The University of Reading has been awarded funding from the Strategic Priorities Fund which is managed by Research England (a research grant funding body for English universities). The fund is designed to support rapid response policy engagement projects in universities to help them link effectively with policy research priorities and opportunities, from the local to the international.

In this round of funding, two academics at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education have been successful in their Strategic Priorities Fund applications, and we would like to congratulate them. Details of these two funded rapid response policy engagement projects can be found below.


Project 1:  Working with policy makers to shape the national strategy for sustainability and climate change in education and children’s services

Research team: Prof. Helen Bilton (Professor of Outdoor Learning, University of Reading) and Gail Hickman (Research assistant)

Duration of the study: 6 January to 31 March 2022

Value of the funding: £9,047.34


On the back of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), England’s Department for Education (DfE) published Sustainability & Climate Change A draft strategy for the education & children’s services systems, which brings together “short, medium and longer-term actions that will enable Government to make progress towards achieving the four strategic aims and overarching vision.” The document lays out suggestions for Early Years, Schools, Further Education, Higher Education, Children’s Social Care. As part of the process of putting the University of Reading as a central player in terms of Climate Change Education and given the call in the DfE document for interested parties to become involved, funding was sought to be actively involved with policy makers, and thereby work towards the ambition of improving the dialogue between universities and policy makers on Sustainability and Climate Change Education and in particular with an outdoor focus. Part of the funding will go towards engaging with other Governmental groups, such as the Select Committee on Mobilising Action on Climate Change and Environment – Behaviour Change, the Cabinet Office cross-government ‘Access to the Outdoors’ commission and a cross party parliamentary group, Peers for the Planet.

You can find more about Prof. Bilton’s research interests here. She tweets at @DrHelenBilton.


Project 2:  Developing a co-designed research agenda to inform policy on Violence Reduction

Research team: Dr. Karen Jones (Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Management, University of Reading), Dr. Liz Houldsworth (Henley Business School), Dr. Simonetta Longhi (Department of Economics) and Dr. Loua Khalil (Henley Business School)

Duration of the study: 6 January to 31 March 2022

Value of the funding: £6,971.12


In March 2019, the UK Treasury announced a £100m Serious Violence Fund to address violent crime. Around £35m was allocated to supporting a multi-agency approach to tackle and prevent serious violence at a local level. Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) were created to coordinate partnerships. VRUs act as the strategic driver for active leadership and operational multi-agency working to tackle violent crime in communities. Dr. Jones is leading an ambitious project that aims to strengthen and extend existing relationships with Thames Valley VRU (TVVRU) and its stakeholders in order to develop a co-designed research agenda that responds to the real-world problem of violent crime and is aligned with the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy (2018), as well as TVVRU’s research and evaluation priorities. As this project has relevance to the Home Office Areas of Research Interest (ARIs), which includes understanding the drivers of serious violence, part of the funding will support engagement with policy makers, such as the Ministry of Justice and New Futures Network and the Home Office who fund VRUs.

To learn more about Dr. Jones’ research, visit her profile page here. She tweets at @karenjo94388059.