UWE Bristol wins funding to investigate embedding children’s rights into classroom practice with three Welsh Universities 

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Children playing with instruments with their teacher

A collaborative research team, led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), has been successful in securing just under £700k funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), via the ESRC Education Research Programme. This exciting project, spanning three years, explores the challenging issue of translating policy intention into education practice with a focus on young children’s participation rights and how these are enacted in classroom contexts.  

 The project research team includes:   

  • Dr Sarah Chicken, UWE, Bristol (Principal Investigator) 
  • Dr Jacky Tyrie and Professor Jane Williams, Swansea University  
  • Dr Jane Waters-Davies and Dr Alison Murphy, University of Wales Trinity Saint David 
  •  Dr Jennifer Clement, Cardiff Metropolitan University.   
  • Debi Keyte-Hartland, Pedagogical Consultant and Artist-Educator 

The Welsh policy context is such that children’s rights are centrally placed within legislation and provision. In the school context the Curriculum for Wales is underpinned by a commitment to four purposes which enshrine children’s rights. The research problem arises as a result of evidence that indicates, despite this policy rhetoric, that young children’s participation rights are often understood in a one-dimensional manner.  

Pedagogic practices to support the enactment of young children’s participation rights are inconsistent, and at times reflect ‘restricted’ approaches to children’s enactment of rights in which only certain children can make certain choices, at certain times, within certain spaces, and for certain reasons. Focussing on young children, aged 5-7 years, in the school context, this project considers how pedagogic practices can embed participatory rights for all children, and attend, routinely, to children’s voice and agency. The project adopts an innovative participatory research design, initially exploring the research problem with young children and their teachers via creative methods, and then with student teachers and their educators in university- and school-based accredited partnerships providing initial teacher education in Wales.  


Principle Investigator:  Dr. Sarah Chicken   

As a team we are particularly excited by the opportunity of working collaboratively with children and educators across Wales and to develop sustainable networks beyond the life course of the study. We feel that our project has potential impact on the space where theory, practice and policy meet. 

Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, said:

“Through the Education Research Programme, ESRC is funding important new research that will generate insights and help address ongoing challenges for the UK’s compulsory education systems, including how to attract, educate and retain excellent teachers, and how to adopt and harness the benefits of new technologies.

“The programme will support both teachers and children by tackling issues such as resilience, participation, recruitment, training and retention.

“The research will use the power of social science to generate a range of exciting outputs that have the potential to directly transform UK education and create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.”

Professor Gemma Moss, Director of the Education Research Programme, said:

“This is an exciting opportunity for the education research community to work in partnership with other stakeholders and find new ways of tackling some long-lasting challenges in school-based education.

“The programme recognises the devolved nature of education in the UK and in this context is looking to develop stronger links between research, policy and practice that can generate new insights relevant to local contexts.” 


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