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Researcher, School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield

My current post is Head of Division (Lifelong Learning) in the School of Education and Professional Development. I have worked at Huddersfield since 1987, joining the Faculty of Education (as it then was) from Oldham College of Technology, where I had taught mathematics for nine years. I was educated at Bede School, Sunderland and Queen Mary College, University of London, graduating with a first class honours degree in mathematics and physics. Whilst teaching at Oldham, I attended Manchester Polytechnic and Bolton College of Education to obtain an in-service Certificate in Education. My doctorate is in the sociology of education, the outcome of a long-standing interest in educational inequalities, particularly those relating to social class. I became a Reader in July 2014.

My current research interests lie in two main areas: Social class and educational inequality, and teacher education for the lifelong learning sector. These two interests are united by the persistent undervaluing of vocational education in the UK and associated perceptions of the further education sector in England as largely for 'other people's children'. I have been particularly influenced by three great figures in the sociology of education: Pierre Bourdieu, Basil Bernstein and Raymond Boudon, and also by challenging empirical studies such as Jackson and Marsden's 'Education and the Working Class' (conducted in Huddersfield) and Paul Willis's classic 'Learning to Labour'. I have published a number of articles in academic journals such as British Journal of Sociology of Education, Journal of Education and Work and the Oxford Review of Education. I retain an interest in mathematics and physics, which teach us not only the explanatory power of scientific thinking, but also the socially constructed nature of scientific explanations and, in the two great intellectual achievements of twentieth-century physics - quantum mechanics and relativity - the relationship between ontological and epistemological questions: that is, the relationship between the objects of our theories and how we know them.

For the last five years, I have been working with my colleagues Robin Simmons and Lisa Russell on two ethnographic studies of marginalised young people, the first on Entry to Employment programmes and the second a three-year longitudinal study of young people not in education, employment or training (funded by The Leverhulme Trust). With Robin, I have co-authored 'NEET Young People and Training for Work: learning on the margins', published by Trentham Books in September 2011. I am currently working with Robin and Lisa on another book, 'Social Change, Work and Education: young people and marginalisation in post-industrial Britain', to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in Spring 2014. I have also co-authored the Open University Press textbook 'Teaching in Lifelong Learning: a guide to theory and practice', with James Avis and Roy Fisher. A second edition of this book is currently in preparation.


  • –present
    Head of Division (Lifelong Learning) in the School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield