What our students say

JontyClarkOBEDr Jonty Clark, OBE, EdD Language and Literacy

I engaged in distance learning with the University of Sheffield School of Education from 1998 – 2004 where I completed an MEd in Special and Inclusive Education and an EdD. I’m glad I moved from one degree to the other without taking a break as I’m not sure I would have managed to get studying again if I’d taken a ‘gap year’ aged 38! The Masters degree was exceptionally challenging as my career then, as now, was working in special schools.

I’d drive to Sheffield for a weekend every term and do battle (nearly literally) with a group of exceptional academics who kept telling me that all children should be educated in a mainstream setting irrespective of any additional needs they might have. Having to articulate and contextualise in spoken and written language my views on difference, disadvantage and education (whilst keeping calm) was a formative experience. I remember sitting in the bar one evening with Professor Wilfred Carr talking about his amazing book ‘Becoming Critical’ and thinking… ‘this is what’s happening to me’. In spite of our differing views on special education, the inclusive education team helped me develop a much broader and reflective view about the children and families I work with and the other stakeholders I engage with through my work. Derick Armstrong’s book, ‘Power and Partnership in Education’ and the sessions he taught around this publication has always informed the way I think about family engagement work carried out by the organisations I lead.

Since studying at Sheffield I have led two inner London schools designated for pupils identified as having Social, Emotional and Mental Health Issues (SEMH) from being judged to be failing to securing Ofsted judgements of ‘Outstanding’. Six years ago I moved to work in Croydon and became Headteacher of a small, dispirited, failing SEMH school. One of the reasons I was attracted to Croydon was the realisation that the group of pupils I took responsibility for were genuinely important to senior officers in the Local Authority and many of the Croydon Councillors; what a partnership ensued! The Beckmead Family of Schools is now the largest special school in the country and is located across seven sites – many of them purpose built within the last six years. The school works with nearly 300 children aged 5 – 19 and includes specialist provisions for SEMH, autism and challenging behaviour, children exposed to sexual exploitation, gang affiliation and short stay assessment centres. In September 2017 the multi-million pound Beckmead vocational college opened its doors to 100 disadvantaged teenagers and is designed to progress as many of those young people as possible into meaningful and sustainable employment. In terms of what comes next; The Beckmead Family is partnering with the outstanding Sutton Alternative Provision ‘The Limes’ to be the initiators of the ‘Moving Education Trust’ which from April 2018 will be a Multi Academy Trust aiming to partner with schools throughout England that believe in working with disadvantaged children in a value led, nurturing way.

I’m proud to say that my Doctoral supervisor and good friend Professor Pat Sikes is taking a senior role within the Governance of the trust. In the meantime Beckmead is submitting a bid to become a sponsor of a Free School for children with autism and learning difficulties. On May 5th this year I was invited to Buckingham Palace and was awarded an OBE for my ‘Services to Disabled Children and Children with Special Educational Needs’. For me the honour represented the amazing efforts and achievements of the wonderful children and exceptional colleagues I have worked with over the years. My most treasured memento of a wonderful day is the picture I was sent of the Queen shaking hands with me whilst we are both laughing. Her Majesty was talking to me about the schools and children I work with and the following words tipped out … “To be honest Ma’am, I feel like one of those footballers you see on the telly… I’m lucky to get paid for doing what I love”. Fortunately, one was very definitely amused.

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Maria Spiteri, EdD Educational StudiesMaria

"Learning has always been a passion for me; unfortunately, as a full-time music teacher, full-time study was not an option when I came to choose a doctoral programme in my line of work. After researching many universities who offer part-time courses, I opted to go for an EdD course at the University of Sheffield. The university also offers a part-time PhD course in Malta where I reside, but I decided on a taught doctorate for many reasons, mainly to up-date and enhance my research knowledge in a way that was directly connected to my professional role and to meet new colourful people who also endeavour to learn like me.

"The EdD is a flexible course which allows one to study while working full-time. As a teacher with daily ongoing demands from school and students, I managed to find time to study according to my own time-table, giving me the freedom to pursue other things besides work and studying and having a healthy work-life balance. As a second year student I must say that the course has met my expectations and more! Tutors are well read and established international researchers, always ready to help you and teach you new ideas. They seem to know what your passion is, even though it is still unknown to you! The three residential weekends during the academic year are structured around the students, giving us an opportunity to meet, learn, discuss ideas and progress our educational knowledge and skills.

"I recommend this course to any educator who wants to learn more about educational practices and research from professionals who will always be ready to assist you in any ways possible and more. I chose Educational Studies because it is the route with the broadest programme and skills to accommodate different individuals with different professional backgrounds. I wanted to learn more about what goes on backstage in schooling and educating future generations, and because I want to make changes. I want to help future generations achieve their full potential through Education. I know I have made the right choice in choosing Sheffield’s EdD."

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Sapna Thapa, EdD Early Childhood Education

"I had always wanted to obtain a higher education degree, and early childhood was my passion; even before I completed my MA degree, I was certain that I wanted to continue with the EdD. Dr. Rachael Levy was an amazing mentor who guided my doctoral studies. Her continuous support helped to raise the standards of my assignment papers to a very high level. My doctoral thesis explored the elusiveness of equity and quality in Early Childhood Education policies, and compared polices of two diverse countries (Nepal and USA). The excellent support and encouragement I received from my thesis supervisor, Professor Elizabeth Wood, helped me overcome many constraints and barriers and led me to complete my thesis within four years, despite the devastation that followed after the massive earthquakes in my home country, Nepal.

The thesis was recently selected as the “Rhedding-Jones Outstanding Dissertation 2016” by the Re-conceptualizing Early Childhood Education (RECE) organization. The award was presented during the RECE conference in New Zealand. The EdD degree has opened many doors and I am currently working as a full-time tenure track faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I am grateful to have had such an amazing group of people as my mentors. They continue to inspire me to question the status quo, to reflect, and to be passionate about research and teaching. "

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Frank McMahon, Early EdD Student

“The School of Education was most welcoming and supportive, and I formed friendships with fellow students that continue to this day.

The programme turned out to be exactly what I needed, and by graduation I was prepared to undertake a new role of Director of Academic Affairs. This role involved responsibility for academic policy, quality assurance, graduate studies, admission, library services, a learning & teaching unit and other central units.

Most recently I have become the Honorary President of a Chinese university, offering guidance on how it might reform its practices. The Sheffield EdD has facilitated all of my activities since my study. Undertaking the EdD was truly a life-changing experience.”