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Department of Education

Nikki Luke

Research Fellow

Nikki is a Research Fellow at the Rees Centre. Her work aims to identify ways for foster carers and educators to support looked after children.

Research topics include mental health and well-being, and experiences in education and in care. She supervises doctoral and master’s students on related topics, and teaches sessions on the PGCE course as well as on the use of systematic review techniques in the social sciences.

Nikki did her PhD on the social understanding, empathy and peer relationships of children in care. Her recent projects include an evaluation of foster carer support groups, an exploration of how experiences in care and education are linked to GCSE outcomes, and the development of a training and assessment package that brings together foster carers and schools to support children’s well-being. She was also part of the Evaluation Coordinators team on Wave 1 of the DfE’s Children’s Social Care Innovations Programme.

Nikki is an Associate of the Higher Education Academy and is an Associate Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University.

  • Part of the editorial board for Developmental Child Welfare
  • Reviewer for Child Abuse Review, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Cognition and Emotion, Child and Family Social Work, Children and Youth Services Review, Development and Psychopathology, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, Evaluation and Program Planning, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
  • Reviewer for the Economic and Social Research Council (proposals) and the National Institute for Health Research (final report)

Funded Research Projects:

  • The Effectiveness of an Enhanced Book-Gifting Intervention for Improving Reading Outcomes for Children in Care (CI)

  • 2018-2020

    ESRC, £745,372

  • The Educational Attainment and Progress of Children in Need and Children in Care (Co-PI)

  • 2017-2019

    Nuffield Foundation, £314,052

  • Improving the emotional, social and psychological well-being of looked after children: testing the Shared Training and Assessment for Well-Being package (STrAWB) (PI)

  • 2017-2018

    Sir Halley Stewart Trust, £35,687, and anonymous donor, £40,000

  • Evaluation co-ordinator for the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme (CI)

  • 2014-2016

    Department for Education, £404,383

  • The Evaluation of the London Schools Excellence Fund: Children in Care (CI)

  • 2014-2015

    Greater London Authority, £80,460

  • Review of Mental Health Interventions for Looked After Children (PI)

  • 2014

    NSPCC, £9,500

Doctoral Applications

Nikki welcomes doctoral applications from students interested in the following research areas:

  • Children in out-of-home care, in particular:
  • Educational experiences and outcomes
  • Mental health and well-being
  • Peer relationships and social understanding
  • Use of mixed methods
  • Secondary analysis of administrative datasets


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