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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


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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

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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)

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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)

Eva Mikuska

Dr Eva Mikuska

At the beginning of the Yugoslavian war, Eva came to live in the UK in 1992. After working in various early years settings for more than a decade, Eva joined the University of Chichester in 2010 where she worked as a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Education, in the Social and Life Sciences department.

Currently Eva is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, School of Education, Language and Linguistics (SELL). Her work seeks to broaden current views on early childhood education and care (ECEC) in England with the aims to produce a more generative, ethical, and political way to enact ECEC. Her research interest focuses on the importance of qualification of the ECEC workforce, exploring the role of emotion in professional practices in addition to examining the gender discourses in the ECEC field. Eva is an executive member of the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN) with responsibility for the Research and Knowledge Exchange portfolio, alongside Dr Jackie Musgrave.

Find out more about Eva's work here: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2486-9643

Workforce and Professional Issues

Verity Campbell-Barr

Professor Verity Campbell-Barr

Verity Campbell-Barr is an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies and Associate Director for Research at Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth. Verity has over 15 years of experience researching early childhood education and care services. Her research interests centre on the quality of early childhood services, particularly the role of the early childhood workforce in supporting the quality of services. She has undertaken international research on the knowledge, skills and attitudes for working in early childhood services and has recently embarked on an analysis of the full range of early childhood degrees available in England. Verity has written extensively on quality and the workforce in early childhood services and has recently published Professional Knowledge and Skills in the Early Years with Sage.

Policy and Lobbying and Advocacy
(National and International) 

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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.

Policy and Lobbying and Advocacy
(National and International) 

Emma Twigg

Emma Twigg

Emma is the Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree at University of Derby and teaches across all three stages. She also teaches on the online BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies Top-Up degree. She is in the process of completing a PhD which is focused on the representation of children who have experienced Domestic Abuse. The study is titled:

'Narratives from the Nursery: An investigation into the representation of children by early years practitioners with children who have experienced domestic abuse.'

Marketing and Publicity

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Dr Aaron Bradbury

I am the Principal Lecturer for Early Years and Childhood (Learning and Development, Psychology, Special Educational Needs, and Inclusion) and Early Childhood Studies at Nottingham Trent University. I am a Member of the Coalition for the Early Years on the Birth to Five Matters Non-Statutory Guidance for the EYFS and chaired and written the Equalities and Inclusion section with colleagues in the sector. I am currently researching on Early Childhood workforce development and has a project called “Reconceptualising the third teacher: A study of trainee experiences of work-based learning on level 3 early years programmes.

I am a published author on early childhood theories and child development. I am leading a joint research project with academic colleagues from NTU and UPSI in Malaysia focusing on Early Years Policy. I sit on many national early childhood groups and I am also a consultant on many aspects of early years and child development. I have spoken as a keynote speaker both nationally and internationally on contemporary issues within the early childhood sector. I have a passion for making the voice of the child, nurturing through a diverse lens and pioneers of early childhood the foreground of practice.


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Dr 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.


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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 Manchester Metropolitan University in 2014 as Associate Head of School of 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.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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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


Stacy Randall

Stacy has expertise in Early Years Education, working with children and families aged 0-7 years. Stacy is a qualified Social Worker and has a specific interest in leadership and management, safeguarding children, continuous professional development and lifelong learning. Having over 30 years’ experience in education she feels passionate about ensuring every child has the best childhood possible.

honorary roles

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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


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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’.

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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.


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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.