Deborah Buttery has been awarded a prestigious SeNSS ESRC studentship to pursue her part-time PhD research at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education (IoE). Her project will focus on exploring the use of literature in the primary languages classroom and its impact on linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes. Deborah added that:

“This proposed PhD research project was born out of the current issue with declining number of pupils studying languages at both GCSE and A-Level, with the hope that earlier intervention can help reverse this trend. The study focuses on how different approaches in the classroom, including the use of literature, affects the proficiency and attitudes of Year 5 children towards learning French. It is hoped that this study will provide teachers with a toolkit for intentionally and systematically developing both proficiency and motivation in French in the classroom that will continue into secondary school and beyond.”

The SeNSS (South East Network for Social Sciences) studentship scheme, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), aims to provide “world-class opportunities for social science research, training and collaboration” and will provide funding to cover the cost of tuition fees and living costs for part-time PhD study at the UK/EU rate for five years.

On receiving this scholarship, Deborah said “I am delighted to be awarded the SeNSS studentship and will be collaborating with the school where I work for my PhD research, as well as recruiting other schools”.

Deborah will begin her doctoral research in October 2022, and will be supervised by Professor Suzanne Graham, a research expert in Modern Foreign Languages education, Professor Naomi Flynn, a research expert in literacy in primary education, and Dr. Anthony Zhang, who will contribute his expertise in statistical analysis to the supervisory team.

Deborah qualified as a secondary school teacher in 2006, and has since taught all ages, from Reception to Year 13. Her main area of expertise is French but she has also taught German and Spanish; she has also provided and coordinated language support for pupils with English as an additional language. In 2014, Deborah balanced part-time work with studying for a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London, graduating with Distinction in July 2016. Her action research project completed for her Master’s has recently been published in Children’s Literature in Action. She is currently teaching part-time in an independent prep school, where she works with several year groups.