Skip to content

Department of Education

Viewing archives for News

The TRACTION (Teaching Race, Belonging, Empire and Migration) platform offers training, resources, and a community network that will equip teachers to engage with issues of race, belonging, empire, and migration in the classroom. 

TRACTION consists of three specialist, interdisciplinary modules covering the historical timeline to the present day, along with an additional module on educational theory and pedagogy. Created by specialist researchers and education experts at the University of Oxford, these modules are open to all teachers but will be of particular relevance to teachers of English and History at Key Stage Three. 

Professor Nandini Das, Professor of Early Modern English Literature at the University of Oxford and TRACTION Project Director said: “TRACTION will provide teachers with a journey through from the 16th Century to the contemporary world, from before the seeds of the empire had even been sewn to our contemporary debates about the impact of the cultural memory of empire on the here and now.” 

Dr Jason Todd, History PGCE Lead at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and Co-Investigator of the TRACTION project said: “The aim of TRACTION is to give teachers the confidence to cultivate a scholarly and pedagogical rationale for change in their schools through guided reflection and collaboration.” 

Sign up to TRACTION now and get started with the toolkit. 

The TRACTION course is co-ordinated by the University of Oxford Education Deanery, whose mission is to empower educators worldwide to understand, use, and co-produce high-quality research evidence in education. Join the Deanery mailing list to hear about training top-ups, a range of short courses, and events for professionals/educators looking to engage with Oxford’s world-leading research. 

After 8.5 years, Simon Marginson steps down as Director of CGHE, and he shares some highlights and advice.


The Department of Education hosted an event to celebrate former MSc student, Sara Berkai, who has received the prestigious Women in Innovation Award from Innovate UK, by unveiling a purple plaque in her honour at the Department.  

Sara Berkai completed the MSc Child Development in 2021 and set up ‘Ambessa Play’, a global social enterprise that encourages young children to learn Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) through play. Sara designs educational kits such as DIY torches that ignite curiosity, creativity, and confidence. Ambessa Play works on a one-for-one model, where for each DIY kit purchased, an out-of-school refugee child receives one for free.

In addition to the purple plaque, Sara has received a £50,000 grant and one-to-one mentoring to scale up her business further.

Sara said: “It’s been an honour to win the Women in Innovation Award and it has helped us scale up Ambessa Play even further. Our mission is to encourage children to have early STEM opportunities regardless of their backgrounds. I’d particularly like to thank my professors and supervisors at the Department of Education who transformed my understanding of child development.”

Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programmes at Innovate UK said: “The Purple Plaque initiative is all about celebrating and recognising our brilliant Women in Innovation Award winners. We want these plaques to be a lasting legacy at the places where they are hosted, to hopefully spark conversations around the contributions of women in innovation around the UK.”

Sara is now part of a network of over 200 Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award winners who are developing inspiring solutions to pressing societal, environmental, and economic challenges.

Researchers from the Rees Centre have been exploring how the use of non-mainstream schools might affect the educational outcomes of children in care.

A journal article has, this week, been published by The British Journal of Social Work entitled ‘Closing the Gap’: How is the Use of Non-Mainstream Schools Related to the Educational Outcomes of Children in Public Care?

 The article stems from a wider programme on the education of children in care, and complements previous work showing that in the ‘right’ mainstream school and in stable placements a substantial proportion of these children can catch up educationally with their peers.

Dr Nikki Luke co-authored the paper with Professor Ian Sinclair.

Nikki said: “Our analysis shows that some local authorities make disproportionate use of non-mainstream schools for children in care. Outcomes at GCSE are particularly low for children in care in these authorities.

“Non-mainstream schools may be the best option for some children’s needs, but our study suggests that for many children in care, the provision of supportive, inclusive mainstream schooling could be a better way to help them realise their academic potential.”

The paper argues that there is a real need for individualised teaching in a supportive setting which should be flexibly met in mainstream schools, special units within these schools or, at the most, short-term placements in NMS.

In high-income countries, children in care have, on average, much lower educational attainment than their peers. This Rees work suggests that reducing the use of NMS, combined with best practice in mainstream schools and placement support, could substantially reduce this notorious and hitherto intractable gap.

Read the full article in the British Journal of Social Work or access it here

The Department of Education has been rated “outstanding” once again for our initial teacher education following a visit from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED).

The last visit took place in 2018 when inspectors rated the Department’s training to be of the highest possible standard. In the latest visit, which took place just before Easter, OFSTED said: “The University of Oxford successfully realises its ambition to ensure that trainees are as well prepared as they can be to become excellent teachers. The innovative course design has an exceptionally strong subject focus. Trainees acquire highly developed subject specific knowledge and pedagogical understanding to teach complex concepts in an accessible manner to pupils, including those who are disadvantaged.”

The report highlighted the quality of education and training, leadership and management and overall effectiveness of the course to be outstanding in all areas.

Department Director, Victoria Murphy, said: “We’re incredibly proud of our research-based teacher education in Oxford and the latest findings from OFSTED show that we are maintaining the highest standards possible. I’d like to thank my colleagues who deliver such world class education.”

The Department offers the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) to students who want to teach English, mathematics, science, modern languages, geography, history or religious education in secondary schools. Currently there are 133 students on the course.

PGCE Course Director, Katharine Burn said: “We’re delighted that the inspectors recognised the quality in depth of our partnership with local schools, achieved by working in close collaboration with one another. The Department uses an internship model, which emphasises the need for a constant interplay between the research-based understandings of practice that the University can offer and the rich, contextualised knowledge of expert teachers.

“By jointly planning and refining the course each year, we ensure a supportive and coherent programme, with our students fully part of their schools from the very first week. We’re incredible proud of the course and of our students.”

Director of Graduate Studies, Velda Elliott said: “The way we run teacher education in the Department is, we think, exceptionally strong. We work with new teachers as they take their first steps into the classroom through to being fully fledged professionals, using the partnership model with schools which is highly effective.”

Our Department has a long history in initial teacher education, dating back to 1892.

The full Ofsted report is available now.

More information can be found out about our teacher education on our PGCE pages.

Rees Centre research officer Dr Andrew Brown has published a paper in the British Educational Research Journal that discusses key issues about how adopted children and young people experience school in the UK.

Titled “Coherent lives: Making sense of adoptees’ experiences in education through narrative identity” the paper delves into the importance of wider school experiences and individual developmental challenges for adoptees. It takes a narrative adoptive identity approach to understanding adoptees’ unique challenges that may enhance their opportunities for better educational progress.

Read the full journal here, or blog here.

The Department of Education is officially on Instagram!

We will be posting daily life at the Department, stories from our staff and students, photos of our beautiful garden, and much more.

Make sure to follow us: @oxforddeptofed


Three bitesize podcasts explaining key issues in standard setting have been released today by the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment.

The podcasts give an accessible explanation to teachers, students and everyone interested the different approaches to standard setting in qualifications like GCSEs.

Principal Investigators Dr Michelle Meadows and Professor Jo-Anne Baird said: “Public discussions on standards are often frustrating for all sides because there are different understandings of how things are done. We hope these podcasts bridge the communications gap between the public and assessment industry insiders on how standards are set.”

The first podcast explains the pros and cons of criterion-referencing, the second debunks the myth that GCSEs are norm-referenced and explains how standards are really set, and the third explains why GCSE grade boundaries change from one examination series to the next.

The podcasts are available in English and Welsh (Cymraeg), and the research was funded by Qualification Wales.

View the podcasts on the OUCEA website.

A new strategy for improving early years and maternity services in West Wales has been launched, emphasising a commitment to putting children at the centre of integrated child services.

Professor Iram Siraj OBE, Professor of Child Development and Education at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, was invited to the launch conference as the main keynote speaker.

Professor Siraj said: “In my keynote, I highlighted the compelling evidence from developmental neuroscience and economics about the power of early intervention in transforming children’s and parent’s trajectories from failure to success.

“I explained the “processes” underlying risk, resilience, protection, and vulnerability and how they operate through complex interactions between different bio-psycho-social “systems”; individual, family, pre-school, peer groups; and community.

“I demonstrated through the research evidence how services working together could achieve population change early in a child’s life and thereby foster a strengthening of resilience and achievement in both individuals and communities.”

The launch of the strategy marks the beginning of a very exciting journey for both professionals and families living across West Wales, which will positively impact on the outcomes of our future generations.

Read the Maternity & Early Years Strategy for West Wales.