Sandra Mathers

Sandra is part of the Families, Effective Learning and Literacy (FELL) research group. Her main research interests are the quality of early years education and care, and the relationships between quality and children’s development.

Sandra’s research is strongly policy-focused, and she has led a number of large-scale evaluations of early childhood initiatives. Her most recent research studies have considered whether disadvantaged children receive comparable quality early years provision to those from more advantaged backgrounds, and explored the early years experiences of children in care. She is currently leading the development and implementation of an early years professional development intervention designed to improve children’s oral language skills, which is being tested as part of a randomised controlled trial.

Sandra’s research has had significant policy impact, and she is a regular adviser to local and national policy-makers. Outside her work at the University, she is a Director of A+ Education Ltd, which supports local authorities and early years practitioners in using research tools to improve quality of practice. She also co-convenes the local authority ‘ECERS’ Quality Improvement Network.

Sandra studied psychology at the University of Nottingham and holds a PGCE in Primary Education.

Research

Examples of current research grants include:

  • Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (URLEY) This intervention study, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, is designed to implement and test an early years professional development intervention. The programme aims to improve children’s language and social-behavioural outcomes by training nursery and reception class teachers to use research tools as a framework for quality improvement. The A team from the Behavioural Insights Team and NIESR has been appointed to conduct the evaluation of the programme via a randomised controlled trial. One hundred and twenty two schools in disadvantaged areas are taking part, 62 receiving the intervention and 60 allocated to a business as usual control group.
  • Evaluation of A Better Start (ABS) The Big Lottery Fund has invested £215M in funding A Better Start in order to improve understanding about effective early childhood intervention in five competitively selected areas across England (Bradford, Blackpool, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend). These areas all have a high level of need in terms of deprivation and child health. The evaluation of A Better Start is being conducted by a consortium led by Jane Barlow at the University of Oxford. The overall aim of this 10-year study is to provide robust evidence about the impact and cost- effectiveness of the ABS Programme, focusing predominantly on pregnancy and the first three years of life, identifying what interventions work, for whom, and under what circumstances.

Research Grants

  • Mathers, S., Siraj., I., Evangelou, M. and Williams, C. (2015-2019) Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (Intervention Study). Education Endowment Foundation. £907,544.
  • Mathers, S. and Sylva, K. (2015-2018) Evaluation of the Oxfordshire Leaders of Early Learning Programme. Oxfordshire County Council. £51,102.
  • Mathers, S. & Broome., E. Starting Out Right: early education and looked after children. Nuffield Foundation 2015-2016.  £44,483
  • Barlow, J., Lindsay, G., Sylva, K., Mathers, S., Solomon, E., Summerbell, C., Glover, V. and Bick, D. Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start Evaluation. BIG Lottery Fund 2013-2024. £5.5 million
  • Sylva, K.,  Mathers, S. & Eisenstadt, N. Sound Foundations: what do we know about quality for under threes and what are the implications for policy? Sutton Trust, 2013. £30,869
  • Mathers, S. Quality and Inequality: Do Children from Deprived Areas Experience Lower Quality Preschool Provision? Nuffield Foundation, 2012 to 2014. £32,723
  • Mathers, S., and Singler, R. Improving Quality in the Early Years: University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education Ltd. Nuffield Foundation, 2011-2012. £79,672.00
  • Mathers, S. and Sylva, K., Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund (quality study): sub-grant to main DfE grant held by the National Centre for Social Research. DCSF, 2007 – 2011. Sub-grant £766,000; main grant £1,244,794 to all partners.
  • Sylva, K., Mathers, S. and Evangelou, M. Evaluation of the Early Education Pilot for Two Year Old Children: sub-grant to main grant held by the National Centre for Social Research. DCSF, 2007-2009. Sub-grant £71,600; main grant £1,278,126 to all partners.
  • Sylva, K., Mathers, S., Joshi, H., Siraj-Blatchford, I., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P. & Taggart, B. Quality of Childcare Settings in the Millennium Cohort Study (QCSMCS). DfES, 2005-2006. £232,645 to all partners.

Book chapters

  • Mathers, S, Roberts, F, Sylva, K (2013) “Quality in early childhood education”, In: G Pugh, B Duffy (eds.) Contemporary Issues in the Early Years. 6th. London: Sage Publications. 55-72

  • Mathers, SJ, Roberts, F, Sylva, K (2013) “Quality in Early Childhood Education”, In: G Pugh, B Duffy (eds.) Contemporary Issues in the Early Years. London: SAGE Publications Limited.

  • Roberts, F, Mathers, S, Joshi, H, Sylva, K, Jones, E (2010) “Childcare in the pre-school years”, In: K Hansen, H Joshi, S Dex (eds.) Children of the 21st Century: the first five years. Bristol: The Policy Press. 131-151

Journal articles

  • Mathers, S, Sylva, K, Eisenstadt, N, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) “Supporting early learning for children under three: Research and practice”, Journal of Children's Services. 9(2) 177-187.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JCS-02-2014-0008

  • Mathers, S, Linskey, F, Seddon, J, Sylva, K (2007) “Using quality rating scales for professional development: experiences from the UK”, International Journal of Early Years Education. 15(3) 261-274.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669760701516959

Reports

  • Mathers, S, Hardy, G, Clancy, CM, Dixon, J, Harding, C (2016) “Starting Out Right: early education and looked after children”, In: Starting out right : early education and looked after children. London: Nuffield Foundation.

  • Mathers, S, Eisenstadt, N, Sylva, K, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) Sound Foundations: A review of the research evidence on quality for early childhood education and care for children under three. Implications for policy and practice.. London:

  • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

  • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

  • Mathers, SJ, Singler, R, Karemaker, A (2012) Improving Quality in the Early Years: a comparison of perspectives and measures. University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education.

  • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

  • Karemaker, A, Mathers, S, Hall, J, Sylva, K, Clemens, S (2011) Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund. Factors relating to quality: findings from the baseline study. Department for Education.

  • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker,, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Technical Report. London: DfE.

  • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Impact Study Final Report. London: DfE.

  • Smith, R, Purdon, S, Mathers, S, Sylva, K, Schneider, V, La Valle, I, Wollny, I, Owen, R, Bryson, C, Lloyd, E (2009) Early Education Pilot for Two Year Old Children Evaluation. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

  • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Nelson, A (2009) ECERS-EYFS map.

  • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F (2009) UK addendum to the ECERS-R.

  • Mathers, SJ, Sylva, K, Joshi, H (2007) Quality of Childcare Settings in the Millennium Cohort Study. London: DfES.

  • Mathers, SJ, Sylva, K (2007) National Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative: The Relationship Between Quality and Children’s Behavioural Development. London: DfES.

Category

  • Department staff

Position

  • Senior Researcher

Research groups

  • Families, Effective Learning and Literacy (FELL)

+44(0)1865274043

Publications, books and other work