Institute of Education


VIRTUAL EVENT: Children’s agency and the curriculum

18 June 2021, 10:00 am–3:00 pm

Child smiling and sitting against a wall with notebook in hand. Image: Katerina Holmes via Pexels

This Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy (0-11) biennial conference explores to what extent children express their own views and make independent choices in their education.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy

This conference is held in collaboration with the Education Learning Trust and the Association for the Study of Primary Education (ASPE) and is focussed on children’s agency: the capacity for children to act independently and make their own choices.

The event will include keynotes and workshops from experts in education research, practice, and policy, as well as the voices of children themselves. It aims to inform and inspire attendees and also allow for the exchange of ideas, through the use of live interactive features and breakout groups.

We want to learn from attendees and enable collaboration between different sectors during and beyond the conference to create lasting impact through new networks.

Join us to help make a positive change to children’s education and life chances.


Join us for our morning session from 10am to 12pm featuring keynote talks. 

Engage in our choice of workshop sessions from 1pm to 2pm.


Pupil voice and agency

Speaker: Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chartered College of Teaching

Alison will speak about the importance of pupil voice and agency. She will draw upon her experience of teaching and headship as well as her early work with Professor Michael Fielding and Professor Jean Rudduck.

The ethic of Learning without Limits is intrinsically about the importance of trust, co-agency and inclusion. She will talk about this research with colleagues from the University of Cambridge, exploring an alternative improvement agenda and leadership dispositions that enable this.

She will also reflect upon her decision to lead the Chartered College of Teaching in pursuit of teachers' intellectual liberation.

Play in the time of pandemic: children’s agency and lost learning

Speaker: Professor Sue Rogers, UCL Institute of Education

At the time of writing children, their families and teachers are navigating the challenges of working and playing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ways in which the pandemic has both exacerbated and uncovered inequality has led to the concept of lost learning. How and in what ways that lost learning will be conceptualised and recovered for young children remains to be seen.

A renewed appreciation of the importance of children’s agency in the outdoors, play and the importance of creativity to health and wellbeing may also play a part in our journey back from the effects of the pandemic and the very tangible ways it has altered our day to day lives and working practices.

It remains to be seen if in the post-pandemic world play, through which children may exercise agency, is further marginalised in order to recover lost school learning or if the time has come to recognize more fully that in order to thrive and cope with adversity we need opportunities to engage in less formal, creative and nature-based activity.  

Children’s learning experiences

Speaker: Lorenzo Manera, Reggio Children Foundation and University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE)

Lorenzo's talk aims firstly to present possible ways to design experiences based on co-construction and children engagement in hybridised practices developed at Fondazione Reggio Children. Secondly, to present research on children’s learning experiences when connecting analog and digital materials in educational contexts.

The research presented considers digital spaces to be some of the most relevant innovative environments of our era. This is because they can destructure everyday perception and offer children and adults the chance to decode, symbolise and re-signify the meaning of the images they create, projecting them in immersive environments and making new experiences that integrate digital and physical materials possible. 

To avoid a passive experience with digital technologies, where children spend more time watching screens than exploring materials and possibilities, the contribution aims to describe experiences more similar to an online workshop, supporting the use of digital technologies for designing and creating as well as children’s agencies.

Experiences of mixed-race children in primary school

Speaker: Rachel C. Boyle, Leeds Beckett University

Rachel's talk will address the experiences of mixed-race children in primary school. It presents an initial discussion from a current project on how children’s agency is both impacted and enhanced by their racialised position.

It will specifically look at how children see themselves represented in primary school both in the curriculum and in their teachers themselves.

The talk will explore the notion of belonging and discuss how mixed-race children form their sense of self through interactions with both their peers and their teachers. It will look at statistical information about the teaching profession and how further work is needed to diversify the teaching body to enhance the agency of mixed-race children.


You can join these on the day of the event but reserving your place is strongly advised.

  • Re-imagining pupil voice: children conducting research to lead on improvement
    Hosted by: The Education Learning Trust (A multi academy trust, comprising of 6 schools in the Manchester area)
  • To what extent can young children express their own views and make independent choices in their education?
    Hosted by: Dr. Penny Hay, Bath Spa University and Jayne Rochford Smith, St Andrew’s Church School 
  • Practical strategies to enhance learning through play and children’s agency
    Hosted by: Dr Sara Baker and Soizic Le Courtois, PEDAL, University of Cambridge.
  • Implementing Children's Rights in Schools
    Hosted by: Professor Hugh Starkey, IOE, and Dr Lee Jerome, Middlesex University
  • How citizenship and active citizenship support and develop children’s agency
    Hosted by: Liz Moorse, CEO, Association for Citizenship Teaching, and Nic Smallshaw, First News

See: more information about the workshops | book your place


Image: Katerina Holmes via Pexels

About the Speakers

Professor Dame Alison Peacock

CEO at the Chartered College of Teaching

Professor Alison Peacock

Prior to joining the Chartered College, Dame Alison was Executive Headteacher of The Wroxham School in Hertfordshire.

Her career to date has spanned primary, secondary and advisory roles. She is an Honorary Fellow of Queens College Cambridge and a Visiting Professor of both the University of Hertfordshire and Glyndŵr University.

Her research is published in a series of books about Learning without Limits offering an alternative approach to inclusive school improvement.

Professor Sue Rogers

Director (Interim) at the UCL Institute of Education

Professor Sue Rogers

Professor Sue Rogers was appointed Interim Director of the UCL Institute of Education in January 2020. Prior to this Sue served as Pro-Director Academic Development since January 2016 and was responsible for the day-to-day line-management of the IOE's Heads of Department.

Sue is an early childhood development and primary education specialist with research interests in pedagogy and curriculum in early childhood, the role of play in early learning, professional learning in the early childhood workforce and approaches to evidence-informed practice.

More about Professor Sue Rogers

Lorenzo Manera

Postdoctoral fellow in Aesthetics and Pedagogy at Department of Education and Human Sciences of UNIMORE and at the Reggio Children Foundation

Lorenzo Manera
Lorenzo holds a PhD in Human Sciences. He is a board member of the PhD in Reggio Studies promoted by UNIMORE and the Reggio Children Foundation, and is a member of the Italian Society of Aesthetics.

Rachel C. Boyle

Head of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University

Rachel Boyle

Rachel’s research focuses on race, racism ethnicity and education. She uses critical race theory as a theoretical framework to examine race inequalities in society, specifically in education.

The experiences she had growing up as a mixed-race child in the 1980s have underpinned Rachel’s passion for and commitment to addressing racial inequality in education.

More recently Rachel has worked across the media to provide commentary on societal issues of racism including the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and racism within the UK.

Dr Penny Hay (FRSA, FHEA)

Reader in Creative Teaching and Learning at Bath Spa University

Dr Penny Hay

Penny Hay is an artist and educator. She is a Reader in Creative Teaching and Learning and Senior Lecturer in Arts Education, School of Education.

She is also a Research Fellow at the Centre for Cultural and Creative Industries, Bath Spa University and Director of Research at House of Imagination (formerly 5x5x5=creativity).

Signature projects include School Without Walls, House of Imagination and Forest of Imagination.

More about Dr Penny Hay (FRSA, FHEA)

Jayne Rochford-Smith

Headteacher at St Andrew's Church School in Bath

Jayne Rochford-Smith

Jayne has worked in primary education within Bath for 20 years and is also a specialist in Early Years Education and Inclusion.

Jayne has also worked as a Lead Early Years Practitioner, trainer and moderator for the local authority for many years. Jayne has an arts education background with a fine art degree and postgraduate in printmaking and continues to have a deep routed love of the visual arts.

Professor Hugh Starkey

Professor of Citizenship and Human Rights Education at UCL Institute of Education

Hugh Starkey. Image: Jason Ilagan for the UCL Institute of Education

Hugh's research focuses on education for democratic citizenship and human rights in a globalising world. He is editor of the London Review of Education.

More about Professor Hugh Starkey

Dr Lee Jerome

Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University

Lee Jerome

Lee is course leader for the MA Childhood and Education in Diverse Societies at Middlesex University.

He is co-editor of the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) journal Teaching Citizenship and editor of Education, Citizenship and Social Justice.

Liz Moorse

Chief Executive at the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT)

Liz Moorse

Alongside leadership responsibilities for the charity, Liz directs education programmes including the Five Nations Network for Citizenship and Values education which links teachers, policy makers and academics across the UK and Ireland.

Nic Smallshaw

Head of Education at First News

Nic Smallshaw

Nic, an experienced primary teacher, leads a team of educators creating weekly KS2 and KS3 classroom activities focussing on topics in the news.

These support reading development, discussion and debate of global issues, understanding the journalistic process and critical literacy. Over the past ten years in her role at First News, she has led various news-based projects and events with schools throughout the UK.

Sara Baker

Reader in Developmental Psychology and Education at Play in Education, Development & Learning (PEDAL), University of Cambridge

Sara Baker

Soizic Le Courtois

PhD student at PEDAL, University of Cambridge

Soizic Le Courtois