About Us Header

who we are

The Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network has been in existence since 1993 / 1994 and in its current format exists as a membership body.

The ECSDN Executive


Homepage Headshot - Philippa

Philippa Thompson

Philippa is a Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Sheffield Hallam University which she joined in 2006. Her professional career has been varied and involved teaching in a wide range of educational settings. She has worked in educational fields in England, Australia and Hong Kong. As a Community Teacher and local authority early years adviser she supported parents alongside early childhood settings, schools and childminders to develop practice abd this gave her a deep understanding of the quality practice across the huge range of provision and the difficulties faced by the sector. Current doctoral research is designed to hear the voices of parents of children with anaphylaxis in early childhood settings. Published research and book chapters span a range of subject areas but all are underpinned by an interest in young children's and parental well-being.

Treasurer and Membership Secretary

Homepage Headshot - Tanya

Dr Tanya Richardson

Tanya is a Senior Lecturer in Early Years at the University of Northampton. She has previously managed and led her own “outstanding” day nursery and out of school club. The nursery setting was fortunate enough to have a forest school as part of its ethos and Tanya became very interested in the impact that this environment had on children’s speech and language development. She therefore is lucky enough to have the practice wisdom that she is able to apply to the academic studies and her PhD researched the impact that different learning and play environments have on young children’s speech and language development. She is also particularly interested in the student experience for those studying Early Childhood Studies and researches aspects with the aim to enhance this experience and produce professionals who will be excellent advocates for children and their families.

Tanya is also the Vice Chair for Workforce Development

Vice Chairs

Research and Knowledge Exchange
(Student Development)

Homepage Headshot - Jackie M Rev

Dr Jackie Musgrave

Jackie is Programme Lead for Early Childhood and Education Studies (Primary) at The Open University. Her research brings together her experiences as a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse and as a teacher of early childhood and explores the intersection of health, early education and inclusion. Jackie has published extensively, a sole authored book, several co-authored and co-edited books, as well as many chapters. Jackie has been Vice-chair of the ECSDN with responsibility for Research and Knowledge Exchange. Her work within the Network is focused on developing students’ voice as researching professionals. Jackie manages the ECSDN Student Publishing Opportunity

See Jackie's publications here: http://www.open.ac.uk/people/jm39645#tab2

Research and Knowledge Exchange
(Professional Development)

Homepage Headshot - Helen P

Dr Helen Perkins

I have been teaching Early Childhood Education and Care in further and higher education since 2002, I began my academic career in FE as a tutor, then as Head of School for Early Childhood Studies. I am now an Associate lecturer at the Open University and an Honorary Research Fellow and the University of Wolverhampton. I received my Doctorate in 2017, from the University of Sheffield. I am an executive member of the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN) with responsibility for the Research and Knowledge Exchange portfolio, with my colleague Dr Jackie Musgrave. My research interests are the professionalisation of the Early Childhood Workforce and the Role of Men in Childcare.

Workforce Development

Homepage Headshot - Sigrid

Sigrid Brogaard-Clausen

Sigrid Brogaard Clausen is a senior lecturer and researcher in Early Childhood at the School of Education, University of Roehampton. She was previously a lecturer at the College of Social Education/ Kobenhavns Paedagog Seminarium - Copenhagen - Denmark. Her research interest arise from her experience of the Danish and English early years and range from the policy conditions for children's well being, learning and democratic participation to the development of professional identity in early childhood workforce. She has been a programme convenor for the BA Early Childhood Studies for 11 years and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, England.

Policy and Lobbying and Advocacy
(National and International) 

Homepage Headshot - Helen S

Dr Helen Simmons

Helen is a Senior Lecturer and International Link Tutor on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies and Pathway Leader on the MA Education (Early Years Pathway) at the University of Derby. Prior to joining the University in 2008, Helen worked in early years settings and as a private nanny, she also taught vocational early years courses at Further Education Colleges in Sheffield and Coventry. Helen has undertaken research and publication relating to leadership in the early years and early years policy and her doctoral research and subsequent monograph publication provided a feminist post-structuralist analysis of modern motherhood. Helen lectures and supervises across Undergraduate and Postgraduate Early Childhood and Education programmes and her role also includes PhD supervision. Module leadership includes Wellbeing from Birth, Children's Workforce Development, Children’s Places and The Critically Reflective Practitioner.

Communication and Website

Homepage Headshot - Martin

Dr Martin Needham

Martin trained and worked as an Early Years and Primary teacher in Nottinghamshire, London and Pakistan. This was followed by developmental roles in education management and leadership in Pakistan and then with early education, extended schools services and children’s centre provision in England. He became a Senior Lecturer in 2003 and a Principle Lecturer at MMU in 2014 as Associate Head of School for Childhood Youth and Education Studies. He has published work on multi-agency working, young children’s learning and leadership in early years conducting research projects in these areas funded by the DFE and NHS Scotland. He has recently been involved in international early education consultancy work in Kazakhstan and China. Martin is passionate about improving the well-being of children and young people and to developing professionals who are able to take a broad view of children's upbringing.

Marketing and Publicity

Homepage Headshot - Aaron

Aaron Bradbury

Aaron is a Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood at Nottingham Trent University with a specialism in Early Help, Child Development and Child Protection. He has been working in the Early Years / Childhood sector since graduating he has been heavily involved in the Early Years and has worked in this sector for the majority of his career; he has also taught Early Years and Care in Further Education. His current roles cover many areas within the Early Childhood Arena and he has recently become the joint Co-Founder and Co-Chair of The Early Years Academy which allows Early Years professionals to gain professional Recognition through Fellowship Awards and founded a working group looking at LGBTQIA+ in the Early Years/Early Childhood Sector. Aaron is an active member of the Early Years community and positions his work within practice, still working closely with the PVI and Maintained sector, providing an online platform for practioners and all Early Years professionals via his app and website, Early Years Reviews by Aaron which includes a blog which is well situated in the workforce, with many researchers and practitioners discussing contemporary topics.


Homepage Headshot - Diane B

Diane Boyd

Diane Boyd has been at Liverpool John Moores University since 2005 working with early childhood and early years students. Her research interests are about early childhood education for sustainability and she is very active in promoting transformative change. Diane is on the executive committee for the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network and is the Sustainability Lead. Her expertise is recognised as a member of the LJMU Institutions Climate Change Panel and she will be an active member of the Department of Educations post COP 26 working group ensuring early years is embedded into the final strategy.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Homepage Headshot - Sharon C

Dr Sharon Colilles

Sharon joined the University of the West of England as a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood in April 2021, having had nine years' previous experience in this role. Prior to that she had a diverse career background, working initially for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as a policy manager, then owning her own private day nursery, whilst also undertaking an assessor role for the award of EYPs. Recent work has been project assistant for the development of Birth to Five Matters guidance for the early years sector. She is a Trustee on the Froebel Trust Council and an External Examiner at University of East Anglia. She is a passionate advocate of play, child's voice, and anti-oppressive practice. Her research interest is concerned with play based participatory pedagogies and its role in developing children's mixed ethnic identity - especially learning and development informed by child-led perspectives.

Minutes Secretary

Leanne ECSDN

Leanne Gray

Leanne is a Senior Lecturer and leads the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree at Anglia Ruskin University. Prior to joining the university in 2020 she was a Headteacher and a primary school teacher in Essex and Central London.

Her research interests include early mathematics, outdoor learning, learners with English as an additional language and play-based learning. Leanne received her doctorate from The University of Birmingham in 2018. Her doctoral research focused on three and four-year olds development of counting over an academic year.

honorary roles

Homepage Headshot - Carolyn

Carolyn Silberfeld

Chair Emerita

Carolyn has spent 26 years developing and leading Early Childhood Studies degrees, contributing to all aspects of their development. Carolyn has participated in all developments within the ECSDN and has been a member of all working groups in different Executive Committee roles. She has a professional background in health (children’s nursing, midwifery, health visiting), social sciences (BSc), Education (MEd, Cambridge) and Practitioner Research (MEd, Institute of Education) and has worked in many different settings, cultures, and contexts. This has all contributed to her pedagogic approach which views childhood as being contextual and holistic. Carolyn has taught in HE since 1988 and her research interests include reflective learning in higher education; the influence of studying abroad; national and international child health and wellbeing; and the impact of the EYFS on professional practice and the subsequent effects on children’s learning and development. Carolyn retired as Chair of the ECSDN in November 2020


Homepage Headshot -Pamela

Pamela Calder

Honorary President 

Pamela is an academic, psychologist, and campaigner and researcher in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care. In 1980, she was one of the founders of the National Childcare Campaign (later the Daycare Trust and now Coram Family and Childcare). She was part of a movement arguing for better education and training for those working with the youngest children, including babies, and in arguing that workers should be graduates.

She established the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network in the early 1990s in order to progress Early Childhood Studies Degrees. She chaired the QAA Working Party, which in 2007 produced the first benchmark statement establishing Early Childhood Studies as a new Subject Area in universities.

She has presented international conference papers and written widely. In 2015 she was Guest Editor of a special issue of the International Journal of Early Years Education, on ‘Policies and Discourses in Early Childhood Education and Care’.

Homepage Headshot - Helena

Helena Mitchell

Honorary Fellowship

Helena retired as from the combined roles of Deputy Chair, Membership Secretary and Treasurer in November 2020. Prior to this she was Head of the school of education at Oxford Brookes University, having previously been head of the department of early childhood and primary education. She led the primary PGCE programme and also the early childhood studies degree when it was introduced at Oxford Brookes in 2000. She has extensive experience as a classroom teacher. She is a member of BERA, TACTYC and the SRHE, and a Trustee of Peeple, a charity which supports parents and children learning together. Her most recent research has focused on graduates from early childhood studies degrees and their transition to professional status as teachers and leaders in early years’ settings. She was also involved in a research project on values and beliefs in primary education, a collaborative partnership with primary teachers.


Homepage Headshot - Ian Barron

Ian Barron

Honorary Fellowship

Ian’s first degree was a BA (Hons) French Studies from the University of Manchester; he then completed a Primary PGCE (Early Years Specialism) at the Institute of Education, University of London. His Masters in Education and Doctorate in Education are both from the Open University and were completed part-time whilst working full-time. He has had a variety of experiences in the early childhood field, including work in primary schools in inner London and Leeds, and two headship posts: one at a nursery school in Lancashire and the other at an infant school in Calderdale. He has also worked at a college of further education in East Yorkshire and he joined Manchester Metropolitan University from Edge Hill.
Ian retired from the ECSDN Executive Group in 2020.