Children in schoolWhat is the Centre for Education and Research?

The Centre for Education and Research provides research and consultancy at both UK and international levels. Its key activities focus upon the education and social care of children and young people. In particular, staff within the Centre have an international reputation for work in the field of special and inclusive education. Recent years have also characterised by the enhancement of research development in Early Years education, Teacher Education, teaching assistants and classroom pedagogy. Staff working within the Centre are regularly consulted on matters relating to policy and practice by national and local governments, non-governmental organisations, charitable trusts and schools. The Centre has many well established international networks and these have enabled its researchers to become major points of contact and contributors to developments in a diverse range of locations, including India, China, Australia, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Georgia and Bhutan and Turkey.

Researchers from the Centre are leading an increasing number of European Commission projects and UNICEF studies.

The Centre has a strong commitment to working in partnership with professional colleagues and schools at national and international levels. It fosters a research community which celebrates diversity and recognises the importance of the impact of its work on the lives of children, young people and adults. All members of the Centre have a strong record of publication in international journals, of producing research-based teaching resources education, of regular involvement in conferences and working groups and of contributions to policy and practice in many aspects of education.

The respected practitioner journals Support for Learning and PMLD Link are both hosted within the Centre.

A thriving PhD student community, drawn from all corners of the world, is based in the Centre. It promotes doctoral research that addresses the needs of practitioners, and there is a high-level of completions.

Areas of interest

  • Educational policy at setting, school and international levels
  • Social Justice, Equity and Educational Inclusion
  • Special Education
  • Educational Impact and Social Change
  • Teacher Education and Development
  • Early Years
  • International/Development Education
  • Curriculum Policy and Practice
  • Educational Leadership

Current Projects

Equity and Social Inclusion through Positive Parenting (ESIPP)

Funded by: Erasmus+

Project Period: September 2015 to August 2018

Staff: David Preece and Paul Bramble

ESIPP is a three year Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership project. Autism is a lifelong condition which affects about 1% of the population (or approximately 7.5m European citizens) as well as those who live with them and care for them. This Strategic Partnership of nine partners from the UK, Belgium, Cyprus, FYR of Macedonia and Croatia which seek to foster social equity and inclusion, in line with the key drivers of the Europe 2020 strategy. In order to address this inequity, a strategic partnership has been developed involving universities, non-governmental organisations and the parents of children with autism to:

  • develop an evidence-based model for delivering parent education in autism that can be used across Europe
  • develop a core curriculum and ecologically valid parent education training materials
  • use these materials to provide parent education to families living with autism in areas where it has been previously unavailable
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the materials and the impact of the training using quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis
  • share the model curriculum, tools and materials with stakeholders and make recommendations to policy- and decision-makers.

SEN Employment links: Working with Employers and Trainers to support Young People with Special Educational Needs/Disability into Employment (SENEL)

Funded by: Erasmus+

Project Period: September 2015 to August 2017

Staff: Sheena Bell, Helen Trory and Paul Bramble

The key objective of this two-year Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership project is to support an effective transition process for students with SEND from VET into employment, by collaboratively producing and evaluating three unique communicative and informative tools. There will be a SENEL website dedicated to disseminating the project and making the tools available to the widest possible global audience for long term sustainable impact.

The strategic project consortium will be made up of eight partners from England, Finland, the Czech Republic and Germany, and will include one institution of higher education from each participating country, in conjunction with one national partner of differing organisational structures including VET/HE institutions, NGOs and disability organisations.


Funded by: UNICEF

Project Period: August 2015 – December 2015

Staff: Richard Rose, Jane Murray, David Preece and Philip Garner

This project will deliver a set of trustworthy data and attendant recommendations regarding the current extent, characteristics and provision for children with disabilities in Bhutan. The work will comprise 5 interlinked phases, each with a designated output. The study will adopt a collaborative approach in its methodology.  Based on the TOR, the scope of the present study is:

  • to provide an overview of the current position regarding attitudes, knowledge and practices of a range of stakeholders towards disabilities and disability services, with a particular emphasis on CWD in Bhutan
  • to identify both achievements and barriers in provision, and to identify priorities for future development in order to inform a fit-for-purpose communication strategy on social inclusion
  • to make recommendations to key stakeholder groups working with CWD and their families in order to promote the effective development and delivery of services

Situation Analysis on Inclusive Education and Action Plan for Children with Autism in Oman

Funded by: UNICEF (Muscat & Oman)

Project Period: September 2015 to January 2016

Staff: Prithvi Perepa, Marie Howley, David Preece, Richard Rose, Philip Garner.

To conduct a situation analysis on the services related to children with ASD in Oman and develop a 10 year strategy and a 5 year implementation national action plan. The objectives are:

  • to get an overview of the current situation of educational services for people with ASD in Oman
  • to identify both achievements and barriers in provision and to identify mutually agreed priorities for future development in order to inform a strategy and action plan
  • to develop a recommended 10 year strategy and 5 years action plan to enhance educational services for children with ASD in Oman

Action Anti Bullying

Funded by: Daphne III

Project Period: 2014 to 2016

Staff: Philip Garner

The project will design and implement a new anti-bullying programme in schools from 5 EU countries. It draws on the experience of existing programmes and practices originated by the project partners in different cultural contexts and will provide further evidence of effective approaches to the reduction of bullying in schools that will inform the development of improved child centred, whole school strategies for adoption at European level.

The project will build on and combine the strengths of the each of the partners previous experiences and, together with recent innovative developments in solution focused, learning behaviour methodology and strategy, it will result in a coordinated range of leadership training materials applying a child centred, whole school approach to the effective reduction of bullying in schools. The project will develop an on-line school review instrument for the monitoring of bullying and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the school organisation for the reduction of bullying. This review instrument will be used for the thorough evaluation of the programme and as an ongoing tool for schools to use in the school improvement cycle.

Visit the Action Anti Bullying website.

Inclusion of slum children in residential schooling (pilot)

Funded by: Samhita Trust Bangalore

Project Period: 2014 – 2016

Staff: Richard Rose, Johnson Jament

The Samhita Academy in Bangalore serves children from a wealthy part of the city. However, in 2013 they opened a hostel to provide residential care for children from slum districts of the city. These children are being educated alongside their peers from wealthier homes. The researchers are conducting observations and interviews with service providers and users to ascertain the effectiveness of the provision made and the impact upon the lives of children and families.

Evaluation of the Reading Ambassador programme

Funded by: University Centre for Employment and Engagement

Project period: 2013-14; 2014-15

Staff: Dr Cristina Devecchi and Linda Davis-Sinclair

This research evaluated the Reading Ambassador programme establish by the University Centre for Engagement and Employability to enable students to learn valuable employability skills while supporting primary school children with reading.

The Bridge: project evaluation

Funded by Northamptonshire County Council

Project Period: 2015-2016

Staff: David Preece, Marie Howley.

The research will provide an external evaluation of the efficacy of the ‘Bridge’ project through the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. This project is focused on reintegrating young people with autism and severe anxiety who are not currently in education to re-engage with learning and improve their wellbeing.

Evaluation of the UoN Changemaker Student Awards Project

Funded by UCEE

Project Period: 2015-2016

Staff: Jane Murray, David Preece

This research investigates participants’ perceptions of the impact of the UoN Changemaker Student Awards project, identifying evidence that may support or challenge these perceptions. The study is designed to define ‘impact’ and ‘evidence’ with regard to the Changemaker Student Awards project, as well as gathering participants’ perceptions of the impact of the UoN Changemaker Student Awards project upon individuals, schools and communities. The research will also gather additional data from individual participating schools to provide evidence of the impact of the UoN Changemaker Student Awards project as a whole.

Pet attachment

Project period: 2015

Staff: David Preece, Wanda McCormick (Moulton College)

This research project is using an online survey (a modified version of the CENSHARE Pet Attachment Survey) to establish the importance of pets to students aged 16 yrs and over attending a FE/HE college. The study aims to identify how pet attachment varies according to specific factors such as age, subject of study, ethnicity, disability, and species choice.

Recent Completed Projects

Becoming visible: comparing inclusive and special education policies, practices and research in Brazil and the UK

Funded by: British Council, [Newton Fund:] Researcher Links Workshop Grant

Project Period: October 2014 to April 2015

Staff: Richard Rose and Cristina Devecchi

Researcher Links Workshop “Becoming visible: compared inclusive and special education policies, practices and research in Brazil and the UK”, delivered by University of São Carlos and University of Northampton, it brought together 24 Early-Career Researchers (ECRs) from the UK and Brazil which allowed them to make international connections for future collaboration and enhancing their opportunities.

Financed by British Council, FAPESP and Newton Fund, the workshop took place from 12th to 14th March 2015, at the University of São Carlos (São Paulo State, Brazil). It was coordinated by two leading researchers (from UK and Brazil), taking into account the active collaboration of four mentors and the participation of recruited ECRs from both countries, academic and territorial communities (Brazilian teachers, students and families).

Visit the Becoming Visible project website.

Evaluation of the Northamptonshire Bookstart Corner 2 Year Old Bag Programme 2014/15

Funded by: Northamptonshire County Council

Project Period: October 2014 – May 2015

Staff: Jane Murray and Eunice Lumsden

Northamptonshire County Council commissioned the Centre to evaluate the implementation of the Bookstart Corner Two-Year-Old Bag Programme during the academic year 2014-15 for children with free early years entitlement in four Northamptonshire settings that were identified by Northamptonshire County Council. Parents and practitioners were invited to participate in questionnaires, interviews and a focus group. The findings provided a basis for nineteen recommendations to inform work related to the programme in the future

The Success at School (SAS)

Funded by: Lifelong Learning Programme: Comenius for schools

Project Period: December 2012 – November 2014

Staff: Cristina Devecchi, Julian Brown and Paul Bramble

6 partner countries took part in the Success At School (SAS) project: England, France, Slovenia, Italy, Bulgaria and Portugal. The SAS was a 2 year project which aimed to help young people who have left or are at risk of leaving education to continue their participation.

The project did this by using volunteering as an approach to engage young people and provide them with skills and competences useful to their education.

Through volunteering and a focused mentoring process, the SAS project brought together voluntary associations, youth groups, schools, teachers, mentors and above all young people to apply their knowledge, skills and aspirations in developing innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to address disengagement and non-participation in education.

Visit the Success as School project website.

STEM to STEAM: England

Project Period: 2015

Staff: Helen Caldwell

The use of technology and digital media continues to rise in importance as a key cross-disciplinary skill. The project tested an approach by developing a visual culture via a forum for the creative exploration of the arts and technology in the primary curriculum. Academics, teachers and students shared strategies through face-to-face workshops, and populated an open online space with a virtual exhibition and a repository of resources. A key outcome was a series of videos capturing practice and pedagogy shared on the Learn4Life web TV channel (L4LTV), a bi-weekly series of magazine-style micro-broadcasts for teachers.

Project IRIS

Funded by: National Council for Special Education (NCSE)

Project Period: March 2009 – December 2014

Staff: Richard Rose

Project IRIS (Inclusive Research in Irish Schools) was a three year longitudinal research project which aimed to carry out the most in-depth study of special and inclusive education ever conducted in Ireland.

The project, jointly managed through The University of Northampton, UK., Trinity College Dublin, and The Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe seeked multiple perspectives, including those of students, parents, school-based staff, allied professionals, and disability support groups in order to build a picture of the practices and procedures that support young people with special education needs (SEN) in their learning.

Access to Lifelong learning in Higher Education (ALLinHE)

Funded by: Lifelong Learning Programme: Erasmus for higher education

Project Period: October 2011 – April 2014

Staff: Richard Rose, Jane Murray, Philip Garner and Paul Bramble

8 main country partners participated in this European Commission project: The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, England, Slovenia, Romania, France and Switzerland. The prime aim of ALLinHE was to link validation of prior learning methods to a practical strategy for the social inclusion of under-represented groups and non-traditional learners, including migrants, persons aged 50+, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. The project was conducted on the basis that the European knowledge-economy needs greater levels of higher-educated participation from all.

Outcomes featured a model and pilot of nationally contextualised validated prior learning procedures for target groups in partner countries and a comparative analysis of validated prior learning approaches. Output included a handbook for HE professionals focused on validated prior learning, an ALLinHE network and recommendations were made for a training programme and a European academic bank credit system. Visit the ALLinHE project website.

A list of publications from this research project is available on NECTAR.

Towards Inclusive Learning Environments in Vocational Education and Training (TILE)

Funded by: Lifelong Learning Programme: Leonardo da Vinci for vocational education and training

Project Period: October 2011 – September 2013

Staff: Sheena Bell and Andy Smith

There was 4 partner countries taking part: England, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia. The aim of the project was to champion inclusive learning environments where students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) enter into working life and further into wider society with a sense of ownership of their future.

The project developed and pilot ‘A Roadmap for the Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs in Vocational Education and Training’ for professionals working in further education and VET learning environments.

Although there are several tools available to both inform and audit inclusive environments and practices in schools, this is the first time that an approach of this nature has been systematically developed for post-compulsory education and vocational education institutions across European partnerships – as such, it is unique.

Visit the TILE project website.

Curriculum, assessment and reporting in special educational needs and disability – a thematic overview of recent literature

Funded by: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)

Project Period: 2010 – 2012

Staff: Philip Garner, Annie Ferguson

This study was undertaken for the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), undertaken by The University of Northampton in collaboration with the Australian Special Education Principals Association (ASEPA) and the University of Adelaide, Australia.  It comprised a review of literature and current policy and practice in curriculum, assessment and reporting for students with special education needs and disabilities (SEND). It informs ACARA’s development work for the Australian Curriculum, which will see the first nationally consistent approach to curriculum with all states and territories by 2015. It comprised a literature review and indicative data capture illustrating key SEND curriculum themes.

View the Research report (PDF) online.

Evaluation of Bag Books

Funded by: Bag Books

Project Period: July 2013 – July 201 4

Staff: David Preece and Zhao Yu

This one-year evaluation of Bag Books investigated a range of ways and contexts in which the Bag Books multi-sensory storytelling approach is used and seeks to identify the perceived impact of the approach from the perspectives of teachers, other professionals and parents. Illustrative case studies provided exemplification of use and an analysis of impact indicators.

Making Sense of Mental Health

Funded by: National Association of Independent Schools and Non-maintained Special Schools (NASS)

Project Period: 2011 – 2013

Staff: Richard Rose and Marie Howley

To develop training materials for teachers and support staff helping them to better identify and support children with complex needs, most of whom have severe communication difficulties and who may have underlying mental health problems, ultimately better supporting them with their learning.

These materials would be aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues, looking to develop knowledge and skills and provide practitioners with evidenced-based assessment tools which can help to identify individuals’ emotional needs. It is intended to provide these materials for the use of both NASS membership and local authority special and mainstream schools. Training materials will be accessed via the NASS website – the sale of these materials to non-member organisations will generate useful income to enable the association to continue and possibly expand its activities.

View the Project e-learning training resources online.

Evaluation of Higher Education and Schools Engagement Project

Funded by: University Centre for Employability and Engagement

Project Period: January 2014 – October 2014

Staff: Jane Murray, Cristina Devecchi, David Preece

This project captured school student and teacher perspectives on the effects of nearly 300 KS2 and KS3 students’ experiences of an Aspiration and Achievement Day which featured a visit to a University campus. Recommendations were drawn from the findings to inform aspects of the work of the University Centre for Employability and Engagement.

Street Play Evaluation

Project Period: January 2014 – October 2014

Staff: Jane Murray, John Horton, Cristina Devecchi

This evaluation was commissioned by an urban leisure trust to identify the effects of a street play project on children’s views about play in their community and residents’ perceptions of community spirit. Play development workers set up the street play project over one summer in a socially disadvantaged urban context; 241 contributions to the study were made by children (3-11 years), parents/carers and local residents who regarded the street play project positively overall. The findings provided a basis for recommendations to inform the leisure trust’s work.

Evaluation of Early Years Foundation Degree Taster Days 2014

Funded by: School of Education, University of Northampton

Project Period: July 2014 – November 2014

Staff: Jane Murray

This study was commissioned to identify delegates’ expectations and perspectives about an Early Childhood Studies Foundation Degree taster session they attended at the School of Education in 2014. Recommendations based on the findings from the study were made to the School of Education, to inform its work around student recruitment.


Select a recent output below or view all research outputs on NECTAR.