Centre for Teaching and Learning Research (CTLR)

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'Happier in his own clothes' report cover


(Dr Jacqui Shepherd, Claire Durrant and Dr Christina Hancock)

This research was the second of two surveys examining the experiences of children with SEND during 2020/21. 

This second survey focused on the return to school in September 2020 and the experience of undertaking home-learning during the January/February 2021 lockdown. While celebrating the achievements of schools in supporting children with SEND back into school last September and improving the quality and provision of home learning during the second lockdown, the report also exposes some of the significant limitations in the education system not least in meeting the fundamental needs of children with SEND but also in enabling them to flourish and achieve.

Some children did thrive during lockdown without the stress and anxiety of school and the pressure of social interaction but many did not. ‘Happier in his own clothes’ was a comment made by a parent about one of the positives of lockdown in not having to wear school uniform but we also use it as a metaphor here for how school could be for children with SEND and indeed all children if we can seize this opportunity to learn from lockdown. We make recommendations, based on the learning from the positive and negative experiences of the last year, for a more reflexive and recalibrated school system which works better for all children – especially those with SEND. 


Since 2018 CTLR Director Louise Gazeley has been working in partnership with national research consultancy ECORYS on a Departnment For Education-funded evaluation of the alternative provision innovation fund (APIF).

Nine projects were selected for inclusion in the programme which was designed to provide  insights into three major areas:

  • Reintegration into mainstream school
  • Transitions to post 16 destinations
  • Engagement of parents/carers 

A research report and three practice papers covering the main findings from the evaluation have now been published


CIRCLETS Research Student: Jacqui ShepherdEducation Lecturer and Director of Student Experience for the School of Education and Social Work, Dr Jacqui Shepherd, has had a new article published online by Taylor & Francis. Beyond tick-box transitions? Experiences of autistic students moving from special to further education was funded by the ESRC and reports on a qualitative, longitudinal case study that explored the transition experiences of autistic students with intellectual disabilities as they left special school to go to colleges of further education.

Sequential interviews with six young people, their parents/carers and educators were developed to address an important knowledge gap in relation to progression to post-16 education for differently abled learners. Transition is theorised through both the lens of the social model of disability and the three typologies of inductiondevelopment and becoming. Combining these enables a focus on flexible systems and adaptive environments as well as an openness to the variability of autistic students.

While the research found evidence of transition planning, it also identified gaps in critical processes, limited understanding of autistic students’ capacity to manage change and normative expectations around independence. Parents reported a largely ‘tick-box’ approach to transition that was further reflected in a lack of preparation for social transition. The paper highlights responsibilities of institutions to make adaptations to transition processes in order to enable autistic students to better navigate change.


On 5 December, 2019, Dr Jean Hopman presented her research and subsequently led a workshop on Teacher Emotional Rules which involved six teachers from a Victorian Government secondary school who came together over one year to share and inquire into their stories of teachers’ day-to-day work. Each teacher’s story featured a struggle that stemmed from the difficulty, yet the desire, to abide by institutionally derived emotional rules. Teachers live and work in tension and negotiating this tension is a struggle, but reflective practice, which is an essential aspect of teachers’ self-understanding, can assist in uncovering the hidden emotional strain.

In her workshop, Jean talked more about her position as an active participant of the research (as protagonist, story-teller, listener, re-teller — and facilitator), and explored how  innovatively employing fieldwork supervision  - in addition to  research supervision - supported a process of ethical reflexivity, highlighting issues of power in particular. Drawing on data from a reflexive journal, interview transcripts and supervision meeting minutes Jean demonstrated how layers of experience, and associated emotion, weave together - and how understanding these connections added depth to research analysis, allowing the research to unfold in ways that it might not have otherwise.

Dr Jean Hopman works in Initial Teacher Education at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia and researches teacher emotional work and reflexivity by exploring the underlying layers of the teacher's role. She completed a Bachelor of Primary and Secondary Education and a Graduate Diploma in Child Psychotherapy Studies, and has taught and counselled in diverse educational settings, including Government, private and international schools, alternative educational settings and universities since 2000.


Child Poverty Event: groupCheck out our web page for CTLR's Annual Change Event, 'Child Poverty in Educational Contexts: Exploring implications for research, policy and practice' which took place on 10 July.

The free one day inter-disciplinary event brought together stakeholders and researchers interested in developing educational contexts to better meet the challenges posed by rising rates of child poverty in England. It aimed to create a space to think together about key questions such as:

  • How does poverty shape educational experiences across contexts in England today?
  • What can be done by whom to anticipate need and maximise opportunity?

The day included a number of talks and workshops which afforded rich insights into poverty across the life course.


Louise Gazeley was  recently invited to speak at an event hosted by the SEN Policy Research Forum at St Alban's Centre, London on the theme of  Exclusions, Barriers to Admission and Quality of Mainstream Provision for Children and Young People with SEND: What can be done? The event was attended by an  audience of stakeholders, policy-makers and academics. 

Louise's talk was called: When it comes to school exclusion processes who is accountable and for what? Other invited speakers included Jules Daulby (Transparency on Exclusions), and Nicola Furey and James Roach from Inclusive Multi-Academy Trust, Watford.

The event ended with a small group discussion around how best to promote inclusion and reduce exclusion. The three talks given on the day are included in a report produced by the Policy Research Forum.


Education Lecturer, Dr Jacqui Shepherd, has been working with the Queen Rania Foundation in Jordan on behalf of the Ministry of Education to raise enrolment rates for out-of-school children with disabilities in Jordan. Despite past reforms, only five per cent of children with disabilities are currently enrolled in public schools.

Jacqui’s brief was to review policies, strategies and programmes in relation to out-of-school children with disabilities and provide actionable recommendations to promote inclusion. The work was carried out over a six month period and entailed a scoping visit in September 2018 to visit four inclusive schools in or near Amman and meetings with the Ministry of Education, the Higher Council for People with Disabilities, principals, teachers, parents and children. Jacqui also conducted a desk-based review of international and national policies, institutional publications and research literature. A subsequent visit in January 2019 to run a workshop provided an opportunity for Jacqui to discuss her findings and recommendations with stakeholder representatives and international donors.

Following completion of  a matrix on international best practice on inclusion and a final report for the project, Jacqui was commissioned to report on the Ten Year Plan for Inclusive Education produced by the Higher Council for People with Disabilities.

Contact Jacqui if you would like to find out more.


To celebrate World Autism Awareness Week (1-7 April), the School's Director of Student Experience - Education Lecturer, Dr Jacqui Shepherd - is chairing a discussion with two autistic women about their experiences of autism on Tuesday 2 April at The Depot in Lewes. The discussion will start at 8pm, followed by a screening of Snowcake (starring Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss) - one of only a few films about an autistic woman. The programme is scheduled to end at 10pm. 


We are proud and delighted to share that Education Senior Teaching Fellow, Dr Ally Daubney, won the ‘Excellence in Primary/Early Years’ award at the Music Teacher magazine hosted 'Awards for Excellence' event on 6 March at the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane.

Ally's award is for the 'Primary Music Toolkit' she wrote for publication by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Trust and supported by the Schools Music Association (SMA).


If you were not fortunate enough to attend the Early Years Research Conference 2019 held 2 Feb in Fulton Building on the University of Sussex campus, you can now view a summary of the event, along with the presentations given - including that of the keynote speaker, Dr Rory McDowall Clark - and a gallery of photographs.

Visit the Early Years Research Conference 2019 web page.


Dr Emily Danvers and Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith have successfully received funding from the Sussex Learning Network’s ‘Innovation Fund’ to lead a project around access to higher education for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) young people. The project is a collaboration between CHEER/CTLR, Widening Participation at the University of Sussex and Friends, Families and Travellers.

GRT are a vastly under-represented group in higher education, with estimates suggesting that less than 1% of young people go on to university in the UK. A key factor to this educational trajectory is a lack of progression through compulsory schooling with GRT pupils having higher overall  and persistent absence rates than any other ethnic group in England and the lowest average attainment score at key stage four. Some of the main contributing issues cited for this education ‘achievement gap’ include experiences of racism and bullying, a lack of understanding of GRT culture by teachers, as well as cultural and historical valuing of particular forms of work. This project aims to understand and address some of these issues faced by GRT young people as they progress through their secondary education in Sussex.

The first stage of the project is the design and delivery of a ‘visualising your futures’ workshop aimed at GRT young people in Hailsham Community College. This workshop will explore pupils’ perspectives on education, specifically higher education, and what they feel some of the barriers and opportunities offered by this educational trajectory might be. We will then organise a targeted visit to a local higher education provider, facilitated by a former GRT university graduate. This represents a unique pilot for Sussex and the sector in offering an outreach initiative specifically targeting GRT learners, for which access to higher education is substantially lower than other ethnic groups. The project will conclude with a networking meeting where young people, community organisations, schools and university representatives will discuss how best GRT young people could be supported through their educational transitions. This will generate co-produced guidelines on inclusion and progression for  schools, universities and community organisations.

This Sussex Learning Network funding is part of a series of initiatives under the Office for Students’ National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) which focuses on outreach activity in local areas where higher education participation is lower than might be expected given the GCSE results of the young people who live there.

Professor Brian HudsonRecently retired Emeritus Professor of Education and CTLR member, Brian Hudson, has just had an article published in the London Review of Education as part of special feature 'Knowledge and subject-specialist teaching'. The article addresses the question of what it is that students are entitled to learn in school mathematics and draws on outcomes from a recent study arising from the Developing Mathematical Thinking in the Primary Classroom (DMTPC) project. The article considers the role of teachers as curriculum-makers at classroom level where curriculum and pedagogy effectively merge.


Senior Lecturer and CTLR Deputy Director, Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith, was one of a group of Sussex academics who led the second ‘Transformative Higher Education Pedagogy and Practice' professional development course in Abuja, Nigeria over the period of a week in September 2018.

Invited by the Nigerian Government Universities Commission (NUC) to facilitate the training, the Sussex team also included Head of the Department of Education - Professor Simon Thompson, Education Lecturer - Dr Rebecca Webb, Education Teaching Fellow - Dr Charlotte Morris, Physics Senior Teaching Fellow - Dr Jackie Grant, and Tab Betts from Technology Enhanced Learning.

Training took place at Baze University and was attended by academics representing diverse disciplines and from institutions from across Nigeria.

Over the course of the week, the Sussex team collaboratively explored assessment and feedback, innovative approaches to pedagogy and technology enhanced learning, reflective practice and inclusivity. They were also looking to foster and maintain links with the course participants, many of whom continue to share their progress in implementing the ideas and approaches explored during the course. Dr Lois Nkechi Abraham from the Department of Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology at University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, said:
"We learnt a lot and I am already putting the knowledge into practice."

The team very much enjoyed learning from Nigerian colleagues, including Yoruba song, ‘Eko dara pupo’, which tells how education can take you to new heights.


A survey by Education Senior Teaching Fellows, Dr Ally Daubney and Mr Duncan Mackrill, found that the number of schools offering a music A-level had fallen by more than 15% in the past two years. The picture is even worse for music technology A-level, which has declined by 32% over the same period.

Research also revealed a 10% fall in the number of students starting a GCSE music course since 2016, with fewer schools providing it as an option and some offering it only out of school hours.

The survey of 500 schools in England showed music is fast disappearing as a compulsory subject at secondary level. Whereas in 2012-13 music was compulsory for 13- to 14-year-olds in 84% of responding schools, the latest survey found it was compulsory in just 47.5%.

Of the schools that participated, 18% did not offer GCSE music at all; in some schools the subject was taught only as an “enrichment day” once a year. Staffing levels in music departments had fallen in nearly 36% of the schools that responded, with 70% of surviving music specialists having to teach outside their subject to fill gaps.

Duncan said: “Music’s place in the secondary curriculum continues to be precariously balanced or disappearing in a significant number of schools. Without a change to require a balanced curriculum in all schools, we are in danger of music education becoming, in many cases, the preserve of those who can pay.”

Read the full article featured on The Guardian's front page on Wednesday 10 October.

The Department of Education at the University of Sussex was delighted to welcome 1000 primary school children to the University as part of a collaboration between Widening Participation and the School of Education and Social Work.

Primary PGCE trainees had only been on the course for three days at the time, and did an amazing job of teaching and leading sessions. The Department of Education has already received wonderful feedback about the quality and professionalism of this year's trainees.

It's going to be another good year for Initial Teacher Education!

ITE team stand up for recognition of teaching award 2017/18The entire Initial Teacher Education (ITE) team won a University Award for Excellence in Teaching 2017/18 - Outstanding Support for the Learning Experience of Students - officially recognised by the Vice-Chancellor at Summer Graduation 2018.


Christina Kuegel graduatesLecturer in Primary Education and CTLR member, Christina Kuegel, graduated this week (23-27 July 2018) with a PhD from the University of Bedfordshire. She completed her doctorate part-time whilst working as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire - and before coming to Sussex. Her research, 'Creating a functional play framework for children with autism and severe learning difficulties (SLD)' involved working with three UK schools to develop a framework to support play for autistic children. The framework was developed in collaboration with teachers who can use Christina's framework to set targets and measure play progression for children with autism and SLD. The depth and detail of the research also enables small steps in functional play for children with autism to be identified and measured, which has not previously been possible.

Christina currently teaches a Special Educational Needs and Disability module for the Primary and Early Years Education BA course, and also contributes to the Primary PGCE leading a module focused on play in Early Years.

Pat DrakeFormer Education Professor at the University of Sussex, Pat Drake, presented an Open Research Seminar for CTLR on Monday 23 July entitled 'Teaching out-of-field, Australia and England: Implications and policy'. Now Emerita Professor for the College of Arts & Education at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, Professor Drake detailed why policy should take account of teaching-out-of-field because it is systemic. Rather than being a product of poor teacher retention, teachers teaching out-of-field have consequences for teacher retention she argued. And whilst education systems and policies differ between England and Australia - and whilst the experience of teaching in schools can be massively different - there are similarities across both countries in responses to out-of-field teaching. Professor Drake drew on scenarios taken from particular studies to illustrate contexts, policies and practices.

View/download her presentation: Teaching out-of-field, Australia and England: Implications and policy [PPTX 30.57MB]

Anita Sehdev (Kaizen Partnership), Lead coach on the HE Champions Coaching Programme for Looked-After ChildrenThe first of the new CTLR Annual Change Events took place on Tuesday 3 July in the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Sussex. The event brought together a diverse mix of around 40 academics, practitioners and stakeholders from across the South East and was generously supported by colleagues from the CIRCY and CSWIR research centres.

See details, photographs, presentations and an event brief from the event.

child drawing

Associate Tutor, Edwina Slater, who works in the Initial Teacher Education area of the Department of Education, has recently had a paper (co-authored with Louise Gazeley) published in Educational Review.

The paper, entitled Deploying teaching assistants to support learning: from models to typologies, draws on Eddie’s doctoral research and takes an innovative visual approach to debates surrounding the deployment of teaching assistants in secondary schools.

See also Eddie's presentation from a seminar on 11 June at which she shared her experiences of researching and writing.

Doctoral Lunch 2018: pic3DOCTORAL RESEARCHER LUNCH

Doctoral researchers  in the School of Education and Social Work met for an informal lunch with the 'new' CTLR management team in April. The meeting was extremely well attended and afforded  an opportunity to share research interests and talk about future ways of working together.

There was a keen interest in the new Monthly Mondays to be launched on 11 June, and the associated  CTLR Research Hub. We will also be taking forward the idea of a collaborative writing group with a first meeting set for Wednesday 18 July 2018.

Three students following the Widening Participation strand of the  Education MA course have recently had a co-authored - with their supervisor, Dr Louise Gazeley (CTLR Director) - paper published in the Journal of Further and Higher Education. The paper provides a timely insight into the value of practitioner research in general, and the particular need for opportunities like this in widening participation.

Louise Gazeley, Fay Lofty, Penny Longman & Ruth Squire (2018): 'Undertapped potential: practitioner research as a vehicle for widening participation'Journal of Further and Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2018.1441386

  Penny Longman  Fay Lofty  Ruth Squire