Prior to joining TalkTogether, Hannah worked at the intersection of education and international development. Her work focused on designing and evaluating interventions and programmes targeting children, teachers and parents in low- and middle-income countries.
Hannah is fluent in Kiswahili and is particularly interested in the influence of language, culture and environment on early childhood development, especially socio-emotional skills. Hannah gained an MSc in Education and Child Development from the University of Oxford, and a BA Hons in African Studies and Swahili from SOAS, University of London.
Siyu Ma is a DPhil student in child development and learning at the Department of Education. Her doctoral research focuses on second-born children under the Chinese two-child policy, especially how siblings play a role in the socio-emotional, language, and early literacy development of these children.
Prior to starting her Dphil, Siyu completed an MSc in Education (Research Design and Methodology) at the University of Oxford, under the supervision of Professor Sonali Nag. Her MSc dissertation explored the roles of social background and home literacy environment in the language and literacy development of a Wales subsample from the Millennium Cohort Study and was awarded a High Distinction. She also holds a BSc degree with first-class honours in Psychology from the University of Bath.
Siyu is also a research associate working on TalkTogether, a UKRI GCRF-funded research project based at the Department of Education.
At TalkTogether, Siyu is responsible for designing online surveys and analysing quantitative data from child assessments and parent reports.
Ma, S. (2021). Family background and home literacy environment as predictors of the early literacy development of children in Wales – findings from the Millennium Cohort Study (Master’s thesis, University of Oxford).
Denise is a Co-Investigator and Project Manager for the Teaching Effective Early Mathematics and Understanding in Primary (TEEMUP) Schools study.
She plays a leading role in the management of the study and has responsibility for the development of its manuals, delivery of the intervention and direction of the work. As a Co-Investigator of the study, she has primary responsibility for developing the intervention associated with this Education Endowment Foundation funded research project.
The British Academy has today announced the election of 86 new Fellows, including the Department’s own Professor Kathy Sylva.
An Honorary Research Fellow and Professor of Educational Psychology, Professor Sylva specialises in preschool development and education, with particular expertise in the effects of early education and care (including parenting) on children’s development. She is well-known for longitudinal studies and for robust trials of interventions in both the UK and low-income contexts, with findings of her studies directly informing policy decisions. In the past 10 years, she has received >£30m of research funding and is frequently asked to advise on education matters nationally and internationally. Awarded an OBE in 2008, she is also a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Academy of Social Sciences.
Commenting on her election as a Fellow of the British Academy, Professor Sylva said: ‘It is an honour to be elected to the British Academy at a time when research in the Humanities and Social Sciences is contributing to an inter-disciplinary response to health and social challenges. My work lies at the intersection between psychology and education, a no-man’s land characterised by very practical needs and a range of research methods. When I first embarked on applied research, I knew it was a risk to leave well-trodden paths in psychology. However I try to bring the rigour of psychological methods to interventions that support families and childcare centres as they shape the child’s intellect and imagination. I am delighted that the British Academy has recognised the work of researchers who aim to make a difference, no matter how small, to the lives of children, families and teachers.’
Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director of the Department and Professor of Educational Assessment, added: ‘Professor Sylva is an outstanding scholar who has achieved far-reaching research impact with her work. This honour, in recognition of her achievements, is well-deserved. The Department is fortunate to have Professor Sylva as a member of our research community.’
Read the British Academy’s full announcement here.
Sandra is part of the Child Development and Learning research group. Her main research interests are the quality of early education and its effects on child development, early language development and professional development.
She began her career as a primary school teacher, and her work remains strongly practice and policy-focused. In addition to her research, Sandra is a Trustee of the charity Early Education and a regular adviser to local and national policy-makers. For example, she recently served as a member of the Department for Education Expert Panel on early years language, literacy and communication apps (2019) and on the proposed revisions to the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (2017-18).
Current research projects
- Murphy, V. with Mathers, Nag & Hodgkiss. Investigating the home language environment for disadvantaged UK families speaking EAL (John Fell Fund, £55,199, 2021-22)
- Dockrell, J., Law, J. and Mathers, S. Empowering Staff to enhance oral language in the early years (Nuffield Foundation, £357,257, 2019-20)
- Miner, S., Black Country Consortium Members, Mathers, S., Williams, C. Ryders Hayes School – Strategic School Improvement Fund Round 3 Project (Language First) (£745,517, 2018-20)
- Curtis, L., Mathers, S. & Williams, C.Everton. Nursery School and Family Centre – Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) Round 3 Project (Language Leaders) (£498,634, 2018-20)
- Murphy, V., Mathers, S. & Eynon, R. Learning for Families Through Technology (LiFT) (Ferrero, £500,000, 2017-20)
Previous research projects
- Barlow, J., Lindsay, G., Sylva, K., Mathers, S., Solomon, E., Summerbell, C., Glover, V. and Bick, D. Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start Evaluation (BIG Lottery Fund, £5.5m, 2013-2019)
- Mathers, S., Siraj., I., Evangelou, M. and Williams, C. Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (Intervention Study) (Education Endowment Foundation, £907,544, 2015-19)
- Mathers, S. and Sylva, K. Evaluation of the Oxfordshire Leaders of Early Learning Programme (Oxfordshire County Council, £51,102, 2015-19)
- Mathers, S. & Broome., E. Starting Out Right: Early education and looked after children (Nuffield Foundation, £44,483, 2015-16)
- Sylva, K., Mathers, S. & Eisenstadt, N. Sound Foundations: What do we know about quality for under-threes and what are the implications for policy? (Sutton Trust, £30,869, 2013)
- Mathers, S. Quality and Inequality: Do Children from Deprived Areas Experience Lower Quality Preschool Provision? (Nuffield Foundation, £32,723, 2012-14)
- Mathers, S., and Singler, R. Improving Quality in the Early Years: University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education Ltd (Nuffield Foundation, £79,672, 2011-12)
- Mathers, S. and Sylva, K., Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund (Quality study) (Sub-grant to main DfE grant held by the National Centre for Social Research. Sub-grant: £766,000; main grant: £1,244,794 to all partners)
Sophie Booton is a research officer working on the LiFT project.
The Learning for Families through Technology (LiFT) project is a collaboration between Ferrero international and three research groups in the Department of Education: Applied Linguistics, Learning and New Technologies, and Families, Effective Learning, and Literacy. The project aims to examine key questions about children’s learning with technology, with a focus on language and literacy skills.
Within the project, Sophie is investigating vocabulary development in children with and without English as an Additional Language. Sophie’s research interests lie in children’s cognitive and emotional development, particularly in in how areas of development interact to affect children’s learning and well-being.
Before joining the Department of Education, Sophie studied for her PhD in Psychology at the University of Sheffield. Her doctoral research in collaboration with Dr Daniel Carroll focused on the impact of emotional states on children’s self-control. Prior to her PhD, Sophie gained a MEd on the Mind, Brain and Education programme at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford.
Katharina is a research member of the Child Development and Learning research group and the Rees Centre. Katharina has expertise in child development and wellbeing in the early years, including zero to three. Her main areas of research are the quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and parent support. She has a particular interest in supporting the development of children facing disadvantage, and has done research with families in poverty, children with refugee backgrounds, and culturally and linguistically diverse families.
Katharina’s work focuses on practice as well as policy. She has worked on a number of national and international research projects and has collaborated with partners in countries across Europe and in Malaysia. She has experience in in quantitative and qualitative research designs and methods (including RCT-, longitudinal-, case study-, survey-, and ethnographic research). Her work on previous projects addressed research questions related to ECEC access, quality-, and -curriculum, and the impact of ECEC environments and adult-child interactions on children’s movement play in ECEC as a context for advancing early self-regulation skills.
In May 2022, Katharina was awarded the Sylva-Chan Junior Research Fellowship. The fellowship has been named in honour of Professor Kathy Sylva OBE, whose work at Oxford since the 1980s has been a major contribution to the study of early childhood education and care, and has helped to inform policy and practice in the UK and beyond. Under her research fellowship Katharina focuses on expanding ECEC research within the department.
In addition to her fellowship, Katharina has a postdoc research position at the Rees centre, where she currently works on the research project ‘Data and Voice to Improve Children’s Lives’, led by Leon Feinstein and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The project is an innovative collaboration between local authorities and universities to transform how information about and from children and families is gathered, interpreted, and used in child and family social policy at both local and national level.
Katharina is currently starting two research studies (both as the PI) – a small study on children’s movement play in ECEC as a context for advancing early self-regulation skills, and a study developing an assessment tool to measure self-efficacy and skill in early years practitioners, with a focus on language and communication support in early years classrooms and settings. She supervises DPhil and Masters students in the Child Development and Learning research group.
Julian Gardiner is working for Professor Edward Melhuish on a number of studies focusing on the potential influence of children’s early home and pre-school / nursery experiences on later educational attainment. These include the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) project.
The statistical analyses of data from these projects uses methods including multilevel modelling, multiple imputation and trajectory analysis. Other recent work has included research into the educational progress of looked after children.
Julian Gardiner completed his PhD in Applied Statistics / Epidemiology in 2005 at the University of Cambridge. The thesis was on the application of Bayesian methods to correcting measurement error in dietary data in epidemiological studies. Since then he has have worked in a number of roles in the fields of epidemiology and child development / education. In 2006-7 he worked in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge on studies of mental health issues in adolescents. There followed two years at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Department of Epidemiology and Population Health working on statistical analyses for studies of infectious diseases and maternal health. In 2010-13 he was employed at Birkbeck, University of London in the Institute for the Study of Children, Families & Social Issues working on modelling data from the Millennium Cohort Study and the National Evaluation of Sure Start. Research included investigating the effects of parental age on children’s physical, social and cognitive development. Since then he has held posts at University College London working on cohort studies of health and ageing in Eastern Europe, and at Imperial College London contributing to research on musculoskeletal health. He joined the Oxford University Department of Education in July 2015.