Helen Gormley, a former IoE Master’s degree student, won the Wilkie Calvert Studentship to pursue her part-time PhD research at the IoE with a focus on exploring the use of ‘continuous provision’, that is resources and areas that have been laid out for pre-school children to explore freely, to help develop their mathematical literacy. Helen added that:

“This proposed PhD research project was born out of the struggle many Reception teachers face in balancing play-based learning with formal teaching. The study focuses on how Reception children can be taught specific mathematical concepts and develop their own mathematical understanding through purposeful interaction with teachers as they play. It aims to bridge the gap between formal and informal methods of teaching and learning, providing teachers with evidence based research demonstrating the practical application of academic theory. It is hoped that this study will provide teachers with a toolkit for intentionally and systematically developing mathematical literacy during ‘continuous provision’, where children freely explore the construction, role-play or other creative resources in the classroom environment.”

The Wilkie Calvert studentship scheme is aimed at “supporting professionals to undertake PhD research, on a part-time basis, which will both support their own career development and be of strategic importance to their employer”. The University will provide funding to cover the cost of tuition fees for part-time PhD study at the UK/EU rate for five years.

On receiving this scholarship, Helen said “I am delighted to be awarded the Wilkie Calvert studentship and will be collaborating with my school for my PhD research”. Helen will begin her doctoral research in September 2020, and will be supervised by Prof. Helen Bilton, an expert in early years education, and Dr. Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai, an expert in primary mathematics education. Dr. Holly Joseph, the Co-Director of the Postgraduate Research Studies at the Institute of Education said that “We are delighted that Helen has been successful in securing this prestigious and competitive scholarship and we look forward to welcoming her in September”.

Helen qualified as a primary school teacher in 1991 and have taught all ages, from Reception to Year 8. Her main area of expertise is music but in recent years she has become more involved with developing mathematics teaching in Reception and Key Stage 1 (KS1), particularly problem solving and independent learning. Helen took a year out in the 2018-2019 academic year to study for a Master’s degree in Education at the University of Reading, graduating with Distinction in December 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Foley.  She is currently teaching part-time in a small village primary school, where she works with all classes.