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Amanda Henshall

Amanda Henshall BA Hons, PGCE, MA, PhD

Amanda Henshall
BA Hons, PGCE, MA, PhD

Senior Lecturer

Department of Education & Community Studies

Faculty of Education & Health

Amanda Henshall is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education & Community Studies at the University of Greenwich.

Amanda joined the university in 2012, initially as a research fellow, and promoted to senior lecturer in 2013 as course leader on Supporting Learners with Additional Needs (Level 5) foundation degree. She was also a seminar tutor on two, Year 1 core courses: Education Children and Society, and Childhood in Social and Cultural Perspectives. In addition, Amanda supervised several Year 3 inquiry projects in both childhood studies and education studies.

Previously, Amanda was a research officer at the National Children's Bureau (NCB), a voluntary sector organisation that provided Amanda with practical and applied research experience. Here she worked on national and government-funded mixed methods studies projects, small scale projects evaluating organisations and services, and a diverse range of topics such as provision for pupils with special educational needs; persistent non-attendance of white working class girls; child and adolescent mental health services; play; and young people's participation in research.

Prior to joining the NCB, Amanda worked as a freelance researcher on a widening participation project at the University of the Arts, funded by the National Arts Learning Network (NALN). She was also a research officer at the Institute of Education, working on an EU-funded project on citizenship education. She was also a research manager at the former Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, where she worked on a variety of curriculum monitoring projects.

Amanda's PhD in Educational Research was awarded by the University of Lancaster in 2001. Her thesis was entitled Talking books: Teachers on teaching texts by women on A level English literature courses; this empirical study built on her background as a secondary school teacher of English.

Posts held previously:

  • 2012, Research Fellow, University of Greenwich
  • 2007-11, Research Officer, National Children's Bureau
  • Senior Lecturer, Department of Education & Community Studies
  • Course leader for FdA Supporting Learners with Additional Needs 
  • Supporting the Director of Research, develop research culture in writing funding bids, organising seminars and working on the school's submission
  • ESRC funding for MA and PhD
  • Member of British Educational Research Association
  • Visiting lecturer, University of Cumbria

Amanda's latest study is in collaboration with a colleague at the University of Greenwich, exploring the use of poetry as a tool for critical reflection with PGCE students. In relation to this, she has also been working on a literature review on the role of poetry in the development of children's language skills.

Amanda gave a conference paper in 2013 which reviewed aspects of her PhD thesis, specifically using the work of Bourdieu as a lens to understanding views of what quality means in relation to literary texts. Amanda is in the process of setting up a further round of interviews to explore this with a different group of teachers and see if anything, what has changed since the time she collected data for her thesis. This work is particularly valuable in the context of the forthcoming changes to the GCSE in English, with its proposed return to a focus on texts from the English 'literary heritage'. Amanda's work problematises this concept and the idea that there is any real consensus on what constitutes the canon of English literature.

Amanda has also been extending her skills in research methodology, specifically Fairclough's Critical Discourse Analysis, and intends using this method to analyse policy documents in relation to the presence in schools of staff from external agencies.

Funded research projects

Special educational needs and disability: Understanding local variation in prevalence, service provision and support (2010)

During her time at NCB, Amanda was part of a team working on a large project, funded by the then DCSF, which focused on the issue of the so called 'postcode lottery' provision for children with special educational needs. This project adopted the following methods:

  • A literature review
  • Analysis of published statistical data on SEN prevalence and related areas such as rate of tribunal appeals
  • Case studies in 16 local authorities, comprising interviews with staff from the voluntary and community sector, with senior officers in local authorities and Parent Partnership Service coordinators (84 interviews in total, involving 96 participants)
  • Interviews with SEN coordinators in 21 schools

The case study sample was constructed to include local authorities with different levels of pupils identified with SEN, and also a range of different approaches to support for children with SEN. This allowed exploration of the underlying reasons for the statistics for these differences.

The research found that there were differences between local authorities with regard to provision and practice for children with SEN, but some forms of variation seemed to be inevitable in response to local circumstances. The research also found evidence of common trends such as a commitment to multi-agency working. Overall, there was no straightforward explanation for variation; it was produced by a range of factors such as range of educational provision, levels of funding, leadership, planning and policies, and partnership with parents.

Lewis, J., Mooney, A., Brady, L. M., Gill, C., Henshall, A., Willmott, N., Owen, C., Evans, K. and Statham, J. (2010). Special educational needs and disability: Understanding local variation in prevalence, service provision and support (Research Report DCSF-RR211). Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), London, UK. 

Play and exercise in the early years: Physically active play in early childhood provision (2008)

This study was commissioned by Play England and funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. At the time there was much speculation about the activity levels of young children in early years' settings and concern about rising levels of childhood obesity, but little concrete evidence on how active children were.

This exploratory study adopted a case study method, with three case studies in one London borough. The study consisted of a literature review, repeated quantitative and qualitative observations of 19 specific children, and interviews with parents and staff at the settings.

The researchers found that an average of eight minutes in every 15 minute observation period featured some physically active play. There were significant differences in activity levels between children, and also between observations for the same child.

The proportion of observed time which included physically active play varied between the three settings, from 44% in one setting to 61% in another. The proportion of observed time involving time outside also varied between settings, from 41% to 12%.

All three settings emphasised the importance of active play, but there were some differences in their overall approach. The settings stressed the importance of 'free-flow' play; that is, children being able to move independently and freely, and to choose which activities to engage in, but in only two did this include free-flow between inside and outside space. The third setting featured much more activity directed by staff rather than by the children themselves.

Amongst the sample children, there were clear differences in the quantity of physically active play recorded, the degree of intensity of that play, how much of it was in or outdoors, how far it was self-directed as opposed to organised by a member of staff, the range of activity and use of equipment, and the extent to which the children engaged in activities with other children.

In terms of inside play, the physical layout of the settings had a substantial impact on both the type of play children engaged in and how active they were.

This exploratory study adopted a case study method, with three case studies in one London borough. The study consisted of a literature review, repeated quantitative and qualitative observations of 19 specific children, and interviews with parents and staff at the settings.