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Pat Thomson

Professor of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



Professor Pat Thomson PSM PhD FAcSS FRSA is known for her interdisciplinary engagement with questions of creative and socially just learning and change. Much of this work has been in collaboration with Professor Christine Hall.

She now works part time and is no longer accepting new PhDs.

Pat 's academic writing and research education blog 'patter' is archived by the British Library and posts are frequently republished elsewhere. She tweets as @ThomsonPat and has an academic writing 'patter' facebook page. Her research activities can be seen on a range of websites - , the RAPS project, the TALE project, Performing Impact, Cultural Value and Live Art, and Quality in Alternative Education. She worked collaboratively with Professor Toby Greany to investigate school leaders work during the pandemic, this led to an ESRC project looking at the sustainability of school leadership across the four UK nations.

At present, she is an Adjunct Professor at the Free State University, South Africa, and a Visiting Professor at Deakin University, Victoria. SHe works part time at the University of South Australia.

Pat chaired the research group of the APPG for Art Craft and Design Education. In 2023 they published a major report on Art and design education - Art Now.

She has been 'resident ethnographer' with the Tate Schools and Teachers team with whom she has a long term partnership, she has also researched with Nottingham Contemporary and the Serpentine galleries.

Some history: Pat joined the School of Education in 2003 and completed a five year term as Director of Research during which time she coordinated the School's successful RAE submission. She also worked for five years as Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies. Before coming to The University of Nottingham, she directed the professional doctorate in education and an offshore PhD programme at the University of South Australia. She was Deputy Director of the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures. She previously managed strategic planning in the state education department. Before that, she was principal of Paralowie R- 12 for eleven years, deputy principal at The Parks, and founding Coordinator of Bowden Brompton Community School. She has represented Australian principals on national policy making bodies and at international conferences, and was President of the South Australian Secondary Principals Association. She was a member of national and state policy making bodies and has extensive experience in equity policy development. She was awarded a Public Service Medal in 1991, a Fulbright Scholarship in 1992, the Garth Boomer Curriculum prize from the Australian Curriculum Studies Association in 1995, and the Australian Association for Research in Education Outstanding Thesis award in 2000.

Other scholarly service: Pat is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Educational Administration and History, Teaching Education, Education Review, the Journal of Education Policy, International Journal of Leadership in Education, International Journal of Research and Methods in Education, the Australian Educational Researcher, Ethnography and Education, Improving Schools and the Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations.

She reviews regularly for the Australian Research Council and other research funding bodies.

Teaching Summary

I offer various academic writing courses to PhDers at Nottingham and in universities around the world

Research Summary

Her current research focuses on creativity, the arts and change in schools and communities, and postgraduate writing pedagogies. She maintains an interest in the changing work of school… read more

Pat is a member of the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy. Her research interests are underpinned by a commitment to social justice and an interest in questions of power, identity, place and agency. Current research focuses on:

  • the changing work of school administrators
  • postgraduate writing pedagogies and creativity
  • the arts
  • school reform

She has had extensive involvement in school, family and community programmes and is keen to work closely with practitioners and pupils as co-researchers. She has expertise in:

  • policy
  • sociology
  • cultural geography
  • text-based and arts informed research methods

Research proposals: please email Pat if you would like to discuss the appropriateness of your research topic. See also: School of Education research supervision areas.

Current Research

Her current research focuses on creativity, the arts and change in schools and communities, and postgraduate writing pedagogies. She maintains an interest in the changing work of school administrators and in children and young people who do not get the full benefits of education. All of her research is underpinned by a commitment to social justice and an interest in questions of power, identity, place and agency. She has had extensive involvement in school, family and community programmes and works closely with practitioners and pupils as co-researchers. She has expertise in policy, sociology and cultural geography and has a particular interest in text-based and arts informed research methods. She frequently uses visual research methods in her work.

Current research

Researching Arts in Primary Schools - the RAPS project - funded by the Freelands Foundation. There are two components - a survey of arts and creativity teaching in initial primary teacher education,and a case control study of twenty arts rich primary schools. With Prof Christine Hall, Dr Zhe Liang, and Dr Liam Maloy.

School leaders wellbeing and career plans. Currently doing a national survey with NAHT and ASCL. With Prof Toby Greany and Dr Nick Martindale. Funding from ESRC IAA fund.

Rapid Evidence Review of Art Craft and Design learning benefits, funded by U Nottingham Policy Impact, in partnerhship with the APPG on Art Craft and Design (reporting end 2021)

ESRC collaborative doctoral programme: Investigating learning in Nottingham Contemporary education programmes, with Nottingham Contemporary. Doctoral researcher: Cassie Kill

AHRC collaborative doctoral programme with TATE: How can gallery education support the development of art-rich schools. Doctoral researcher: Maddy Gilliam

ESRC collaborative doctoral programme: Childhood in the camps with Deborah Youdell, University of Birmingham and Ash Perrin, Flying Seagull Project. Doctoral researchers: Bobby Beaumont

Recently completed research projects:

Arts Council England: Royal Shakespeare Company Education and Tate Schools and Teachers, Tracking arts learning and engagement ( TALE) With Christine Hall. £296,985.

Tate Learning: Circuit Longitudinal Study of young people. With Becky Coles. £60,000

Serpentine Gallery evaluation of the World Without Walls programme, with Anton Franks Tate Schools and Teachers team: Summer schools 2012 -2015; and In Site of Learning, a co-constructed research pilot project.

Popup Evaluation of teacher writer programme. With Jenny Elliott and Chris Hall. £13000

DfE Rapid Evidence Review of Alternative Provision, with IFF and Martin Mills, UCL.

Past Research

Recently Completed Research Projects:

AHRC collaborative doctoral programme: Partnerships to involve hard to reach young people in the Circuit youth arts programme. With Emily Pringle, Tate Learning. Doctoral researcher: Nicola Sims.

Tate Circuit Scoping a longitudinal study, with Rebecca Coles

New Art Exchange: Bubble arts partnership, with Rebecca Coles

The Princes Trust: What's the alternative? Effective support for young people disengaging from the mainstream. With Jodie Pennachia

AHRC Cultural value programme. The value of live art: What can making and editing film tell us? with Emily Pringle, Tate Learning

AHRC cultural value programme: Cultural value in the CCE archive. (with additional funding from CCE)

Culture, Creativity and Education Signature pedagogies: ethnographic studies of artists at work ( with Chris Hall), see

Get Wet: the Papplewick water literacies project with Mary Biddulph, Natasa Lackovic, Gary Mills and Andy Townsend, local schools and Nottingham artists. ( Esmee Fairbairn, Garfield Weston Trust), see

AHRC Connected Communities Scoping Study Performing Impact: narratives, texts and performances in community theatre, with Christine Hall, Julie Sanders and Jem Bloomfield ( School of English)

Culture, Creativity and Education: Evaluation of knowledge transfer in the Royal Shakespeare Company Leading Practitioner Network ( with Chris Hall, Ken Jones, Anton Franks)

Pupil mobility in the county ( with Kay Hawe)

Leading school case studies (CCE)

NCSL Models of change leadership ( with Chris Day)

Arts Council UK/Creative Partnerships (2006-2008) The impact of Creative Partnerships on whole school change, with Christine Hall, and Ken Jones and Nafsika Alexiadou (Keele)

Nottinghamshire Arts Partnership (2008-2009) Evaluation of Nottinghamshire Arts Partnership, with Christine Hall and Edd Sellman

Pupil research project with Helen Gunter (U Manchester) and Knutsford High School

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2005-2006) Mapping the provision of alternatives to permanent exclusion with Belinda Harris and Lisa Russell

ESRC Seminar series RES-451-26-0165 (2004-2006) Engaging critically with pupil voice: children and young people as partners in school and community change, with Bridget Somekh, (MMU), Michael Fielding, (Sussex) and Jane MacGregor, (Networked Learning Communities)

ESRC RES-000-22-0834 (2004-2006) Promoting social and education inclusion through the creative arts, with Chris Hall and Lisa Russell (Nottingham)

Australian Research Council (2002-March 2005) An investigation of the declining supply of principals in Australia, with Jill Blackmore (Deakin) and Judyth Sachs (Sydney)

BECTA bursary. (2004) Enhancing a networked learning community with ICT, with Liz Brown and PSLN schools The full report is available on

Children's Fund: A formative evaluation of the Mansfield Alternatives to Exclusion (MATE) strategy (2005), Pat Thomson, Belinda Harris, Kerry Vincent Richard Toalster, (CREDE, University of Nottingham)

DfES Innnovations ( 2004) Evaluation of innovations in Knutsford High School with Helen Gunter ( U Manchester)

DfES (2003-2004) An investigation of queries that school offices receive from parents/carers, with Linda Ellison, Tina Byrom and Donna Bulman (Nottingham) The final report is available on

McWilliam, E; Taylor, P; Thomson, P; Green, W; Maxwell, T Wildy, H; Simons, D (2002) Research training in doctoral programs: what can be learnt from professional doctorates? Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs The final report is available from

Sanderson V and Thomson, P ( 2002) Discipline and diversity: The impact of punishment on the learning of Aboriginal students. ARC funded research: Final Report .

Thomson, P (2002) Active citizenship action research projects. Final report. Canberra: Civics and Citizenship Education Professional Development Programme

Thomson, P ( 2002) Strengthening school-family relationships. Policy and professional development materials. Hobart: Tasmanian Education Department.

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