First of, my thoughts go to all my participants and there schools, students and communities. I have witnessed how difficult and challenging teachers have found this current situation.

Currently, I have suspended all face-to-face interviews during this difficult time. Data collection with participants will commence once they are able to and will consist of telephone interviews as a default. This is still waiting university ethical approval (application found in the ‘Participant Document’ tab). An email will be sent out once this has been approved.

It is a challenging time for all, which also includes PhD’s who are in their final year, such as myself. Like many, we have been told to work from home and like many, I am struggling with that due to other commitments. As I am funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (Part of UKRI) I am lucky enough to have a stipend. However, this stipend is time limited for the duration of my PhD (3 years).

Today, it was announced that final year PhD’s who are UKRI funded will eligible for a 6 month extension with a full stipend. This means that I will be allocated more time to complete this research and participants involved in this project don’t have to rush to squeeze me in for data collection.

Please keep safe and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

BERA 2019

I am so pleased to have found out I won ‘Best Special Interest Group’ paper at the 2019 BERA Conference.

I presented the ethical process I created and followed in recruiting participants from around England based upon maximum variation.

I have to admit that I was incredibly nervous presenting this particular paper as it focuses on two very much debated topics of FBV and ethics. I might be out of my depth but in the end it went very well and I was surprised of all the positive comments I had received. The audience were very impressed with the approach I had taken and commented on how thoughtful it was towards my participants.

My thanks goes entirely to my participants involve in this project.

You can find the presentation in the ‘Participant Documents’ tab.

Participants successfully recruited (more welcome).

The recruitment process has been an incredibly long and complicated journey, and for the right reasons. The ‘live ethics’ approach of this research (an emergent approach where the research ethics constantly evolves and is re-evaluated) has certainly guided which schools should be approached and asked whether they would like to take part in this project.

After carefully selecting and writing letters to around 300 state-funded secodnary schools in England to take part in this project, I quickly started to receive positive replies and interest. Those schools who have shown interest have now been sent particpant information packs along with consent forms. I look forward to visiting them for a pre-visit.

We are still recruiting members from parts of England, specifically, London, North West and South West of England.

I will be ethically assessing another 300 schools to maximise recruitment and to have a fair representation across England in the next 4 weeks.

I am very happy to announce that I am the Chair of the SWDTP Conference

I am very happy to announce that I will be charing the South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) Conference 2019.

The SWDTP  is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)– a new organisation comprised of the seven UK research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. As the biggest investor in Social Science Research in the UK, the ESRC supports “independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and civil society”.

The 2019 SWDTP Conference committee was established in our first meeting in April and we were all given our roles, where I was voted as this years chair. This role will involve:

  • Chairing meetings effectively, drawing up and controlling the agenda
  • Planning, keeping an eye on the bigger picture, while ensuring that tasks and details are on track
  • Budget tracking
  • People management (committee members, delegates and presenters), team building
  • Working under pressure and leadership are important skills
  • Providing monthly Chair’s updates for the SWDTP newsletter
  • Public speaking, giving opening and closing address
  • Liaison with SWDTP team
  • Co-ordinating post conference evaluation and write-up

I am hoping to be able to invite participants as guests to attend the 2019 conference. More on this to come.

Participant Handbooks now ready

After a lot of hard work, a lot of time and a lot of reading of literature, I have now created the Lost in Translation Participant Handbook.

This handbook was created to give participants a clear and transparent idea of what being involved in the project involves.

All participants and schools will be sent this booklet as part of the ‘Participant Information Pack’. The Lost in Translation Project puts the participants at the heart of this research.

Click here to download the PDF version of the handbook.

This document can also be found in the ‘Participant Documents’ section of this webpage.

Feedback on this handbook would be much appreciated. Please leave your comments below.

Accepted to present at the BERA Conference 2019

I am very please to have had my paper ‘Lost in Translation: Considering practical approaches to ethical dilemmas in controversial research’. This paper draws upon an aspect of the ethical approaches taken during my PhD research. Below you can read the submitted abstract.


The impetus for this conceptual paper arose from the author’s experience of being presented with a nexus of ethical dilemmas regarding anonymity and confidentiality, when designing a study to explore how different state-funded secondary schools and teachers in England perceive and implement the ‘fundamental British values’ (FBV) agenda.


Since 2014, all state-funded schools in England are required to promote the four fundamental British values: rule of law; individual liberty; democracy; and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs (DfE, 2014). These values originate from the 2011 Prevent strategy, part of Contest, the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, which states that ‘Extremism is vocal or active opposition to FBV’ (Home Office, 2003). In 2014, it was reported that there was alleged evidence, of governing bodies of some schools in Birmingham being over taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. Although this evidence was deemed to be fabricated, the government investigated 21 schools in Birmingham, led by Counter Terrorism Command. No evidence of radicalisation was found and the investigation concluded that some individuals associated with the schools neglected to challenge extremist views (Arthur, 2015).

This investigation led to creation of new policies, on-the-spot Ofsted inspections and new guidance on Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development (SMSC)4. As promoting SMSC was a whole school responsibility, the new advice around promoting FBV became cross-curricular, embedding FBV in all aspects of pupils’ personal development, and becoming subject to Ofsted inspections. This has made the FBV agenda high stakes. Teachers and school staff were expected to report students that they perceived to be at risk of radicalisation so that interventions could be made, and some claimed that this made teachers instruments of surveillance (Farrell & Lander, 2018) . The FBV agenda became a source of controversy amongst some schools, with teachers and religious groups expressing a binary of ‘us and them’ (Smith, 2016).


Considering the historical narrative of FBV and the interactions required for data collection between researcher, schools and teachers, the ethical challenges of confidentiality and anonymity began to become apparent to me. This paper draws upon my experiences of conducting studies on schools selected by maximum variation, whilst navigating the controversy of the phenomenon being studied.

I aim to expand the discourse concerning ethics in educational qualitative research, by making recommendations based on my experiences of the different stages of participant selection and recruitment during my research journey: articulating the reflective processes I went through, and exploring the challenges I faced associated with upholding anonymity and confidentiality.

I consider the use of pseudonyms, power imbalances and ownership of data, and discuss the strategies taken to maintain confidentiality without schools being identified based on their selection criteria: region; type of school and whether the school was designated as having a religious character.

Finally this paper explores the how the ethical processes led to the practicalities of communicating clearly with participants, for example regarding the ethical considerations of the initial school selection process, so that they could make an informed judgement as to whether to participate or not.


Whilst grappling with the ethical dilemmas presented, I found that many ethical standards and guidelines lacked specific detailed references on how to maintain anonymity and confidentiality; for instance with regard to the process of allocating pseudonyms, approaches to selecting participants ethically, and communicating the ethical processes for participant selection.

Some qualitative researchers have discussed whether generating a new contribution to knowledge or upholding ethical questions is more important (Tolich, 2010). I believe that through being reflective on the ethical dilemmas I was presented with, and by making the ethical dilemmas I faced explicit, I was better able to implement methods to protect and uphold participant anonymity and confidentiality. This therefore generates a contribution to knowledge, by sharing strategies which would otherwise be undisclosed or lacking in detail, specifically relating to researching controversial topics in education.


1 DfE. (2014). Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools: Departmental advice for maintained schools. London: DfE: Crown Copyright.
2 Home Office. (2003). CONTEST: The Government;s counter-terrorism strategy. Home Office. London: Home Office.
3 Arthur, J. (2015). Extreemism and Neo-Liberal Education Policy: A Contextual Critique of the Trojan Horse Affair in Birmingham Schools. British Journal of Educational Studies, 63(3), 311-328.

4 Farrell, F. & Lander, V. (2018) “We’re not British values teachers are we?”: Muslim teachers’subjectivity and the governmentality of unease. Educational Review.
5 Smith, H. (2016). Britishness as Racist Nativsm: A Case of the Unamed Other. Journal of Education for Teaching, 36(3), 298-313.
6 Tolich, M. (2010). A critique of current practice: ten foundational guidelines for autoethnographers. Qualitative Health Research, 20(12), 1599- 1610.


What a busy but successful week. After 6 weeks spent on making sure this research has rigorous ethical protocols it has finally been approved by the ethics committee (certificate of approval uploaded to Participant Documents). It has and is important for me to make sure that anybody involved in this research does not come to any harm, nor that any participant school and key informant can be identified. This lengthy ethical research and approval has led to a dedicated ethics chapter within my thesis, along with creating a dedicated ethical hand-out for perspective participants to highlight the lengths taken to maintain confidentiality and anonymity.

On another note, schools for participation in this research have now been selected around England. A total of 146 schools will be written to in the next 3 weeks asking if they would like to take part. Schools were selected using the EduBase database and Ofsted statistics. The careful selection of these schools took around 8 weeks. This was to make sure that schools could not be identified based on 3 criterion: region; type of school and religious affiliation or not.

Lots of admin over the next week.

Have a good weekend to you all.

Here we go

Hello all,

This is first blog post I have ever posted. I thought it would be useful for participants and schools involved in this project to have a central place to access information online. As once a teacher in a state-funded school in England I can understand the pressures of being a teacher and the can appreciate information being available at ease.

By visiting this blog, you will be able to find information on The Lost in Translation Project, the people involved, access documents (participants’ and schools’), make contact through a variety of ways, visit other links relating to this research project and of course read blogs relating to he progress of this study.

I will cut this blog short as I am currently working on gathering information for this website and working on documentation to send to schools. I will aim to add something every week. I do hope people using this blog find it useful.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Conor Prior for designing the graphics for this project. which you can see here.