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Inaugural Doctoral fellowship winner announced

BERA is delighted to announce that Sharon Smith is the first recipient of our new doctoral fellowship. Sharon will undertake her PhD at the University of Birmingham and her proposal is titled Being ‘mum’ – the subjectivity of parent carers and its impact on inclusion.

Sharon’s research study intends to explore how discourses, through policy and practice, as well as wider societal pressures, determine how parent carers of children with SEND understand their identities and experiences, and how this subsequently impacts on their interactions with the education system. It will explore how discourses construct the identity of ‘mum’, a frequently used short-hand that describes the role of parents of children with SEND, and how/why some parent carers resist this construction and attempt instead to subvert or disrupt the education system in order to seek a suitable education for their child.

Furthermore, it will seek to explore how individual experiences and understandings impact parents’ views about what effective inclusion in education looks like, whether inclusion is something they desire or do not hold as important, and how this impacts the choices they make in relation to their child’s education. Key questions that the research will address include: 

  • How is the role of parents of children with SEND articulated within official documents and policy?
  • How do parents of children with SEND understand their role, experiences and identities?
  • What discourses inform the way parents construct their experiences and identities?
  • What role do parents play in co-producing discourses that have power effects on themselves and other parents?
  • How do parents resist discourses at a collective or individual level, seeking alternative ways of being?
  • What is the impact of discourses related to parent carers in relation to inclusion in education?

“We are thrilled that Sharon has been successful in winning this first BERA Doctoral Fellowship. This is a fantastic achievement and one that provides a powerful platform for what promises to be a valuable contribution to our current understanding of the relationship between parent carers of children with SEND and our education systems.”

Gerry Czerniawski, Chair of BERA’s Engagement Committee, who led the judging panel

Thank you to all those who applied, we were delighted in the quality of applications.

The BERA Doctoral Fellowship was launched in 2019 to recognise the significance that BERA places in investing in academic capability and developing its potential for future educational research.  These scholarships are available to students who can demonstrate excellent academic ability, creativity and imagination.  BERA recognises the role that both PhDs and Professional Doctorates in Education (EdDs) can play in realising that potential and a fellowship for an EdD will be funded in 2020. 

Recipients will receive funding either against their annual fees or their maintenance as well as a yearly concessionary place to the annual BERA Conference with some additional support for travel and/or accommodation and membership of BERA for the duration of the award.  


EdD Award Open for Applications-Friday October 3, 2019

EdD Award Applications Close- 12pm January 9, 2020

Judging Period and Interviews of selected candidates- February-March 2020

Winner announced and fellowship commences-April 2020


Click here to download the application form

Profile picture of Sharon Smith
Sharon Smith, Mrs

PhD student at University of Birmingham

Sharon Smith is a final-year PhD student in the School of Education at the University of Birmingham. Her research interests relate to inclusion, education, the role of parents of children/young people with SEND, co-production, critical disability...