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Project 5: First Steps to Independence: Evaluating a Behaviourally Informed Travel Training Programme


   School of Economics

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  Dr A Patel, Dr O Borcan  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Today’s children are growing up in tough times. Funding for children’s services is under serious pressure, mental health problems are increasingly common, and the COVID pandemic has disrupted childhoods across the UK. One group of children particularly affected by such adverse climates are those with special educational needs and disability (SEND). Norfolk County Council (NCC) are committed to ensure that all children and young people with SEND reach their potential and thrive and are working together with The University of East Anglia (UEA) to continue to improve and evaluate a programme for SEND children, which aims to equip them with a skill fundamental to a teenage and adult life: independent travel skills. Travelling independently unlocks the door to social activities, employment, education, or volunteering opportunities, helps to combat social isolation, and ultimately supports individuals to achieve and maintain an economically active and fulfilling life.

Current home to school transport provision can be detrimental to the environment and contribute to budget pressures for local authorities. Where appropriate, if children and young people are able to switch to greener, healthier, and more sustainable modes of transport (e.g., public transport, cycling or walking), there could be benefits to all. This project, the first of its kind, will evaluate whether behavioural science informed independent travel training can support these goals. The successful student will be pivotal in achieving project objectives from leading the proposed final design of the randomised control trial (RCT), working closely with NCC to ensure it is implemented appropriately and that data collection are robust, to leading the trial data analysis.

Collaborative Partner: Norfolk County Council

Project aims and objectives

The overall aim of this project is 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 (e.g., moving from a private taxi to a shared bus)
  2. School attendance, behaviour, and attainment
  3. Non-cognitive skills, behavioural and psychological measures (e.g., confidence, self-esteem, quality of life, adult skill development, risk-aversion)
  4. Broader impacts (e.g., parental burden, child-parent relationship quality, Local Authority expenditure)

To achieve this aim, the successful student will design and conduct a RCT on approximately 30 schools in Norfolk. In anticipation of this studentship UEA and NCC have been working together conducting small-scale pilot/feasibility trials in the area to provide the evidence base for the student to build on.

The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Determine the final outcome variables, intervention (i.e., the nature of the behavioural science informed training programme), data collection methods and trial design;
  2. Evaluate travel training interventions;
  3. Develop policy guidance for stakeholders

Training Opportunities

A comprehensive package of training will be agreed in consultation with the supervisors. Elements of training will be provided by the supervisors, University of East Anglia and by other providers. In addition to the standard training opportunities that an economics PhD student can expect, they will receive considerable on the job training interacting with senior policy experts at NCC throughout the project. The student will be embedded in NCC’s Transformation Community, so receive be fully immersed in methods and approaches to transformation in local government. Beyond the academic and professional training, this studentship offers the holder the opportunity to build a strong network in local government and education, paving the way to future employment in the sector.

Studentship Details:

  • This studentship may be taken as a +3 award (a three-year PhD)
  • It may be taken full-time or part-time

Residential eligibility

  • To be eligible for a full award you must be a Home or International student who satisfies the criteria below:

To be a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If you do not meet any of the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

How to apply for this studentship

In order to be considered for this SeNSS studentship, you must first apply for a place to study University of East Anglia, noting that you are applying for the collaborative studentship. Please go to University of East Anglia, How to apply for a PhD for information on how to make your application.

The deadline applying to University of East Anglia for a place is 23:59 GMT on 23 February 2022.

You will then need to make a separate application to SeNSS for this collaborative studentship. Please read the SeNSS Collaborative Studentship Application Guidance Notes before completing our online application form. The Guidance Notes are available at the bottom of the following webpage: Applying for a SeNSS collaborative studentship

Starting date: On or about 1 October 2022.

For further enquiries:

For enquiries related to the studentship topic, please email Dr Amrish Patel ([Email Address Removed])

For enquiries related to your eligibility for this studentship, and the application process, please email: [Email Address Removed]


Funding Notes

The studentship award covers your university fees and provides you with a stipend of £15,609 per year. You will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant.
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