Professor Cathy Nutbrown, BEd, MEd, PhD, (Sheffield)


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Professor of Education

Head of School

Tel: (+44) (0)114 222 8139
Fax: (+44) (0)114 222 8105

Professor Cathy Nutbrown is currently Head of The School of Education. She teaches and researches in the field of Early Childhood Education. Cathy began her career as a teacher of young children and has since worked in a range of settings and roles with children, parents, teachers, and other early childhood educators. Cathy is committed to finding ways of working 'with respect' with young children, and sees the concept of quality in the context of what it means to develop curriculum and pedagogy in the early years with the ambition of working in a climate of 'respectful education'. She established the University of Sheffield MA in Early Childhood Education in 1998 and a Doctoral Programme in Early Childhood Education in 2008. In 2010 she contributed to the Tickell Review of the Early Years Foundation Stage and served on the Ofqual Advisory Group on Early Years Assessment 2010-2012. In June 2012 she reported on year long independent review of Early Education and Childcare Qualifications for the government. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Sage Journal of Early Childhood Research.

In May 2013 Cathy was awarded the ESRC prize for Research with Outstanding Impact on Society for her family literacy work.

ESRC Impact Logo

In September 2013 Cathy received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nursery World Awards 2013 ceremony, for her work with and for young children and those who work with them.


Cathy has been nominated by her students, and recognised by the University, as an inspirational teacher. She teaches on the following courses:

BA Education, Culture and Childhood,

MA in Early Childhood Education (Sheffield and Malta),

MA Educational Studies (Malta),

EdD Early Childhood Education,

PhD programme (Sheffield and Malta).

Cathy enjoys teaching aspects of early childhood education at all degree levels, in particular: the legacies of early childhood education pioneers; inclusion; children´s rights; arts-based pedagogies; early literacy and work with parents. This is particularly rich and rewarding on the programmes which Cathy is involved in where students bring a range of experiences from around the world to the discussions. Discussing aspects of methodology with students is a particular pleasure, especially when working in small groups to tease out methodological aspects of students´ research studies or addressing ethical issues which arise in the development of a dissertation or thesis. Much of Cathy´s teaching draws on, and is inspired by, her own research in early childhood education.


Inclusion in the early years

Cathy´s work on children´s rights and curriculum development has led her to explore aspects of inclusion in the early years. Her work has included work on the preschool educators´ beliefs and practices around inclusion and has looked at work in Europe and the UK. Cathy´s interest in inclusion extends to ways of developing inclusive practices where the voices of children, parents and practitioners are heard and their roles and perspectives valued.

Early literacy work with parents

One of Cathy´s key research areas is early literacy work with parents. This has formed a major part of her research over the past 15 years. The Raising Early Achievement in Literacy (REAL) project is well known and the methods used in this project are being used by many practitioners in several countries to support parents in their efforts to help their young children´s literacy development. Cathy is currently working with the National Children´s Bureau on a three year project `Making it REAL´ and is also running and ESRC project Early Literacy Work with Families, working with practitioners to explore new uses of the ORIM framework.

Arts-based learning in the early years

Cathy´s work has involved the role of artists in residence in six early years settings in Doncaster. The project Daring Discoveries involved artists, practitioners and children (from 6 months to 5 years) working together to explore the arts. Cathy´s evaluation of the project has shown how children´s learning and development can be supported through close involvement in the arts.

Children´s views of their early years settings

This project took the form of a survey of 188 children´s experiences in 18 early years settings in 5 LAs England. The children (aged between 3-5 years) said that they mostly enjoy attending their groups, they like the adults who work with them, and their friends are important to them. They also offered ideas for adding to or changing their settings. A summary leaflet can be downloaded here Children´s views of their early years settings.

History of early childhood education

Cathy believes that early childhood educations need to know and understand the extraordinary legacy of the pioneers of the field. Exploring the roots of early childhood education through the work of Susan Isaacs, Rachel and Margaret McMillan, Maria Montessori and many others, it is possible to identify enduring values and understandings which support new pioneering in the field today.

Recent Publications


Nutbrown, C and Clough, P (in 2014) Early Childhood Education: History, Philosophy and Experience. London: Sage

Nutbrown, C and Clough, P (2013) Inclusion in the Early Years (2nd Ed). London: Sage

Atherton, F. and Nutbrown, C (2013) Understanding Schemas from Birth to Three. London: Sage

Clough, P. and Nutbrown, C (2012) Justifying Enquiry: A Students’ Guide to Methodology. (3rd Ed). London: Sage

Clough, P. and Nutbrown, C. (2011) A Students´ Guide to Methodology: Justifying Enquiry (3rd Ed). London: Sage

Nutbrown, C. (2010) Threads of Thinking (4th Ed). London: Sage.

Nutbrown, C. (2010) Key Concepts in Early Childhood Education and Care London: Sage.

Nutbrown, C., Hannon, P. and Morgan, A (2005) Early Literacy Work with Families: research, policy and practice. London: Sage.

Journal Articles

Atherton, F., and Nutbrown, C. (2016) 'Schematic Pedagogy: Supporting One Child's Learning at Home and in a Group', International Journal of Early Years Education.

Nutbrown, C. (2011) ‘Conceptualising Arts Based Learning in the Early Years’ Research Papers in Education.

Nutbrown, C .(2011) `Naked by the pool? Blurring the image? : Ethical and moral issues in the portrayal of young children in arts-based educational research´ Qualitative Inquiry, 17,1, 3-14

Hirst, K., Hannon, P. and Nutbrown, C. (2010) `Effects of a preschool bilingual family literacy programme´ Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 10, 2, 221-239

Morgan, A., Nutbrown, C. and Hannon, P. (2009) `Fathers´ involvement in young children´s literacy development: implications for family literacy programmes´ British Educational Research Journal Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 167–185

Nutbrown, C and Clough, P. (2009) `Citizenship and Inclusion in the Early Years: Understanding and Responding to Children´s Perspectives on "Belonging" International Journal of Early Years Education 17, 3, 191 – 205

Hannon, P., Morgan, A and Nutbrown, C. (2006) Parents´ experiences of a family literacy programme Journal of Early Childhood Research, 3, 3, 19-44.

Clough,P. and Nutbrown, C. (2004) Special Educational Needs and Inclusion: multiple perspectives of preschool educators in the UK Journal of Early Childhood Research, 2, 2, 191-211.

Nutbrown, C. and Clough, P. (2004) Inclusion in the Early Years: Conversations with European Educators European Journal of Special Needs Education, 19, 3, 3

Nutbrown, C. and Hannon, P. (2003) Children´s perspectives on family literacy: methodological issues, findings and implications for practice Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 3, 2, 115-145.

Recent Funded Projects

Early Literacy Work with Families Awarding Body:Economic and Social Research Council (2010 –2012)

Daring Discoveries: Arts Based Learning in the Early Years. Awarding body: Creative Partnerships/Arts Council. (2005/6).

Comparative Approaches to Preschool Education. Awarding body: University of Sheffield, Social Sciences Devolved Fund. (2000/2002).

Raising Early Achievement in Literacy. Awarding body: Nuffield Foundation. (1997/2002).

Research Students,

Julie Brierley - Schemas and Young Children

Caron Carter - Young children’s friendships

Julie Dalton - Teacher Education and Mental Health Awareness

Josephine Deguara - Children's Meaning Making in Drawing

Rosienne Farrugia -  The talents and Gifts of young children

Elizabeth Henderson – Children’s Emotional Development

Francesa Maynell - Practices and pedagogy on Steiner Education

Sue Midolo - Women in Education: narrative inquiries into leadership identities

Sam Renwick – Assessment in the early years

Sally Smith - The Origins and Development of the ORIM Framework

Diane Wilkinson - Quality in Early Childhood Education

Recently Completed Doctoral Studies

Dr Lesley Evans - The professional development of outstanding childminders in rural communities

Dr Francis Atherton - How are children in a day care setting pursuing their schemas?

Dr Sue Allingham - The early years: Lost in translation?

Dr Ann Clare - Children under three in Group care settings: A study of children´s experiences and adultsperspectives

Dr Tricia Giardiello - The Roots and Legacies of Four Key Women Pioneers in Early Childhood Education: A Theorectical and Philosophical Discussions

Dr Alex Hallowes - The impact of story telling on children’s drawings

Dr Naomi McLeod - Critical reflection as a tool for developing pedagogical participation with young children in their learning

Dr Zuhoor Al-Selah - The effectiveness of Montessori Early Education Programmes.