School of Education

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Image of Helen Victoria Smith

Helen Victoria Smith

Assistant Professor (Primary Education), Faculty of Social Sciences


Teaching Summary

Since 2017, I worked across several programmes - School Direct Primary PGCE, Core Primary PGCE, and PGCES. I have also contributed to literacy modules on the BA and MA Education courses.

In July 2020, I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and from August 2020, I became a course leader for the Core Primary PGCE, and English lead for the two Primary PGCE programmes.

Prior to working in higher education, I worked for thirteen years as a primary school teacher, specialising in the teaching and learning of English. I then worked as a lecturer in a further education college running courses for parents/carers of primary aged children who wanted to find out how to support their children's literacy and numeracy development. These were closely linked to the Primary National Curriculum and explored ways that children's learning could be supported at home in informal and creative ways.

Research Summary

From 2015 to 2018, I completed my PhD thesis - Place, Policy and Pedagogy: A literacy ethnography of a small town

This was an ethnographic study of pre-school literacy in an East Midlands' town. It explored how the resources there were used and experienced by mothers to support their children's literacy development. The study shed light on the different ways in which mothers are 'taught' to support their children's learning depending on where they live and where they go. This has implications for how 'ready' children are for school, and how well they are likely to succeed when they get there. It therefore has relevance to primary education, as well as to how communities/parents support young children's literacy learning.

The research was funded through an ESRC studentship.

Conference Papers and Presentations

'Literacy in the library: What counts for young children?'

UKLA 52nd International Conference 8-10 July 2016

'Ready for school? Exploring the differing understandings of mothers and professionals'

EECERA 27th Conference, Italy 29 August - 1 September 2017

'Paradoxical Pedagogies: Supporting mothers to support young children's literacy'

UKLA 54th International Conference 6-8 July 2018

EECERA 28th Conference, Hungary 28-31 August 2018


'What do we mean by school-ready?'

University of Nottingham Primary Education Network - 4 September 2017

'Helping Parents and Children to Get Ready for School'

ESRC Blog - 5 December 2018

'Building Communities of Engaged Readers'

University of Nottingham Primary Education Network - 9 September 2019

'Children Reading in Lockdown'

University of Nottingham Primary Education Network - 21 June 2021


'Poorer parents feel patronised by targeted 'school readiness' classes'

Nursery World - 22 August 2018

'Ready for School: Ensuring a Positive Start'

Society Now (ESRC research making an impact) - Autumn 2018

Selected Publications

Helen is a member of the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy.

Her research supervision areas are underpinned by a commitment to social justice and challenging dominant discourses, and include:

early and primary literacy education

parental involvement in education

community and family literacies

Helen is particularly interested in supervising students engaging in research that employs ethnographic methods.

Also see: School of Education Research Supervision Areas

Past Research

I collected qualitative data for a research project on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library scheme that operates in a particular part of Nottingham (2014).

I conducted a pilot study for my PhD research (which also fed in to my Masters dissertation) exploring children's literacy in a town library through the lens of spatial theory (2015).

School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

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