details that came up. It’s those little things that will make all the difference to the success of our project, and they would otherwise have gone unheard.”

Some of the key insights were about the frustrations teachers feel with the learning resources that are available and the time constraints they have for gathering them.

research participant - “You’d be hard pressed to find a teacher who isn’t planning outside of work on weekdays and every Sunday”


Access, skills and support

Insights into teachers access, skills and support

Most lesson planning and resource gathering is being done at home on a work laptop. Teachers are supporting themselves using Google and their personal networks to resolve issues and find resources.


Despite the pressures and constraints, most teachers still found the process exciting and many felt it was creative. Some even describing it as their favourite part of the job after actually teaching in the classroom.

research participant - “I find it (planning) one of the most enjoyable parts of teaching, because at that point it hasn’t met the crucible of the classroom. It doesn’t always meet first contact with Y9”

Expectations for Sheffield CEP

The expectations for the Sheffield CEP are high and far reaching. All teachers could see how the Sheffield CEP could provide learning resources that they need and there was quite a range of insights into what the learning resources could be.

Paper’s recommendations included a process to help prioritise resource creation and a common set of design principles:


S-CEP Design principles

  1. Visibility: Make resources easy to find
  2. Purpose: Make resources easy to understand
  3. Usability: Make resources easy to use
  4. Affordance: Prove resources have value
  5. Provenance: Show how resources were made

Next steps

Stephen Betts (CEO of Learn Sheffield) says, - “Working with Paper was extremely useful to the development of the S-CEP. It enabled us to focus in on the specific things that would make a difference to whether and how teachers might access and use resources, which in the end will determine the impact we can have on children and young people in that area of our work.”

The next steps for the Sheffield CEP can be found on the Learn Sheffield website. We know that the user research will be used to inform the learning resources creation strand of the programme, but we were also delighted to see that the user research had a wider impact on the strategy and the branding approach to the programme overall.

See more articles