Skip to content

Department of Education

Nikki Luke

Research Fellow

Nikki is a Research Fellow and has been at the Rees Centre since its launch in 2012.

She has a PhD in Developmental Psychology, focusing on the perceptions of self and others and how this relates to peer relationships for children in care. At the Rees Centre she has used mixed methods and systematic review techniques to explore a range of topics relating to the support of children in care and children with a social worker. She is a co-founder of the Children’s Social Care Data User Group, and was also part of the Evaluation Coordinators team on Wave 1 of the DfE’s Children’s Social Care Innovations Programme. Her recent research has fallen under three main themes:

  • Supporting the well-being of children in care and care leavers. A 3-year study funded by NIHR trialled a model of training, assessment and feedback that brought together foster carers and designated teachers to support the well-being of children in care across the home and primary school contexts. A current study funded by Become seeks to understand what ‘success’ means to care leavers, and how this might be measured.
  • Improving educational outcomes for children in care and children in need. Two studies funded by the Nuffield Foundation explored how experiences in care and education are linked to GCSE outcomes; Nikki led the analysis of national datasets. She is now part of the team evaluating the extension of Virtual School Heads’ duties and the Pupil Premium Plus.
  • Supporting local authorities to make the best use of data and other information to inform services for children and families. On the Nuffield-funded Children’s Information project Nikki is mapping how information is collected, collated, analysed and used, and works with sites to identify how this can be improved.

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


  • Books

    • Coleman, J., Vellacott, J., Solari, G., Solari, M., Luke, N., & Sebba, J. (2016). Teenagers in Foster Care. Rees Centre/University of Oxford/University of Bedfordshire/University of Gothenburg.

  • Journal articles

  • Reports

Follow Us