ECSDN Research Conference Pages


With the ongoing restrictions caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic it was decided, once again to host the annual Research Conference online, with the attendees splitting into two Zoom rooms in the morning and afternoon sessions in order to fit in all of the presentations.

All of the Keynotes and presentations were recorded and they are shared below.

Keynote: Philippa Thompson and Dr Tanya Richardson, ECSDN Co-Chairs
ECS Students: creating a positive identity


Louise Hannon's is professional passions are Neuroscience, Two Year olds and the Emotional Environment of Day Care. After working in the Early Years sector as an EY Practitioner, Team Leader, Day Care Manager and Children Centre Manager, she began lecturing in HE 6 years ago.  Louise loves exercising regularly (weights and walking) and being at home.

Emma Laurence is studying a PhD in Educational Leadership full time with the University of Worcester, her research centres on the ways that cluster groups of school leaders can provide a source of support. Prior to this she studied both the BA (Hons) in Early Childhood and the MA in Education at Worcester before completing her primary level teacher training with TeachFirst. .

Dr Fengling Tang is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Research Centre for Learning, Teaching and Human Development, School of Education, Froebel College, University of Roehampton, UK. Fengling’s teaching covers BA and MA Early Childhood Studies, Froebel Professional Certificate in Early Childhood, and supervision of MA and PhD students at University of Roehampton. Fengling’s research interests include Froebelian perspectives, young children’s identities, play and creativity in early childhood, children’s rights and participation, early childhood professionalism, and technology with young children. Fengling has also undertaken school governing and HE external examining roles.

Dr Evelyn Corrado is a Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at University of Roehampton and a Fellow of Higher Education Academy (FHEA). Evelyn study background is Psychology (MSc and BSc, hons) and Ph.D. in Education. Evelyn uses Multidisciplinary approach in her teaching and research. Previously, Evelyn worked in UK Mental Health Sector for 9 years and later as an academic tutor at Middlesex University for four years (in the BA Education program)..


Amanda Sheehy has been a teacher since 2006. She has taught in primary schools in the UK (every year group from reception to year 6) as well as teaching English in a German Kindergarten and to adults. She currently works as an associate lecturer at the University of Worcester, supporting students in their independent research projects, as well as teaching in a primary school. It is through this teaching experience that Amanda developed a particular interest in the ways that gender influenced children’s behaviours and choices.

Amanda is currently studying for a PhD, with Carla Solvason and Mandy Duncan as her supervisors. Her research focusses on using reflection as a tool to developing teachers’ understanding of their own pedagogical practices with the purpose of promoting gender equality in primary schools. Taking a social constructionist approach to her research, Amanda has gathered qualitative data through one-to-one teacher interviews, in which the participants explored their own gender constructions and reflected on how this may have influenced their pedagogy. They considered: the implicit messages they may be conveying to their pupils, how they could improve their practice, their use of language, the learning environment, resources and curriculum content. The findings suggest that inviting teachers to reflect on their practice in this way could be a powerful tool in promoting gender equality in educational settings. Amanda is planning to submit her thesis in Spring 2021.

Cathy Kilburn is a 3rd year PhD student within the School of Education at the University of Hull. Her research interest focus’ on pre-school children’s experiences with their peers, in particular how this impacts their understanding and experience of gender. Prior to starting her PhD, she completed a MA in Early Childhood Education at the University of Sheffield, whilst working as a deputy manager in a large private nursery in Southampton. Her interest in early childhood education and care started when her children were young and she started volunteering in their pre-school. Since then, Cathy has worked in a variety of early childhood care and education environments, including a community pre-school, as a childminder, as a supply teacher and in private nurseries..

Despoina Grouni is an BA Hons degree holder and an MA graduate in Early Childhood Education. Despoina has a five years experience of teaching in the UK as an Early Years teacher in mainstream and private education. Despoina is passionate about outdoor education, and through her studies, she has explored topics such as Education for Diversity and Inclusion and Emerging Literacy in the Early Years. Despoina's dissertation in Mistake-making in the Early Years has gained her a Distincion in her most recent studies. Despoina adores cycling and loves to learn foreign languages. She speaks Greek, English, French and Spanish and is always eager to extend her knowledge.


Research subject: 
Exploring practitioner, academics and student perspectives of Early Childhood Studies Degrees Graduate Practitioner Competencies in building Professional Identities and Relationship

Team Members:
Dr Tanya Richardson, Su Wall & Sigrid Brogaard Clausen

Research subject: 
The Early Childhood Education and Care sectors perspective on the Early Childhood Studies graduate and the Graduate Practitioner Competencies

Team Members:
Dr Nikki Fairchild, Éva Miksuka, Sarah Barton  & Alex Sabine


Angela Hodgkins has worked with children and families for 20 years in a range of settings and roles. She also a qualified counsellor with experience working in victim support, at a GP surgery and for Childline. Angela now has her dream job as Senior Lecturer at the University of Worcester. She is the Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Integrated Working with Children and Families. Angela’s main research interests are empathy, emotional intelligence, and children’s rights. She is currently conducting research for a PhD, exploring early childhood practitioners’ perceptions of empathy within their role.

Nicola Watson is a Senior Lecturer in the Department for Children and Families at the University of Worcester. Her career includes working as a Lawyer, Family Mediator and as an Early Years and Primary Teacher. Nicola draws upon her mediation experience to inform her teaching and research focus on facilitating learner independence and on minimising imbalances of power in the teacher/student relationship and when working with families.

Dr Helen Simmons is a Senior Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies, Pathway Leader on the MA Education (Early Childhood Pathway) and Childhood Research Cluster Lead 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. Helen is Vice Chair for the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN): Policy, Lobbying and Advocacy (National and International), her research interests centre on the sociology of childhood, children's workforce development and critically reflective practice.

Dr Kay Owen is a Chartered Psychologist and Senior Lecturer in Education and Childhood at the University of Derby. Having trained as an Early Years teacher, Kay has subsequently taught in every phase of education and at every level from pre-school to Doctoral candidates. Kay has a similarly broad range of research interests including early cognitive development, soco-emotional development in pre-schoolers and student mothers in HE. She recently edited Play in the Early Years for SAGE, and is currently working on an edited book looking at Family Relationships in the Early Years.

Sarah Davies-Walter joined Norland College in 2017 where she worked for over 4 years as a Lecturer and was supported to study her MA in Education: Early Childhood Studies at Bath Spa University. Sarah was delighted to complete this in November 2021 and will be presenting her dissertation at this conference. Very recently,  she has returned to her passion for public health and started working locally as a Public Health Improvement Officer with a focus on COVID-19. Sarah is very much looking forward to combining part-time work with spending more time with her family.


Shannon Ludgate currently works in the Department of Childhood, Youth and Community as a Lecturer and is the Course Leader on the Early Childhood Studies programme. Shannon completed her BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education Studies at Birmingham City University in 2014 and went on to complete a PhD in Early Years, exploring the affordances of using touchscreen technologies in early years settings with pre-school children.

Shannon is currently involved in a number of projects, including a small-scale project exploring the concept of ‘technological school-readiness’ as a follow-up study from her PhD. Shannon is also researching attitudes towards technology as part of an international study led by colleagues in Norway, a Vietnamese study on teachers’ use of technology during the pandemic and finally a project on hyperreality to explore children’s understanding of micro-celebrity content on YouTube Kids.

Dr Alexandra Morfaki holds a successful record of setting up and managing early years settings in the private and independent sector which spans 20 years. Alexandra initially trained as a reception class teacher and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Athens and Bath Spa College University, where she attended a trimester on an Erasmus scholarship. Following her graduation, she worked briefly as a trainee vocational counsellor in Athens before returning to Bristol to complete her master’s degree in Education with a focus on counselling.

Alexandra worked as an early years teacher before becoming a manager and has a thorough insight of the early years sector. Her skills and knowledge cover diverse areas such as recruitment, the management of budgets and various operational aspects of early years leadership. Alexandra completed her Early Years Professional Status in 2008 at the University of the West of England (UWE) and holds extensive experience of mentoring early years teacher trainees on placement. She has also taught on a range of modules on the Early Years Teacher Status course at UWE.

Parallel to her managerial role, Alexandra completed her doctoral thesis in 2021. Her research explored the moral and practical dilemmas faced by early year educators in their quest for inclusion as enacted in and through their partnerships with other professionals and parents. Alexandra has a passion for inclusion in the early years and is dedicated to supporting Norland students to become inclusive early years educators.

Dr Valeria Scacchi is the Froebel Trust Grants Programme Officer and is responsible for the monitoring, evaluation and learning activities of the Froebel Trust. Valeria has recently been awarded a PhD by the University of Roehampton with a thesis titled: 'Reconceptualising professional learning and development through a Froebelian lens: Early Childhood educators’ perspectives on professional identities in the UK and Italy'. Her research is concerned with a reconceptualisation of professional development for educators in Early Childhood Education and Care and aims at developing and promoting an alternative approach to professional development and learning that is situated in the Froebelian tradition. The aim of the investigation was to explore professional learning and development opportunities for Early Childhood educators considering contemporary practices in Tuscany and London with attention to the ways in which early years educators develop and make sense of their professional identities.

Valeria has experience in the academic field as a Visiting Lecturer in the Early Childhood Studies BA and MA at the University of Roehampton and has supported the Early Childhood Research Centre as a Research Officer for several years.

Her practice experience ranges from being an Early Years educator specialising in the care and education of children under 3 years of age for several years, to being part of the Soweto Project from 2014-2016 (a team of academics lead by Professor Tina Bruce, working together with the staff of an early years centre in Soweto, South Africa).


Introduced by Dr Helen Perkins, Dr Jo Josephidou presents the ECSDN Student Publication opportunity and speaks to Helen Rosenbach, a student from Derby University who provided her submission in the June 2021 'Call for Papers'

Dr Jo Josephidou is Programme Lead of Early Childhood and Co-chair of E110 (Young children’s play and creativity); she joined The Open University in September 2019. Before this, Jo was a primary school teacher (Early Years) for many years before entering Higher Education, as a teaching fellow, in 2009. Initially she taught on Initial Teacher Education programmes at the University of Cumbria before joining the Early Childhood Studies team at Canterbury Christ Church in September 2014. Jo has taught on a variety of modules and has a particular interest in supporting students in developing early research skills. Her PhD focused on appropriate pedagogies with young children and how practitioner gender may impact on these. Currently, Jo is working collaboratively on a piece of research which focuses on babies’ and toddlers’ opportunities to engage with the outdoor environment and nature funded by The Froebel Trust.