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DPhil students Lucy Robinson, Jennifer Ginger and Josie Scammell attended and presented at the University of Bath’s Qualitative Research Symposium in January.

Lucy and Jennifer presented on the topic ‘Credibility, trust and power: is sharing positionality with participants always ethical?’ In their presentation, both students discussed how they shared their differing positionalities with their participants, within their respective research contexts, and reflected on their rationales for doing so. They also reflected on what they chose to hold back, what was left unsaid and what impact this may have had on their participants. They left the audience to question their own experiences of sharing positionality with research participants and encouraged further debate around the ethical complexities of this practice. Lucy also shared her research ethics tree.

Josie presented on her paper titled ‘(Over) thinking exit ethics: conceptualising a trauma-informed approach to the ethics around leaving the field.’  Her paper explores the ethics around the actual exit from the field itself, looking at the ways in which trauma-informed qualitative research frameworks could be expanded and adapted to include guidance around ethical considerations for both the participants and researcher when considering the exit from fieldwork.

An exciting research conference with a focus on attachment-aware and trauma-informed practice in schools will be held at Harcourt Hill Campus, Oxford Brookes University on Thursday 20th June 2024.

Rees Centre will be presenting key findings from the Alex Timpson Attachment and Trauma Awareness in Schools Programme that explored the perceived impact of whole-school attachment and trauma awareness training on staff and children in over 300 schools across England.

The Conference is supported by organisations including the Mulberry Bush Organisation, SEBDA and the Attachment Research Community.

The conference will also include opportunities to network with like-minded colleagues and to choose from 4 practical and interactive workshops.

Click here for more information.

Two academics at our Department, Dr Ann Childs and Dr Ariel Lindorff, have received awards at the Social Sciences Division’s annual Teaching Excellence Awards. The awards recognise the exceptional contributions to education by colleagues across the Division at the University of Oxford.

Dr Ann Childs, Associate Professor of Science Education, received an Achievement Award for demonstrating high quality and sustained commitment to education. Dr Childs said: “Thank you so much for this wonderful recognition of my teaching. Thanks must also go to my brilliant colleagues and students at the Department of Education and beyond for creating a culture of excellence and support which I have had the privilege to learn from every single day.”

Dr Ariel Lindorff, Associate Professor and Research Lecturer, received an Individual Award as an outstanding academic who teaches graduate students. Dr Lindorff said: “I am honoured to receive a Teaching Excellence Award. Anything positive I do in my teaching is very much facilitated by having such brilliant students and colleagues!”

Professor Timothy Power, Head of the Social Sciences Division, said: “Many congratulations to all of this year’s recipients of the Teaching Excellence Awards. I am thrilled to see the outstanding work of our talented colleagues across the division being recognised in this way, and I extend my gratitude to them and to all of our staff who contribute to our exceptional educational offering.”

Professor Arathi Sriprakash gave her talk ‘Reparative futures: reckoning with educational injustices’ at the Department’s annual Equity, Diversity and Belonging Lecture last night in Oxford.

Professor Sriprakash said: “In my lecture I explored how the idea of reparation can help address the injustices of education systems. The idea of reparation requires us to understand the interconnections between past, present and future in both the formation of injustice and its repair.

“It implies that until injustices are actively addressed, they can endure in social institutions – such as education – which also shape lives-to-come. Injustice is not an inevitability in reparative futures of education: these are new, if challenging, horizons of educational theory and practice.

“It was a great pleasure to speak at the Department of Education and very interesting for the discussions that followed afterwards.”

Professor Arathi Sriprakash is a sociologist of education whose work focuses on the racial politics of knowledge particularly in the field of education and international development.

Dr Debbie Aitken, Departmental Lecturer and Course Director for the MSc in Medical Education, who co-organised the event said: “The event was a great success. As co-chairs of the EDB Committee, Heath and I were delighted that Arathi agreed to speak last night. The lecture explored how reparative frameworks might create different futures in education which led on to a great many discussions in the room following the event.”

Professor of Applied Linguistics and Director for People, who also co-organised the event, Heath Rose said: “How we all engage with our understanding of equality, diversity and belonging weaves into all fields of education and Arathi gave a fascinating perspective on this. The timing of this public lecture dovetails with continued efforts of colleagues within this department to bring issues of race and coloniality to the foreground of education. Engaging in public discussions are important first steps to instigate social change, so we are all very grateful to Arathi for giving the annual lecture on this topic.”

Arathi is Professor of Education at the University of Bristol and is co-author of ‘Learning Whiteness: Education and the Settler Colonial State’ and co-Director of the Centre for Comparative and International Research in Education. Arathi’s work on Reparative Futures fed into Unesco’s Futures of Education initiative and she is soon to commence a large empirical study on this theme.

Associate Professor of Educational Assessment, Dr Michelle Meadows, gave evidence to the House of Lords Committee on Education for 11 to 16 Year Olds on 30th March as part of their inquiry into the education and skills necessary for the digital and green economy.

The committee wanted to learn about the effectiveness of GCSEs as a means of assessing the achievements of pupils.

Michelle said: “At the House of Lords Committee, we discussed whether GCSEs are fit for purpose and how they might be assessed digitally. There is a debate about whether we need qualifications at age 16 given that learners now stay in education until they are 18. And the move to onscreen assessment in high stakes school based academic qualifications has been mooted for decades with little actual progress.

“I was asked to talk at the committee because I have worked in educational assessment for over 20 years, holding senior positions at AQA and then Ofqual. I have worked at the intersection of research, policy and practice and have given evidence to many select committees over the years.

“The purposes of GCSEs are set by government and they are designed to meet those purposes. The current purposes focus on reliability of assessment (rather than validity or authenticity, for example) and include their use in holding schools to account.

“Unsurprisingly this means that GCSEs include more examinations and less teacher assessment than previous versions. But a different set of purposes and a broader quality framework against which schools are held to account would lead to quite different kinds of assessment. This could be more engaging for a wider range of students.

“One of the key messages that the expert witnesses sought to get over, was that evolution is better than revolution. I think the committee took this on board. GCSEs and A-levels are usually reformed every five years or so. This is a massive drain on the secondary and tertiary education system.

“An approach which identifies specific problems and seeks to address them, rather than reforming all qualifications at the same time might create better qualifications and place less strain on teachers. Afterall teachers are really under pressure at the moment and helping students catch-up after the pandemic is surely the thing we want them to be focusing on.”

When asked where the committee should be focusing their efforts, Michelle continued:

“As I said to the committee, the focus should be on the inputs to the education system, not on qualifications which come at the end. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for qualification reform but the priorities at the moment should be on supporting teachers to teach – removing bureaucracy, professional development etc., and on recruitment and retention.

“Discussions were lively and, as with almost all aspects of education, there were many different perspectives and positions regarding GCSEs. I was pleased to be able to give my views and was grateful to the committee for listening. Policy making in this area tends to be cyclical and policy memory rather lacking, so opportunities to discuss research evidence are very welcome.”

Listen to Michelle speaking at the committee: – Education for 11–16 Year Olds Committee


With a different set of purposes, GCSEs could  be designed differently.

30 March 2023

Witness(es): Dr Michelle Meadows, Associate Professor of Educational Assessment, Department for Education, University of Oxford; Gavin Busuttil-Reynaud, Director of Operations, AlphaPlus; Sharon Hague, Senior Vice-President, Pearson School Qualifications; Tim Oates CBE, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

View the full session here:


Care leavers in England are over ten times more likely than their peers to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) in their 21st year, major new analysis shows.

Overall, nearly one-third were NEET compared to just 2.4 per cent in the general population and 13 per cent of 21-year-olds.  The vast majority of these were defined as ‘economically inactive’ due to disability – including mental health issues – or caring responsibilities.  Among those care leavers who were working, over two-thirds were in precarious roles that were short-term, part-time or poorly paid.

The study was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and based at the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford.  It was led by Dr Neil Harrison (now at the University of Exeter) and Jo Dixon (University of York).

Neil Harrison said: “This is the first study of its kind to explore over time what happens to care leavers and other care-experienced young people in early adulthood. We have been able to document the acute challenges they face in making positive transitions towards stability and wellbeing.”

“What we clearly see in the data is that the legacy of earlier disadvantages, such as childhood trauma or disruptions to schooling, gets cemented in early adulthood.  While around a quarter of care leavers were able to access higher education or stable work by their 21st year, the majority were reliant on benefits or precarious employment.  Urgent action is needed to remedy this.”

Researchers used data, including the newly available Longitudinal Educational Outcomes, or LEO, dataset for young people born between 1st September 1995 and 31st August 1996. A total of 3,850 out of the 530,440 individuals were care leavers and 28,810 had some experience of the children’s social care system. They also interviewed 28 care leavers and 41 professionals across five local authorities, including personal advisers, leaving care team members, virtual school staff and carers.

The research shows a strong link between economic inactivity and higher levels of special educational needs during Key Stage 4, including attending a special school. This was particularly marked for care leavers, of whom 62.4 per cent were identified as having a high level of need.

Neil Harrison said: “Good GCSE grades – especially in English and mathematics – had a very strong role in determining which onward pathways were available. However, many care leavers were not able to attain as highly as they might due to what was going on their lives.  This reinforces the vital importance of ‘second chance’ pathways, especially through further education colleges.”

Those interviewed said the support of extended family and other social networks was essential to them finding jobs and transitioning to adult life.  Care leavers and professionals reported practical barriers in accessing youth employment schemes like Kickstart. They supported care leavers being given preferential access to employment opportunities by councils as part of their ‘corporate parenting’ responsibilities.

Jo Dixon said: “More can be done to remove barriers and disincentives to work for care-experienced young people.  This includes addressing the impact of low minimum wage rates for under 23s in employment and apprenticeships, who are without parental support and thus carry financial responsibility for rent and living costs. This is a particular priority for young people in expensive supported accommodation, which can make taking up work-related opportunities unviable.”

“There is already scope to implement ring-fenced and supported work-related opportunities specifically for care-experienced young people. Guaranteed interviews, targeted and supported work-experience schemes and dedicated employment opportunities should be on offer. Utilising corporate parenting and corporate social responsibility in this way will benefit care-experienced young people and the local labour market.”

Rob Street, Director of Justice at the Nuffield Foundation said: “This important study highlights the range of challenges that young care leavers face in accessing the education, employment, and training opportunities that underpin transition into adulthood. The report makes a number of well-evidenced, practical recommendations to national and local policymakers and others for measures to assist this often multiply-disadvantaged group of children and young people”

Recommendations from the study include:

  • Providing strong routes for young people to go into (and back into) post-16 education and training
  • National government should provide additional ‘top up’ funding for care leavers to participate in apprenticeships and other schemes to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged
  • Young people leaving care between 14 and 16 should be considered as an ‘at risk’ group with respect to complex transitions into adulthood.
  • Stronger links with local employers to improve young people’s knowledge of the range of opportunities available to them.
  • Targeted pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship support to prepare young people with the most complex needs to take steps towards work-related opportunities.
  • Education providers and employers should have greater awareness of trauma and mental health needs for care leavers and other care-experienced young people.

We’ve set up a new podcast page on our website so you can listen to the latest from our academics.

Our academics are invited to talk on podcasts about all things education on a regular basis and we’ve shared some of the latest ones with you.

Listen now to hear the Director of our Department, Professor Victoria Murphy, give her perspective on how best to support pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and  Director of Research, Professor Sibel Erduran, talking about what knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values today’s students need to thrive in and shape their world.

Listen now: Podcasts Page.

Professor Victoria Murphy, Director of the Department, shares this message:

“International Women’s Day is more important to me this year than ever. In the recent past we have seen very hard won advances in our fight for gender equality eroded by regressive policies implemented by authoritarian and patriarchal governments. We have also seen our sisters all over the world being murdered, abused, and imprisoned for daring to demand the same rights as men. This is a reminder that while in some ways there have been many advances for woman over the past few decades, we need to be as vigilant as ever that we do not allow our hard won rights to be taken away from us, and fight even harder to ensure equality for all women all over the world. Education for boys and girls is a fundamental part of that fight.”