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A new junior research fellowship focused on early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been established by Oxford University’s Department of Education in collaboration with Jesus College. Made possible by a generous gift from Dr Lydia L.S. Chan, the Sylva-Chan Junior Research Fellowship will ensure continued momentum for research in this important field.

Oxford has been making a major contribution to the study of education for over 100 years, with ECEC a subject of particular strength. Research conducted by the department has helped to inform policy and practice in the UK and beyond, leading to improved outcomes for millions of young children and their families.

The junior research fellowship has been named in honour of Professor Kathy Sylva OBE, whose work at Oxford since the 1980s has been central to achieving this level of academic excellence and impact. Not only has Professor Sylva made huge personal contributions to the field, but she has also supervised generations of students who have gone on to shape early years provision around the world.

Dr Katharina Ereky-Stevens, who has a wealth of experience in this area and is – fittingly – one of Professor Sylva’s former students, will take up the post in May 2022. Dr Ereky-Stevens’ research explores the quality of young children’s relationships and interactions with caregivers, and she has a particular interest in the provision of support for disadvantaged families and their young children.

As the new Sylva-Chan Junior Research Fellow, Dr Ereky-Stevens will focus on expanding ECEC research within the department, building on current expertise and networks in order to achieve greater impact. She will work under the mentorship of Professor Iram Siraj, Professor of Child Development and Education and joint researcher with Professor Sylva on many studies.

Professor Victoria Murphy, Director of the Department of Education and Professor of Applied Linguistics, said: ‘The Department of Education is delighted to be able to support this junior research fellowship, which recognises the important contribution from our esteemed colleague Kathy Sylva. We are grateful to Dr Lydia Chan for her generosity and support of the crucial and influential work on ECEC in our department. This junior research fellowship will help ensure the continuation of the significant impact of our colleagues’ work in this area.’

Upon taking up the post Dr Ereky-Stevens will also become a fellow of Jesus College, which will enable her to become involved with college life, present her work to academic peers and have workspace there.

Dr Alexandra Lumbers, Academic Director of Jesus College, said: ‘Professor Kathy Sylva is an emeritus fellow and former professorial fellow of Jesus College, and a much-respected colleague. We are delighted that her research in the field of early childhood education and care is being recognised through this new junior research fellowship, and thank Dr Chan for her support and generosity. We greatly look forward to welcoming Katharina to the college fellowship in May.’

Dr Lydia L.S. Chan is an alumna of both Jesus College and the Department of Education, where she obtained her DPhil and MSc degrees under the supervision of Professor Sylva. As a postdoctoral researcher she later worked in Professor Sylva’s Families, Early Learning and Literacy Research Group, before returning home to Hong Kong. She is currently the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit Yew Chung Education Foundation, and Member of the Board of Governors and Chairlady of the Council of the Yew Chung College of Early Childhood Education, which is the first and only higher education institution specialising in the early years in the region.

Dr Chan said: ‘It is a real privilege to be able to honour Professor Sylva and her unparalleled contributions to early childhood education through this junior research fellowship, which will hopefully strengthen such research at Oxford and inspire other gifts toward the same goal.

‘I also wish to pay tribute to my own family of distinguished educators, beginning with my late grandmother, Madam Chan-Tsang Chor-hang, the founder of our Yew Chung Schools, and to celebrate the lifelong friendship of Professor Sylva and my aunt, Dr Betty Chan Po-king. Their joint passion and dedication to education ultimately led to me following in their footsteps.’

‘I have also long admired Katharina, since my DPhil days, and most grateful for the support and friendship of Iram too. I very much look forward to witnessing the wonderful work that will be generated in the coming years, and wish them every success.’

A new research study conducted by both The Department of Education, University of Oxford, and Barnardos Australia has revealed that children who were adopted had significantly better life outcomes when compared with children that remained in foster care, particularly when it comes to education and employment.

Professor Leon Feinstein, Director of the Rees Centre, Department of Education, at University of Oxford said,

“we are delighted to announce our partnership with Barnardos Australia on the book launch of a major research study on adoption, entitled ‘Outcomes of Open Adoption from Care’. The project, funded by Barnardos (Australia), with research undertaken by Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward and Helen Trivedi at the Rees Centre (Oxford), presents new and vivid findings concerning the extreme vulnerability of children placed for adoption from care, the impact and durability of face-to-face post adoption contact and adult outcomes of adoptees.”

Launched 6th April by Barnardos, this is the first longitudinal study of open adoption undertaken in Australia, examining the long-term outcomes of 210 children adopted through Barnardos between 1987 and 2013. The children in the study were permanently removed from their birth parents and placed in foster care due to severe abuse and neglect. By maintaining “openness” through contact with their birth family, these adopted children formed a healthy sense of identity and experienced greater stability and belonging, for life, compared to those in the unstable foster care system until the age of 18.

Key findings of the study include:

  • 63% of adult adoptees completed Year 12 or higher, compared with 42% of adults who grew up in foster care.
  • 62% of adult adoptees were engaged in full-time employment, education or training compared with 34% of adults who grew up in foster care.

These findings have important implications for government support and funding of open adoption in Australia. Currently only NSW and ACT have legislated for open adoption and Barnardos is the largest non-government provider of open adoptions from care Barnardos Australia CEO Deirdre Cheers said;

“This is a children’s rights issue. All children have the right to an education and to grow up in a stable and supportive environment. There are over 45,000 children are in foster care in Australia but only 171 children were adopted from foster care last year. Currently adults working in child protection are the making the decision as to whether a child can be adopted. Barnardos world-first research will serve to inform our state governments about the urgent need to bring about open adoption reform in order to improve life outcomes for the children and young people currently in foster care.”

This launch video features two of the authors of the study and two adult adoptees speaking about their experiences of foster care and open adoption.

Watch Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward discuss research findings on ‘Contact, Relationships, and Outcomes’ of open adoption in Australia

Read the open access book: ‘Outcomes of Open Adoptions from Care’

Read the story in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

The Quantitative Methods Hub at the Department of Education, University of Oxford, launches its 2022 Advanced Quantitative Methods Summer School, this year consisting of eight different online courses running during three calendar weeks in May (weeks 2, 3 and 4 of Trinity Term; 5-20/5/2022).

The courses require a basic understanding of multiple regression modelling or other multivariate techniques. Students, staff and professionals are welcome to attend one, some or all days by signing up via the online store.

The courses will take place online, and include a mixture of pre-recorded lectures and demonstrations, synchronous lectures, workshops and questions & answer sessions. Synchronous session sessions will run in zoom. Links to materials and zoom-sessions will be sent to participants. You will use R-studio and various R-modules, and Mplus (Mplus demo) during the courses.

Download our course overview to find out more, or get in touch with us.

Cost per course:

  • £25 for OU and Grand Union students (£60 for a week)
  • £100 for staff and external students (£250 for a week)
  • £200 for professionals (£450 for a week).

Sign up for the Summer School at the online store

Programme Structure

  • Oxford Week 2  (online)

Thu 5/5                                   Thees Spreckelsen        Getting up and running in R

Fri 6/5                                     Thees Spreckelsen        Data management and documenting in R

  • Oxford Week 3 (online)

Mon 9/5                          Rees van de Schoot & Laura Hofstee                 AI-supported systematic reviews

Tue -Wed 10-11/5          Kit Double                                                              Multilevel modelling  (parts 1 and 2)

Fri 13/5                            Luning Sun                                                             Intro to IRT modelling

  • Oxford Week 4 (face-to-face & online)

Mon 16/5                                Lars Malmberg              Intro Structural Equation Models (SEM)

Wed 18/5                                Lars Malmberg              Longitudinal SEM

Fri 20/5                                   Lars Malmberg              Multilevel and intraindividual SEM

Victoria Elliott, Associate Professor of English and Literacy Education, has received the National Association for the Teaching of English Award 2021 for Outstanding Contribution to Research.

The Award was given in recognition of the ‘outstanding contribution she has made to research and training – making extremely complex and challenging subject matter very accessible for English teachers at all stages of their career.’

Victoria Elliott is curriculum tutor for the English PGCE and MSc in Learning and Teaching in the Department of Education, University of Oxford.

The National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) presented its annual awards at the AGM in February 2022. Find out more on NATE’s website.

Findings Report and Draft Guidelines Published

The full peer reviewed research report and draft guidelines, grounded in systematic research with 8 local authority areas and corresponding health trusts in England and Wales, are published today.

The research identified consensus among frontline practitioners and parents about what constitutes best practice when local authorities issue care proceedings at birth – but also uncovered numerous challenges, ranging from discontinuities, delays and resource constraints to risk-averse practice, shortfalls in a family-inclusive practice, insufficient professional specialism and poor inter-agency collaboration. The need for a more consistent sensitive approach to practice, underpinned by understandings of trauma is emphasised. The need for more training, supervision and support for professionals working in this emotionally challenging area of practice is also recommended.

The draft guidelines, grounded in the research include a series of aspirational statements for each stage of the parents’ journey and provide examples of how these statements can be translated into best practice. They consider how to overcome challenges at both a strategic level and in frontline practice. They also include examples of innovations from practice drawn from across England and Wales.

Between now and August 2022, the participating local authorities and NHS trusts are working with the team to test the feasibility of the guidelines. The intention is for the guidelines to be used as a basis for developing local area action plans and locality specific guidelines, within the context of national guidance. Findings from this feasibility study will inform a final version of the guidelines, which will be published later in 2022.

Accompanying reviews led by the Oxford Team also published 24th February

Two additional reviews undertaken as part of the research and led by the Rees Centre are also published today.

The first, a review of guidance in eight participating local authorities covers professional practice concerning parent/infant separation within the first few days of life. Whilst the second, an evidence review of families’ experiences of perinatal loss, identifies key messages that may be applicable to practice surrounding separation at birth. Both reports provide important background and context when considering improving practices surrounding separation at birth.

Read more about Born into Care on the project page. and on the University of Oxford website.

The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has named the University of Oxford’s Teacher Education and Professional Learning group as this year’s joint winner of its prestigious Public Engagement and Impact Award. The team receiving the award are John Furlong, Katharine Burn, Hazel Hagger and Trevor Mutton.

The award is in recognition of the way that research undertaken by the group over many years has supported a radical re-conceptualisation of initial teacher education (ITE) across the whole of Wales. These reforms have shaped the experiences of all trainee teachers in Wales, (approximately 2,700 per year) and have had a major impact on hundreds of participating schools and their partner universities.  In both schools and HEIs there is now a significantly greater emphasis on increasing capacity to undertake and use research.

The Director of the Welsh Government’s Education Directorate notes that the reforms have resulted ‘in a strengthened ITE provision, and a deeper collaborative architecture across our school and university systems.’

 

Underpinning research

Oxford’s rich history of research on the professional education and training of teachers dates back to the 1980s.

Successive studies have addressed questions such as:

  • What skills and knowledge might student teachers only learn through direct experience in schools?
  • What is Higher Education best placed to contribute to teacher learning?
  • What sort of partnership between schools and HEIs is needed to provide this training?

Key research leading to the changes in Wales included Hagger and McIntyre’s (2006) Learning Teaching from Teachers and Furlong’s (2013) Education: An anatomy of the discipline, which drew together much of the earlier work undertaken by the team.  This led directly to the study commissioned by BERA and the RSA (2013), Research and Teacher Education, chaired by Furlong, which included an important, widely-cited paper by Burn and Mutton (2015) on the development of ‘research informed clinical practice’ in teacher education. Their emphasis on tightly-integrated forms of university-school collaboration as essential to the successful implementation of research-informed practice became a key element in the Welsh reforms.

Details of impact

In 2014 Furlong was appointed as an independent adviser on ITE to the Welsh Government. Drawing explicitly on Oxford research, Furlong’s subsequent report (2015) recommended the complete reform of ITE with the establishment of a new accreditation system, new partnerships between HEIs and schools, a changed approach to ITE inspection by Estyn (the education and training inspectorate) and a significant strengthening of, and investment in, educational research to underpin ITE provision. These recommendations were adopted in full by the Welsh Government.

Accreditation

Drawing directly on the Oxford research, Furlong led the development of a new accreditation process. New Criteria insisted that all ITE ‘should be based on learning that is both rigorously practical and intellectually challenging at the same time’. New legislation made the criteria mandatory and established a Teacher Education Accreditation Board (TEAB). Furlong was appointed the first chair of the TEAB and Hagger a member. Hagger became Chair in 2019.

The new Criteria required Lead Schools to accept ITE as a core responsibility and universities to assume a clearer role in making available knowledge that is not always accessible in schools: knowledge from research, from theory and from good practice internationally.

Estyn 

In 2020, Estyn aligned its inspection frameworks to the new Criteria, as the Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales notes ‘often using the language of the Criteria and its vision, to support key concepts’.

Research Capacity

In universities, all ITE teaching staff must now have qualifications at a higher level than the courses on which they are teaching, and must be ‘research active’, taking leading roles in assimilating, conducting, publishing and supervising research. As one head-teacher makes clear, schools too are developing greater research literacy: ‘Teachers have also needed to develop a very conscious understanding of research practices, pedagogical methodologies and subject depth’ which were ‘new territories for many schools in terms of our theoretical understanding’.

Read the announcement of the award on the British Educational Research Association’s website

 

The Department of Education seeks to award two bursaries for students studying for the MSc in
Learning and Teaching. These two action research fellows will be part of the wider Empire,
Migration and Belonging (EMB) project. The Empire, Migration and Belonging (EMB) project, in
partnership with UCL, is kindly supported by Pears Foundation.

Fellows would undertake the MSc Learning and Teaching programme, which includes in the first year
an introduction to action research, among other elements of the course. In their second year,
fellows will be expected to undertake a piece of action based or practitioner research related to the
themes of Empire, Migration and Belonging. They would commit to sharing this work and offer CPD related to their findings.

The value of the award is up to the level of home fees for the MSc Learning and Teaching, which for
2022/2023 will be £6,275. The award is made for the full duration of the period of fee liability for the
course, subject to satisfactory academic progress being made.

To be eligible, applicants must submit their applications to the University of Oxford for the MSc in
Learning and Teaching by 15 April 2022.

Once application decisions have been made, those offered places on the MSc Learning and Teaching
will be invited to apply for the scholarship, which will involve the completion of a scholarship
application form. In the scholarship application, candidates will need to confirm that they will meet
following criteria:

  • They will undertake their own research of teaching practice related to the themes of Empire, Migration
    & Belonging offering evidence of embedded impact.
  • They have a commitment to sharing both their research and practice with others.

Preference will be given to those currently working in non-fee-paying schools in the UK or in
equivalent overseas institutions.

Queries about the studentship should be addressed to: jason.todd@education.ox.ac.uk.

The Independent Assessment Commission (IAC), representing the interests of parents, students, teachers, business and academia, has published its report on the future of assessment and qualifications in England.

Among the key findings was that the way in which GCSEs are awarded should be comprehensively overhauled, with an end to cliff edge exams as the sole mode of assessment and no arbitrary assessment of all young people at the age of 16. Instead, assessment should take place between the ages of 14 and 19, and at a time when students are ready to undertake them.

Jo-Anne Baird, Professor of Educational Assessment at the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, is an IAC Commissioner. Speaking of the report, Jo-Anne has said:

“Assessment must serve the needs of society and the shifts in the labour market need serious attention. We need to start planning now.”

The IAC marks a major shift in thinking about how England should assess its young people in schools and colleges and is seen as the most important intervention into exams and assessment in a generation.

The report is focused on ensuring the English qualifications system equips young people with the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to help address the current and emerging social and economic challenges. It is also focused on creating a system that helps young people leave school and college with a broader skill set that would make them more ready for Further Education, Higher Education and the workplace.

To achieve this the report argues that ‘fundamental changes’ to the current system are needed and that change should begin with GCSEs. The IAC argues that change should improve equity – qualifications to meet the needs of every young person, and address the growing mental health crisis in our schools.

Professor Louise Hayward, Chair of the IAC, highlights this key point:

“England’s exam system needs to change. Equality, diversity, inclusion and health and well-being must be central to an assessment system that has a positive impact on all students”

Read the full report on the IAC page, which includes the IAC’s vision statement, principles and 10 recommendations.

The Department of Education’s Public Seminar Series ‘The Rights of the Child’ launches on 24 January.  ‘The Rights of the Child’ is a seminar series interrogating the concept of rights of the child and implications for research, policy and practice. 

The public seminars will be run online over Zoom. Please follow the event links in the Seminar Series programme below for more information on each event and to register for each seminar.

 

Seminar Series background

‘The Rights of the Child’ seminar series is co-convened by three women (Nika Nazari, We’am Hamdan, and Minoli Wijetunga) from countries in various stages of conflict and disarray – Iran, Palestine, and Sri Lanka, alongside Professor Leon Feinstein of the REES Centre. The seminar series is testimony to their lived experiences, their versions of the worlds they occupy. It is their attempt to bring to light issues, stories, and perspectives we think must be heard when considering the effectiveness of social policy and other mechanisms for the implementation, realisation, delivery or actualisation of the rights of children.

The story of child’s rights is often thought of as a story of liberation: from labour, from not having a voice and, as Abraham Lincoln said, of being a slave to their parents. This particular way of viewing the historical child through a modern lens provides only a partial perspective to the life of a child, as well as to the society that once was.

Today, the most widely defined idea of the child and childhood is found in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Since it was ratified in November 1989, 196 countries have signed up to the UNCRC. The 54 articles aim to respect every child with any status, considering them as individuals entitled to ‘civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.’ According to this convention, there must be no discrimination, and all must work for the best interest of the child, while hearing their voices and helping them survive and develop in life.

To solve the real-world issues in children’s lives, UNCRC considers the importance of every right and recognizes the role of different actors, such as parents and the governments, in implementing such rights to give children the voice and existence that they were deprived of before. Every context may work differently based on their specific conditions, cultures, and ideologies of childhood in delivering children’s rights. The power dynamics within each environment render the process of delivery to be messy, long and imperfect, particularly in areas of conflict or poverty. The outcomes of this are evident in the persistence of issues of poverty, violence, poor provision for migrant children and lags in educational attainment, amongst many other challenges.

By itself, an international system and treaty, such as UNCRC, cannot ensure the welfare of all children and young people. We think that more cognisance must be made of diversity in culture and context. The many crises around the world in the realisation of the rights of children demand that the question be asked of how the rights of children are best realised.

This seminar series brings together scholars and practitioners, activists and others to discuss these issues and consider the implications for research, policy and practice in education and children’s social policy.

Seminars Series programme

The UNCRC – roles and effectiveness, 24 January 5-6.30pm (UK time)

Today, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) represents a definition of childhood and children’s rights, broadly known by different institutions and actors who study child’s rights and development. As the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty, we are interested in investigating UNCRC’s roles and impacts on how children experience childhood nowadays. This panel presents views on the goals and prospects of this Convention, and it also brings diverse perspectives on the effectiveness of UNCRC and its sufficiency in policy and practice within different contexts.

Child in the wild – children in the digitising/digitised world. 7 February, 5.30-7pm (UK time)

In early 2021, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment 25 which binds States to acknowledge that children’s rights apply to the digital realm, and to take the necessary steps to ensure that these rights are protected. While the General Comment 25 can be recognised as the first vital step towards creating a set of regulations that take the digital world into account when it comes to the rights of the child, it is important to see it as a first step. The existing formulation of the UNCRC may not be sufficient to address the issues and concerns of the child in a digitised world. The UNCRC was written for a society different from the one that exists now, and will soon come to exist with regard to the digital. This seminar brings together academics, researchers, and activists who have been working in the area of children and the digital world, to discuss the possibilities and the challenges that are emerging.

Child on the edge – plight of children in fragile and conflict states. 14 February, 5- 6.30pm (UK time)

Article 19 of the UNCRC addresses violence against children, emphasising that State Parties must have proper laws in place to prohibit violence, and requiring States to implement administrative, social and educational measures to protect children. All forms of violence, both physical and mental, fall under article 19. In 2019, 1.6 billion children (69%) were living in a conflict-affected country. Approximately, 426 million children (over one in six) were living in a conflict zone in 2019. This constitutes a 2% increase from 2018. The ramifications of conflict on the implementation of UNCRC and other treaties aiming at protecting the rights of children are worthy of investigation as they delve into the issue of power dynamics. This seminar discusses the state of the child in conflict states, from the point of view of different stakeholders. The speakers include researchers, government officials, and civil society/NGOs from a range of conflict states.

What is a child? 21 February, 5-6.30pm (UK time)

Article 1 of the UNCRC defines a child as an individual below the age of 18 years. This definition is now used and adapted across countries and contexts. However, this definition of a child is specific to the 21st century; different eras in history defined the child in different ways. Furthermore, while the UNCRC identifies this definition of the child as universal, different cultures (used to) define the child and childhood in different ways. This seminar looks at different definitions of the child as understood through histories and cultures to interrogate the nature of ‘child’ and how it is socially dependent.

Child as a learner – Creative pedagogies. 28 February, 5-6.30pm (UK time)

In Article 29(a), UNCRC recognizes the goals of education as it ‘develops every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full.’ To meet this objective within different contexts, educators might rethink the conventional forms of learning to support every learner’s potential based on their values and needs within their cultures. This panel investigates various views on children’s right to education and culturally-responsive pedagogies. It also brings examples of creative pedagogies in contexts, which have attempted to develop children’s talents and personalities through an unconventional form of education.