‘Look! A robin!’ The four year old holding my hand darts across the forest clearing. She is enthralled by the robin’s bright red plumage and his cheery song. Next to me, a group of nursery children are picking up a ladybug, giggling as she tickles their palm. Yet another group is building a small den from sticks and stones. One boy takes home a crumpled snowdrop, carefully smoothing out its white petals and tucking the flower into his pocket. He says, “I don’t like it when people tread on snowdrops. I’m the snowdrop guardian now.”
—Fieldnotes from Forest School
I feel grateful to get to devote my career to supporting the wellbeing and development of children. My fieldnotes above provide a glimpse into the richness of their spirits and imagination. My journey in social change began as an educator, where I discovered how interesting and rewarding it is to work with young people just starting to discover the world. For me, children embody innocence and hope, and the capacity to be change-makers themselves.
During my PhD, I produced 13 peer-reviewed academic publications and gave 14 conference talks, most recently at the 2022 UNESCO Artificial Intelligence and Education Forum. All my academic outputs have been driven by the desire to help foster young people’s opportunities for inclusion, peace, and wellbeing. I find it vital to partner with organisations driving on-the-ground change. A highlight has been consulting for leaders in humanitarian aid and development, such as the World Bank and Plan International. In collaboration with academics and practitioners, I got to report on topics I care about deeply, such as inclusive education for children living in poverty and the value of investing in Early Childhood Care. I have also spent 3 years designing and delivering Widening Participation in Higher Education interventions. This strand of my work has meant partnering with Access nonprofits and travelling across high-deprivation neighbourhoods to support 286 learners from underrepresented backgrounds. Closer to home, I have also prioritised working with local children’s charities such as Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination and Make a Smile.
All too often, children facing crisis and adversity go unheard. I aim to continue building a strong body of evidence-informed research and praxis to help break cycles of disadvantage and prioritise children’s wellbeing.