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Effective Instruction in Literacy for Pupils with autism in SEN settings

   School of Education

   Friday, November 05, 2021  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Effective Instruction in Literacy for Pupils with autism in SEN settings

Abbey School & CIEREI, School of Educational Sciences, Bangor University Collaborative PhD award

Background to the Project

Abbey School is a new independent provision in Chester for 75 pupils aged 4-19 years who have autism. Located in the heart of Chester, the ethos of the school is to pursue excellence in all that it does and to seek new ways of providing effective support for learning, development, and growth among its pupils and its staff.  

The mission of CIEREI is to contribute to the creation of co-produced close-to-practice impact evidence that informs policy and practice in order to have a positive impact on the learning and wellbeing outcomes for children, families and education staff through schools. The partnership with Abbey School and CEDAR is a unique opportunity to develop state-of-the art knowledge of evidence-based approaches in autism education. Closing date 12 noon 5th November 2021.

 Studentship: Literacy development for pupils with autism in SEN settings

Learning to read and write are considered two of the most important skills a child will acquire during their education. These literacy skills are considered crucial for allowing a child to progress academically and to lead a successful life post-education. Although the importance of literacy skills have been highlighted by researchers, national reports indicate that many children with learning disabilities and/or autism experience significant difficulties in acquiring basic literacy skills by the time they leave school (e.g., Department for Education, 2018). 

This studentship will broadly focus on curriculum design and effective instruction in literacy for pupils with autism in SEN settings. During this studentship, there will be opportunities to contribute to the development, refinement and evaluation of the Abbey School Literacy approach. This project could involve working across a number of collaborating settings in England and Wales, and using a mixed-methods approach that could include evidence synthesis, staff surveys, interviews, focused evaluations, and robust experimental methods.    

The majority of the study will take place between Bangor University and Abbey School in Chester. The University has a campus in Wrexham, but the successful candidate will spend much of their time between Abbey school and Bangor University and perhaps other SEN settings across the North West and North Wales. The PhD will also include opportunities to develop teaching experience in the University setting and an expectation for the successful candidate to complete the PGCertHE and develop their lecturing experience during their studentship. 


This studentship project represents one element of a significant investment in an ambitious long-term collaborative research and development programme involving Abbey School, CIEREI, and CEDAR spanning the next decade. As such, the successful candidate will join a large collaborative team of experienced academics working between the three partnership organisations (Professors Carl Hughes, Sandy Toogood, Richard Hastings, & Drs Corinna Grindle, Katy Lee, Steve Noone), and a multi-disciplinary team of teaching and applied practitioners working in Abbey School.


Studentships are highly competitive, candidates should have an excellent academic background in Psychology or related areas (e.g., Education), holding a 1st or strong upper 2nd class degree; it is usual for PhD applicants to also hold a relevant Masters qualification. 


Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview, which are expected to take place in November 2021. After interview, a final short-list of applicants will be put forward to a Panel which final decisions with regard to studentship awards will be made. 


A completed application form, and accompanying documents for admission to doctoral study at Bangor University, should be submitted via the Direct Application Service at by 12.00 noon on November 5th 2021

Incomplete applications or applications received after this specified time will not be accepted. On the on-line application, please indicate that you are applying for the Abbey School-CIEREI collaborative award under the 'Finance' section. Please use the following working title under the 'Project title' section: Effective Instruction in Literacy for Pupils in SEN Settings. Please specify the potential start date as 5th January, 2022

The application must contain the following documents:

1.    Covering letter: Please address to Professor Carl Hughes. The covering letter must name the collaborative studentship being applied for. It must set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Bangor University and the collaborative project; your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study; and your academic interests generally, and particularly how these relate to the description of the project supplied. The covering letter should be no more than two pages.

2.    Academic/Professional Qualifications: This particular study requires a high degree of fluency in English. Fluency in Welsh is also desirable. Please indicate your ability to work through the medium of Welsh and English. Where appropriate, this should include proof any Welsh language qualifications and English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).

3.    References: All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves and include the references with their application.

4.    Curriculum Vitae: This should be no longer than two pages.

5.    Reflections on the research topic: For this collaborative studentship, your reflective piece should build directly on the outline description that has been supplied. Your reflection should be up to a maximum of 1500 words, not including bibliographic references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your reflection piece:

· Your reflections on the aims and purpose of the research;

· An overview of some key research literature relevant to the study;

· Your ideas for developing the design and methods of the study;

· A description of potential outcomes of the project for our understanding, knowledge, policy and practice (as appropriate to the topic);

· Bibliographic references


Funding Notes

The Studentship Award will commence in January 2022 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant; and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements.

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