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  First Steps to Independence: Evaluating a Behaviourally Informed Independent Travel Training Programme (PATEL_ECO22SENSS)

   School of Economics

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  Dr A Patel  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Today’s children are growing up in tough times. Children’s services are under serious pressure, mental health problems are increasingly common, and COVID has disrupted childhoods across the UK. One group of children particularly affected are those with special educational needs and disability (SEND). For them, travelling independently could unlock the door to social activities, employment or education, help combat social isolation, and ultimately enable an economically active and fulfilling life.

Current home to school transport services can be detrimental to the environment and contribute to local authorities’ budget pressures. Where appropriate, if children and young people could switch to greener, healthier, and more sustainable modes of transport (e.g., public transport or walking), there may be benefits to all. This project, the first of its kind, will evaluate whether behavioural science informed independent travel training can support these goals.

This innovative and exciting project will use mixed methods (including an RCT in UK schools) to evaluate the impact of a behavioural science informed independent travel training programme (for SEND children, 11-16 years old) in four dimensions:

1.   Progress towards independent travel

2.   School attendance, behaviour, and attainment

3.   Non-cognitive skills, behavioural and psychological measures

4.   Broader impacts

A comprehensive training package will be delivered by supervisors at UEA and Norfolk County Council (NCC). Training opportunities include:

·        On the job training interacting with senior policymakers at NCC

·        Being embedded in NCC’s Transformation Community, training in methods and approaches to transformation in local government

Entry requirements

Applicants will have 2:1 in an undergraduate and Master’s degrees (successful candidates are normally expected to achieve 60% or above in a Master’s degree) in Economics or similar, and excellent interpersonal skills. Experience of working with vulnerable groups, children or adults with disabilities, would be valuable. This PhD would particularly suit someone with an interest in a local government and policymaking career.

Applications are required to both UEA (for the PhD) and SeNSS (for the funding).

Economics (10) Education (11) Politics & Government (30) Psychology (31) Sociology (32)

Funding Notes

This project has been selected for funding by the SeNSS ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership. The studentship is a +3 award (a three-year PhD), and may be taken full-time or part-time.
The studentship award covers your university fees, and provides you with a stipend at UKRI rates (£15,609 for 2021/22). You will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant; additional funds are available to students with disabilities or long-term health conditions, through Disabled Students’ Allowance.
Unfortunately, no additional funds are available to assist with visa or other relocation costs


i) Heckman, J. J. (2006) “Skill formation and the Economics in Investing in Disadvantaged Children” Science 312(5782): 1900-1902.
ii) Mayer, S. E., Kalil, A., Oreopoulos, P., and S. Gallegos (2018) “Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together Intervention” Journal of Human Resources 54(4): 900-925.
iii) Park, C.H., Welch, E.W. and P.S. Sriraj (2016) “An integrative theory-driven framework for evaluating travel training programs” Evaluation and Program Planning 59: 7-20.
iv) Local Government Association (2019) “Understanding the drivers for rising demand and associated costs for home-to-school transport”.
v) Alwell, M., and Cobb, B. (2009) “Functional life skills curricular interventions for youth with disabilities: A systematic review” Career Development for Exceptional Individuals 32: 82–93.

Where will I study?