The National Art Education Association Convention 2019

On March 14-16, Dr Laura Trafí-Prats, Senior Lecturer in the School of Childhood, Youth and Education Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and a member of ESRI, attended the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Convention in Boston, USA. The NAEA was founded in 1947, and it is the only professional association in the USA exclusively dedicated to art educators. Its membership is large and composed of art teachers, representatives of higher education art programmes, museums, art organizations, artists and art education students, predominantly from the USA but also from Canada and countries in Europe, South America and Asia. The conference included more than 1000 sessions, comprising papers, panels, workshops, interactive sessions, and keynote lectures. The latter featured Professor Howard Gardner, writer of Multiple Intelligences, and artist Amy Sherald, who painted the now famous portrait of Michelle Obama, among other artists and scholars from Massachusetts.

Laura presented two papers. The first one was in a seminar for the Research in Art Education Interest Group, and within a panel titled New Materialisms and the Reclamation of Language in Children’s Drawing. Other speakers on this panel were Christopher Schulte (Penn State University), and Christine Marmé Thompson (Penn State University – Emerita). The panel looked at recent research on the role of language in children’s drawing, with specific attention given to everyday practices where drawing is embedded in the dynamics of language as representation and generative excess. The paper that Laura delivered as part of this panel was titled Carrying the line with Sylvie: Drawing as an immanent predicate in early childhood practice.

In this paper, Laura examined the powerful persistence of logocentric practices in the uses of drawing in early childhood education, where children’s drawings come to matter by using them as a platform to produce words, sentences, narratives, and symbols. She argued that such an approach presupposed that drawing begins with an individual intentional child, who in the course of being educated, learns to use language as a way of putting order in his expressive a-representational manners through naming and declaring (MacLure, 2016). This view of the child as commanded by language displaces a materialist conception of drawing as a thinking that shapes in the process of making where accidents, unplanned, non-intentional marks can be lines of flight and the origin of new concepts and thoughts (Deleuze, 2003). This is a thinking of drawing that rather than depending on ideas, intentions and languages resides in the body, sentience and actual and virtual lines of becoming (Ingold 2013; see also Atkinson 2018). Using a theoretical framework inspired by Deleuzo-Guattarian and new empiricist theories, the paper proceeded to discuss the emergence and development of different classroom performances associated to drawing and connected to a three year old, Sylvie.

The second paper was presented at the Early Childhood Art Educators Interest Group and was titled An Aesthetic and Emplaced Approach to Thinking with Materials in Early Childhood Education.Taking as inspiration a unit that Laura has designed and taught for the first time this year in the Early Years and Childhood Studies Programme at Manchester Metropolitan, Laura outlined and discussed a curriculum for early childhood educators centred on thinking with materials through places in the community (such as museums, gardens, artist studios and makers labs). She discussed how these places can become important assets for young educators who seek to involve children in material, aesthetic and sensuous forms of learning while confronting a lack of resources and professional support in their own centres.


Reconceptualising early childhood literacy beyond anthropocentricity

ESRI members presented a symposium at the Reconceptualising Early Childhood Literacies Conference in Manchester on 7 & 8 March, 2019. The symposium was organised by Abi Hackett and it included the following presentations:

“Vibrations in place: sound and language in early childhood literacy practices” Abigail Hackett and Michael Gallagher, MMU.

“Visual methodologies after the post-human turn: Child participatory research involving action cameras in an after-school club” Lucy Caton, MMU.

“Using the virtual to explore what happens when adults “don’t talk” but instead use space, sound, materials, and bodies to converse with children?” Charlotte Arculus and Christina MacRae, MMU.

“Video-sensing the world in aesthetic collective practices with young children” Laura Trafí-Prats, MMU, UK and Evelyn Gutierrez, Alexandra Park Children’s Learning Community, UK

Discussant: Maggie MacLure, MMU

Discussant’s comments

It seems a shame to comment on this lovely collection of papers. I’m reluctant to arrest the flows of sense that they have released, and lock them back into the ‘fetters’ [1] of representation that each of the presenters is so determined to resist. So I won’t comment on the papers one by one. Instead, I’ll try to tap into some of the synergies and resonances that flow through and connect the papers.

I think there are strong resonances, and perhaps not surprisingly. You can tell that these papers are an expression of the shared values and interests of a genuine research collective. As a colleague of the presenters, I hover on the edges of the collective, and count myself fortunate that they sometimes let me play!

But in addition to the connections and resonances, it is also important to note how each of the papers is anchored in a particular research project or intervention. It’s clear that the project is the beating heart of the matter for each of the presenters. There’s a real commitment to socially-engaged empirical research, even while each of the papers is also stretching empiricism to its limits, infusing it with theory and reanimating it with the potentialities of the virtual. It is this conjunction of faithfulness to the empirical minutiae, coupled with the embrace of open-ness and uncertainty, that assures that inquiry is both grounded in place, sensation and embodiment, and capable of taking flight and creating new spaces for thought.

Let me talk briefly, then, of the resonances. Firstly, all of the papers can be identified broadly with a resistance to the dominance of conventional language. In their different ways, each paper finds language to be inadequate to an understanding of the complexities of young children’s sense-making practices. And each paper mounts a critique, explicit or implicit, of the dominance of language in qualitative research methodology. All of the papers are struggling therefore to engage with the stuff that evades ‘capture’ by language – affect, sensation, sound, gesture, movement, rhythm.

The papers also testify to a certain absurdity and violence inherent in adults’ relentless mission to explain, represent, and render children and their digital adventures intelligible; to know exactly what things mean. All of the presenters are very clear that the critique of representation is an ethical undertaking. They would contend that there is an intimate and non-accidental link between the anthropocentrism inherent in representational language, and the ocular preoccupations of the professional or academic observer. They seem, to me at least, to condemn what D.A. Miller [2] called the ‘panoptic immunity’ of the liberal subject, who claims the prerogative to interrogate and expose the lives of others without reciprocal obligation. Kathleen Stewart [3] detected similar privilege in ‘the ethnographic code’. I think the presenters would say that this tends to impose an essentially colonial relation: it suppresses what is vital and energetic in more-than-human encounters, and keeps potential, change and difference in its place.

All the presenters are looking therefore for resources to release, or at least tap into, that which exceeds capture and domestication by language and conventional digital methods. They pull, push and stretch language and visual media to their limits, twisting and perverting them to release some of their profane energy. They try to sense the secret rhythms picked up by cameras and video technology; to achieve a haptic vision that, in Eva Hayward’s term, apprehends with ‘fingery eyes’ [4]; to hear with the body and not just the ears; to acknowledge the fleshiness and the materiality of language and digital life. They are looking, in other words, for that which might deterritorialise language and open onto the new.

The collective work reflected in these papers is contributing to the development of multi-sensory ethnography. I think it is also building, or rediscovering, a synaesthetic ontology and methodology. That is, it is inventing practices of sensing – modes of attuning to the complex interplay of the senses in sensing the world. This is particularly relevant for research on early language and literacy. There is a growing body of research evidence that young children themselves make sense of the world synaesthetically: in other words, by mobilising all of their senses. This capacity declines, or goes underground, as adults learn how to enforce that brute separation between words and world, thought and feeling.

The more-than-human, or non-representational orientation evidenced in these papers presents researchers with complex and paradoxical challenges. We are forced to grapple with our own human-centrism; to twist ourselves into a variety of undignified postures in the attempt to catch that which cannot be caught, glimpse things just out of the frame, or the corner of the eye, behind one’s own back; in the interstices and the accidents.

We will of course fail. We will end up once more explaining, representing, orchestrating, domesticating, romanticising, judging – partly through fear of risk to children. But also because these acts are wholly implicated in what Deleuze called the dogmatic image of thought, which still largely prevails. So our artistic imagination will reassert its privileges. We will get carried away by our own rhetoric. We will be impressed by our own good and common sense and fall in love with ourselves all over again. And that ineffable sense of relationality, singularity and potentiality will fade once more.

But sometimes, something will open up. And sometimes, something will get through.


[1] Deleuze, G. (1994), Difference and repetition (P. Patton, Trans.), New York: Columbia University Press.

[2] Miller, D.A. (1988), The Novel and the Police, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

[3] Stewart, K. (1996), A Space on the Side of the Road, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[4] Hayward, E. (2010). Fingeryeyes: Impressions of cup corals. Cultural Anthropology25(4), 577-599.


The Reconceptualising Early Childhood Education Conference: An account from ESRI participants

ESRI researchers participated in the 26th International Reconceptualising Early Childhood Education Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark in October 2018. The conference topic this year was Inequality in Early Childhood Education and Care.

This year it was the strongest representation of Manchester Metropolitan University at a RECE conference to date, so it was a rare chance for us to both hear more about each other’s current research as well as to build on our collaborative networks. As a result of our work at the conference, multiple new and exciting opportunities have emerged for our on-going research.

The conference itself offered plenaries in the mornings followed by parallel sessions, which removed some of the formality. The atmosphere was friendly and supportive, with informative discussions after each panel that offered constructive peer assessment.

The Manchester Metropolitan contingent included Lisa Taylor, Headteacher from Martenscroft Nursery School and Children’s Centre, who gave a paper with Ian Barron, Professor of Early Childhood Studies, called ‘That roar which lies on the other side of silence’: critical and creative engagement with UK government policy regarding educational provision for two-year olds. Their paper presented findings from the 2-Curious Project, longitudinal research that involved professional development sessions and follow-up interviews with staff from early childhood settings and has illuminated the complexities in challenging hegemonic ideas about two year olds and their families.

A panel convened by Dr Laura Trafi-Prats, Senior Lecturer, was chosen as a plenary panel. It included papers by Dr Trafi-Prats and Dr Abigail Hackett, Research Fellow, alongside Christopher M. Schulte, Assistant Professor of Art Education and Early Childhood Education at Pennsylvania State University. The title of the panel was Mattering, knowing, ethics and care: Post-human approaches to parenting in neoliberal times. It explored everyday parenting experiences through “materiality, emplaced knowing and children’s and adults’ sensory engagement with places” (Hackett, 2017). Working against neoliberal conceptions of good parenting that characterise current parenting policy, the panel challenged a normative language that targets minority, immigrant and working-class families, and the prioritization of economic return over issues of ethics, democracy and social justice.

Dr Trafi-Prats’ paper was entitled Thinking-doing parenthood with a posthumanist ethics of care and being alongside other kinds. It sought to mess with the assumption that parenting is a human to human relation about becoming human, and ask what else can be thought and done in parenting when it is considered through the troubling of the human and animal division developed by feminist science studies and posthumanist ethics of care. Dr Hackett’s paper was called Inchoate literacies; leaking, entwining, messy ways of parents and children being in the world. It considered the role of words and articulation within parenting practices, and wondered about the potential for young children’s literacies to foreground entwining, leaking and refusal to articulate as modes of being in the world.

Dr Christina MacRae, Research Fellow in ESRI, and Thekla Anastasiou, Lecturer in the School of Childhood, Youth and Education Studies, organised a symposium with Teresa Aslanian from Oslo Met. University called Rethinking care: care-matterings in the Toddler Room. There was a common motivation across the three papers to think about ways that care is entangled with the non-human in the nursery classroom.  When care is only located within the adult-child dyad, an emergent ethics of care-mattering is overlooked. Our panel opened up the notion of care as something less stable, more diffuse and distributed across both human and non-human. Thekla’s paper was based on her doctoral work and was titled A Becoming Monstrous Assemblage: ‘Caring about Mary’. Christina’s paper was titled: Schema: care-mattering in the nursery school, and used data from her current longitudinal ethnographic research project in a classroom for two-year olds called “The Sensory Nursery”. Dr Martin Needham, Associate Head of the School of Childhood, Youth and Education Studies, gave a paper in a session on new materialist and posthumanist perspectives in studying children called Building memory and communication in body and mind. He presented findings from an evaluation of preschool children’s and practitioners’ responses to introductory movement sessions delivered by football coaches in early years settings, and the importance of body movement to the development of cognition.

Charlotte Arculus, ESRI White Rose Doctoral Student, presented a paper as part of an early years arts-based panel: Actual children, unique situations: improvisation and immersive pedagogy: A collection of vignettes from a collective of artist-educators. Her paper foregrounded the practice of improvisation, as well as attending to the affective role of both the materials, space, and sound created through an immersive environment, and explored the absence of adult speech and the possibilities that this non-representational space opens up for very young children.


At the RECE Business Meeting, recognising the strong theoretical contribution made by Manchester Met to the RECE community, we were invited to submit a proposal for Manchester Met to host the RECE Conference in 2020. This invitation was welcomed and supported by our Faculty of Education and a proposal will be submitted by the end of November 2018.


Prof Neil Selwyn interviews Dr Adam Wood

Dr Adam Wood completed his PhD at ESRI in January 2017. The title of the work was ‘A School’s Lived Architecture: the politics and ethics of flexible learning spaces’. Since leaving us he was awarded a Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship on ‘Italy’s school-building programme: designing space for people? – Italy and Australia.’

Currently hosted at Monash University, you can listen to a conversation between Adam and Prof. Neil Selwyn.

You can read more about Adam’s work on his personal site or the Architecture and Education blog.

Loneliness Connects Us – A youth co-researcher reflects

My involvement with the Loneliness Project stemmed from joining 42nd Street as a Peer Ambassador, in July 2017, halfway where the team had started the write-up of their findings and were beginning to develop the story for the immersive theatre production, Missing.

Fast forward to a year later, to July 2018, me and the team received the pleasant news we had been nominated for the ‘Most Inspiring Campaign’ at the Spirit of Manchester Awards ceremony to be held in October. Consequently, this would fall within the same week that I would be asked by the BBC to speak on Radio 5 regarding the experiences of youth loneliness and how youth are able (or not able) to support themselves.

I arrived at Media City just in time for my appearance on the show, as it was my first time in the studio, I was not aware one had to wear headphones. At precisely 8.04am, the producer was showing with her hands, what I was to do.

As soon as i wore the headphones, the question was posed from a producer in the room adjacent to me. He shouted;

I spoke to a man earlier who said loneliness meant he stayed at home and didn’t leave, is this something you can relate to.

Though this is the image perceived in one’s mind, in fact, I enjoy my time at home. I expressed to the radio presenter that loneliness for young people, exhibits during school hours, during holiday season, and surrounded by family and friends. The research is truly vital for voicing this issue in our society as young people are the future. There needs to be more initiatives to encourage young people to speak up about their feelings of loneliness, to encourage social media detoxes and to develop community work.

BBC Radio 5 Live link (Monday 1st October 2018, 8 am)

I left the Studios feeling slightly sad, my feelings stemmed from the reality that, though I was able to contribute to this amazing research, there are still many young people who do not have access to community spaces for young people such as there are for me and many others in major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, London.

Anyways, I was on the way to work and around 11am, I recieved a call from James from 42nd Street, who said that there’s a journalist who wants to speak to you about the research, it will be aired at 12.45 pm that day on Newsbeat. The journalist, Gurvinder, had stated that this would be pre-recorded and she asked me questions, similar to the morning interview around my personal experiences of loneliness. Again, I was not sure if what I was saying made any sense, but I had simply expressed that young people need not be afraid of being alone. It is a chance to invest in yourself. I started to learn German during a summer, between my A-Levels.

BBC Newsbeat (Monday 1st October 2018, 12.45pm) 

The project is immensely important to me, and I am grateful to hear that the BBC had commissioned their own research and found that levels of loneliness are higher in younger people with 40% feeling lonely, compared with only 27% of over 75s.

The survey results indicate that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. 40% of respondents aged 16-24 reported feeling lonely often or very often, while only 29% of people aged 65-74 and 27% of people aged over 75 said the same.

Over 55,000 people aged 16 years and over took part in the survey exploring attitudes and personal experiences of loneliness, making it the biggest survey of its kind. The survey was developed by academics at the University of Manchester, Brunel University London, and the University of Exeter, and supported by a grant from Wellcome.


Researchers from the Education & Social Research Institute participate in the 2018 European Educational Research Association Conference

Researchers from ESRI participated in the four-day conference of the European Educational Research Association in September.

Held in Bolzano, Italy, the conference attracts 2, 500 researchers annually. This year’s theme was ‘Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research?’.

In a session on accountability in schools, Dr Linda Hammersley-Fletcher, Reader in ESRI, presented a paper (written with co-authors Dr Sam Sellar of ESRI, Dr Emile Bojesen of the University of Winchester and Professor Matthew Clarke, York St John University) entitled ‘Rethinking teacher professional development using a conversational research methodology’. The authors drew from philosophical perspectives on accountability as responsibility, presenting two empirical case studies of educational leaders who are working to develop more democratic leadership and accountability cultures in a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) and a Teaching Schools Alliance (TSA). The paper provided a response to the question of how we can re-invent educational accountability in an era of datafication without subordinating teacher professional knowledge.

Dr Steph Ainsworth, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, presented data from a project (conducted in collaboration with Dr Jeremy Oldfield, also at Manchester Metropolitan University) that sought to quantify key constructs in the area of teacher resilience. This presentation shared survey data that demonstrates the importance of contextual factors on the process of positive adaptation in teachers. Although individual factors such as self-esteem, emotional intelligence and self-care were found to be associated with higher levels of positive adaptation in teachers (e.g. wellbeing and job satisfaction), aspects of the school environment (e.g. support from management, workload and support from colleagues) were found to be just as important. The implications for policy and practice were discussed within the context of a prevailing discourse which tends to place the responsibility of ‘being resilient’ at the feet of individual teachers.

Dr Matthew Carlin, Senior Lecturer, presented a paper entitled ‘A Worker’s Education’ as part of a symposium developed with colleagues from Aalborg University in Denmark. The symposium opened up a discussion about the ways that schools are currently preparing students for integration into a globalized, techno-fetishized work force. Matthew’s paper drew on a range of philosophical texts in order to demonstrate how school-based forms of manual, practical, and collaborative work can be integrated into public school curriculum in a way that serve as a buttress against the immateriality of contemporary pedagogical trends and the associated existential desperation endemic to students’ vocational future.

Reader Dr Karen Pashby and Research Associate Dr Su Corcoran presented data that was generated as part of a British Academy project that brings together critical scholarship in education for sustainable development and global citizenship in order to critically engage with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.7. In a session on Promoting Social Justice, Dr Pashby and Dr Corcoran presented ‘Barriers and enabling factors to teaching ethical global issues in support of SDG 4.7: Participatory research with teachers’. This presentation shared early findings from surveys and expertise-sharing discussions with secondary (and upper secondary) teachers in England, Finland and Sweden regarding their motivations for teaching ethical global issues in complex ways, as well as factors that enable or prevent them from doing so. Later, Dr Pashby (co-authored and presented with Dr Louise Sund of Maladarlen University) shared early findings from workshops with the teachers in a presentation entitled ‘Bridging 4.7 through ethical global issues pedagogy: Combining critical work in Environmental and Sustainability Education and Global Citizenship Education’. A common critique of both fields is the reproduction of colonial systems of power. This presentation shared key themes emerging from teachers’ discussions of a pedagogical approach grounded in post- and de-colonial theoretical resources.

Ethnographic research on youth participation

Janet Batsleer, Principal Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Dr Harriet Rowley, with their Turkish colleague Demet Lukuslu of Yeditepe University, presented a set of papers at a symposium dedicated to the four-year EU HORIZON 2020 project “Spaces and Styles of Participation” (PARTISPACE). Professor Dennis Beach chaired the symposium with Professor Elisabet Öhrn acting a discussant, both of the University of Gothenburg. The papers drew on cross-country comparative findings from eight EU cities, and, in particular, ethnographic case studies of youth participation. Prominent themes across the papers included:

  • How different spaces and places structure and are in turn structured by young peoples’ activities;
  • The borders created by pedagogic and philanthropic interventions designed to enhance young people’s participation in public life one the one hand and young people’s reappropriation of spaces which become places on the other;
  • Narratives constructed by young people of formal, informal and non-formal modes of participation and how styles of participation involve processes of resignification;
  • The opportunities and challenges of doing a multi-sited ethnographic study which simultaneously involved other research methods including action research, biographical interviews, focus groups and surveys.

Through the use of rich case study material and the mobilisation of theoretical tools, the material highlighted forms of participation that are about resistance, struggle, association and expression, exploration and experimentation in the pursuit of alternative ways of living, being and acting according to young people’s aspirations, motivations and interests. This led to an exploration of the central claim from the PARTISPACE study; that there needs to be a great re-awakening in Europe to the democratic potential of the creative spaces of civil society. Janet and Harriet enjoyed presenting their work at this opening symposium of the Education and Ethnography strand, and really appreciated engaging with colleagues from the Education Faculty at the University of Gothenburg.

Policy studies and the politics of education

Dr Emilee Rauschenberger, Professor Moira Hulme, and Professor Robert Hulme presented a paper entitled ‘Trials, Toolkits, and ‘Global Evidence’ Banks’. The presentation considered how Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) fit into the global script of evidence-based education and how and why the approach is being adopted and adapted in a variety of international contexts. More specifically, the presentation highlighted the background, methodology, and social networks of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and its strategy for influencing educational decision-making in England. Next, the presentation explored the recent international spread of its approach and its Teaching and Learning Toolkit to Australia, Chile, and Scotland. Through the study into these cases utilizing 15 interviews with key informants and network analysis, the presentation considered: Why and how is the RCT-based approach in education, as exemplified by the EEF, being adopted and translated in other countries? And what types of international networks exist, or are forming, to further the use of RCTs to build a ‘global evidence bank’ for educational decision-making? Following the presentation, there were questions and a helpful discussion about the implications of the EEF’s work, the underlying contextual conditions promoting the use of Toolkits in various contexts, and reflections on how policy networks may be better captured over time as they evolve.

Dr Rauschenberger also organised and participated in a joint Symposium entitled ‘Teach For All in Europe and Beyond: Examining the emergence and impact of a globally-marketed education policy’.  The symposium featured her research into the origins of Teach For All in the original programme model, Teach For America, and its first recreation abroad as Teach First in the UK. Her paper, Teach For America vs. Teach First, highlighted the similarities as well as critical differences between the corporate-backed teacher education model in the two countries and discussed how Teach First emerged in 2001-3 through the efforts of policy entrepreneurs and network-building. Her presentation was followed by a paper presentation by Katrine Nesje which examined the Teach First initiative in Norway and a paper presentation by Seyda Subasi which detailed the development and components of Teach For Austria. The symposium attracted a number of attendees, including individuals from the US, Lithuania, and Australia, who asked further critical questions into the funding and influence of these expanding models.  From the discussion, the symposium appeared to achieved its goal of raising critical awareness and prompting further questions that will helpfully stimulate research into the expanding role of private interests in the teacher education sector.

Reflexivity and educational research

Professor Kate Pahl, Head of ESRI, presented a session on ‘Re-thinking Literacies with communities: Literacy as a collaborative concept’ as part of a session on ‘Revisiting communities and spaces: Considering longitudinal affiliation and reflexivity’ organised with co-presenters Professor Annette Woods, Queensland University of Technology, and Catherine Compton-Lilly, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The session focused on ways in which researchers’ reflexivity governed and guided understandings of the field – how do we engage with the places where we do research and what do we bring as well as how do we learn from those engaged encounters? The subject of Kate’s presentation will be presented in a forthcoming book with Mike Grenfell entitled ‘Bourdieu, Language-Based Ethnographies and Reflexivity: Putting Theory into Practice’ (New York: Routledge 2019).

ESRI researchers look forward to participating in next year’s conference in Hamburg.

Young People and Democratic Life in Greater Manchester: Launching The Chancellor’s Fellowship

Following discussions with Cllr Rishi Shori, who leads on Community Cohesion and on The Greater Manchester Combined Youth Authority, and in partnership with Youth Focus North West; Janet Batsleer has launched a new stage of our work on participation and democracy with a local flavour.

The recently completed PARTISPACE project explored the spaces and styles of young people’s participation in eight European Cities. The findings focussed on the importance of recognition of young people’s own negotiations of spaces in the city and the styles they develop in which to participate. In the UK, the idea of ‘youth participation’ has become very much focussed on those under 18 who are preparing to become active citizens, on the one hand, and on the development, improvement and ‘youth proofing’ of services on the other. But this focus on services and on formal representation is only one part of democratic engagement.

One of the recommendations of PARTISPACE is the development of a living Youth Charter, to be developed on a European wide basis, but with an open process and builds up a city-to-city network. At the same time as the process of exploring the Youth Charter idea is beginning here in Greater Manchester, colleagues in Frankfurt and in Rennes are also taking it forward.

On Friday July 20th a reference group comprising key stakeholders from across Greater Manchester Youth and Arts Sectors came together to explore, critique, debate and develop the idea of the Youth Charter. Using participatory methods facilitated by Dr James Duggan, a key member of the team from MMU, we explored the current challenges facing youth participation in Greater Manchester and began a process of imagining what a Youth Charter process might be.

From the perspective of the PARTISPACE findings, Janet Batsleer emphasised the following:

  • The importance of a grass roots focus, beyond the wealthier centres of the Greater Manchester conurbation.
  • The importance of supporting creative and open approaches

Download (PDF, 940KB)

The intention is to connect various communities and age cohorts, ranging from the 16-16 cohort on the one hand to the 26-30 cohort on the other hand. To explore the widest possible set of issues, based on a recognition of the needs and interests of the particular communities we are engaging with but to build a process that will bring people together both across Greater Manchester and potentially with other European groups.

To affiliate with the idea of the Charter, work should include the following elements:

  • A commitment to identify very specific and achievable targets, within the current system.
  • A commitment to enable young people (and their wider communities) to recognise and make a claim to their rights, even when these rights are not lived as a reality currently.
  • A commitment to enable young people to imagine things as being lived differently, such that these claims, to rights and also to life and flourishing, become a reality.
  • In terms of work with the Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority, it is intended that these experiments in extending our understanding democracy will support the representatives on the Youth Combined Authority and also the Curriculum for Life/Greater Manchester Living Curriculum working group.

The Reference Group will gather again in December 2018.

Immediate suggestions for developing the Youth Charter will be held by Janet Batsleer (email: and the developments undertaken during the autumn will be shared then. So far suggestions include sharing the ‘Safer Person’ initiative led by The Proud Trust; events linked to the International Day of the Girl Child, led by Empowerment People; a Playful Charter (led by James Duggan) – there will certainly be more. Exploring the links between the inter-personal space and the online world of connection will be to fore and was a significant thread of this initial discussion, as was the question of how best to respond democratically in a life which is shaped by intense monitoring, surveillance and control.

Janet Batsleer

Arts-based Methods Group: End of the academic year get together

Monday 9th July 1-4:30pm

Room 1.66 Brooks Building

All welcome, no need to book

Using poor theatre to research poor theatre

Janet Batsleer, MMU and Jenny Hughes, University of Manchester

 Janet Batsleer and Jenny Hughes have a long standing Manchester-based collaboration and interest in the ways applied theatre and critical street based and community projects collide, cooperate and unsettle both welfare and  arts practice. In this session, Janet will invite Jenny Hughes to talk about how she used theatre as a research method in the recent Poor Theatres project.

Feeling Odd in ….

Kate Pahl, MMU

This AHRC funded project explores the concept of ‘Odd’ through an interdisciplinary lens that includes art practice and new materialism, drawing on site specific creative co-productive work in schools with teachers and young people. One initial project has worked with the idea of ‘Odd boxes’ and has involved re-imagining the idea of ‘Odd’ from the point of young people. In this presentation, we discuss the intersection between co-production, theoretically driven research and practice-oriented approaches to consider the possibilities of ‘Odd’ research within the academy and beyond. We engage with the different traditions of research, from artistic methodologies including practice-as-research, residency-as-method to participatory modes of inquiry with children and young people. The ‘Odd’ project throws up issues of voice, feeling, affect and collaborative inquiry, all key areas for arts-based research and wonders what it is like to be ‘Odd’ in the world of research.

Telling Stories: objectivity, uncertainty and agency with practice-as-research

James Oliver, Monash University

This workshop (or interactive seminar) is focussed on our ‘methodological’ imagination and the formations (or relationality/praxis) of methodology as content. Participants should bring with them an object (or ‘thing’) that in some manner pertains to their research practice, research situation or research identity. This ‘thing’ will be used to develop a story on objectivity and agency for the participants.

For more information refer to the arts-based methods website.

Youth loneliness research on @SVT

The Loneliness Connects Us youth co-research was featured on Swedish TV @SVT station’s Correspondents series. As the programme billed it:

The epidemic of loneliness. The lack of human contacts is as dangerous as high blood pressure or extreme overweight. What can Sweden learn from a small British city, where it managed to stop the epidemic? Program leader: Lena Scherman and Bengt Norborg. Part 10 of 10.

ESRI at American Education Research Association 2018 conference

Academics from ESRI presented their research last month at the 2018 AERA conference in New York. The overall theme of the conference was ‘The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education’, and with over 17,000 attendees, the annual conference is organised around a number of Divisions, Sections and Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

David Menendez Alvarez-Hevia and Karen Pashby presented (on behalf of co-authors Edda Sant and Jane McDonnell) “Agonistic Controversial” Issues as a Pedagogy for Global Citizenship Education“, within the Democratic Citizenship and Education Special Interest Group. The paper described findings of research workshops aimed to generate an agonistic space in which ideas on global citizenship were discussed without seeking consensus. Karen Pashby also presented (on behalf of co-author Louise Sund of Malardalen University) ‘Rethinking Teaching Sustainability and Global Ethics for U.N. Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.7: Engaging Swedish Upper Secondary Teachers’.

Liz de Freitas presented a paper ‘Dyscalculia, neuroscience and time: Rethinking the biopolitics of the body’ (on behalf of co-author Nathalie Sinclair), within the Disability Studies in Education SIG. David Rousell presented three papers in the Environmental Education SIG. His papers were titled Creatures of Experience: Towards an ecological aesthetics of childhood in an age of climate change (w/ Amy Cutter-Mackenzie). Ecological Aesthetics: New spaces, directions, and potentials (w/ Dilafruz Williams); and The ChildhoodNature Companion: Art, writing and research by children and young people (w/ Joshua Russell).

 Sarah Truman presented in four sessions across various Special Interest Groups including: ‘Inhuman Literacies’ in Division B; ‘Racial Ontologies and the New Materialisms’ in the Qualitative Research SIG; ‘Walking methodologies in a more-than-human world’ in the Qualitative Research SIG; and ‘Public Pedagogies and the Arts’ in the Arts-Based Educational Research SIG. (Sarah’s attendance at AERA was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and WalkingLab.) Also as part of the symposium ‘Walking methodologies in a more-than-human world‘, Michael Gallagher presented ‘Sound beyond meaning: listening walks as pedagogy‘ on behalf of my co-authors Jonathan Prior, Martin Needham and Rachel Holmes.

Kate Pahl convened a symposium on ‘Rethinking Literacy Ontologies Through the Eyes of Participants, Objects, and Sites: Public Pedagogies of Possibility’. This was part of the Writing and Literacies Special Interest Group. As part of this symposium. Kate Pahl and Hugh Escott gave a paper on ‘Prescriptivism and Inhuman Literacies: Rethinking Language and Schooling for Public Pedagogies’. Christina MacRae also presented in this panel her paper called ‘Colliding bodies and vibrant objects’, uses Harraway’s notion of ‘tentacular’ thinking to explore ‘object conflict’ in a class of two-year olds. Finally, also in this symposium Abigail Hackett and Pauliina Rautio presented ‘Corresponding with the world as early childhood literacy ontology’, in which they offered a new orientation for early childhood literacy, away from mastery of and naming of the world towards a deepened entanglement with the more-than-human.

“It was my first AERA and I found it extremely enriching and overwhelming. I had the opportunity to attend to some presentations that provided me with a flavour of some of the main trends, concerns and interest in educational research in the context of USA. It allowed me to come out of the “UK-European bubble”.

David Menendez Alvarez-Hevia, Senior Lecturer, School of Childhood, Youth and Education Studies


“I was immensely proud of the breadth of ESRI’s research represented at AERA and the world-leading nature of the papers. As Head of ESRI it is a privilege to witness my colleagues’ amazing work”.

Kate Pahl, Head of ESRI