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 have 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, in August 2020, I became a course leader and English Lead for the Primary PGCE. Since August 2023, I have continued to lead Primary English in addition to taking on the roles of Primary Curriculum Lead and the School of Education Disability Liaison Officer.

Prior to moving into 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

2022 to 2023 - Working as a co-investigator on the project - Evidence of Resilience, Courage and Care Among Teachers During the Pandemic

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 deficit discourses, and include:

early and primary literacy education

parental involvement in education

community and family literacies

Helen is particularly interested in supervising prospective doctoral students engaging in research that employs ethnographic methods. Please write to her with ideas for a research proposal.

Also see: School of Education Research Supervision Areas

Past Research

2014 - Collecting qualitative data for research into how the Dolly Parton Imagination Library scheme was operating in Nottingham.

2015 - Conducting 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 to 2018 - Completing my ESRC-funded PhD - 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 were 'taught' to support their children's learning depending on where they lived and where they went, which had implications for how 'ready' their children were for school, and how well they were likely to succeed when they get there.

2021 - Worked with the Institute of Policy and Engagement (University of Nottingham) to research family engagement in the Highfields Park area of the university campus.

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

'Repositioning parents, professionals and literacy resources to enable advantage for all'

UKLA 57th International Conference 1-3 July 2022


'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

School of Education

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

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