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

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Professor of Education
Tel: (+44) (0)114 222 8139
Fax: (+44) (0)114 222 8105
Room: 7.15, School of Education

Professor Cathy Nutbrown 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.

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:

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.



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.

Learn more:

Family Literacy in Prisons Project

The Family Literacy in Prisons (FLiP) project was a collaboration between the School of Education, University of Sheffield, and Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) which focused on fathers in prison and sought to address the question:

In the event of their imprisonment, how can absent fathers be supported in their vital contribution to young children’s literacy development?

FLiP has implications for desistance and resisting reoffending, and provides a positive starting point for UK prison education reform. The School of Education and Pact are now working together to continue to run FLiP programmes in several prisons for mothers and fathers. Pact Family workers have worked collaboratively with Cathy Nutbrown and Peter Clough and are fully trained in FLiP work through the University certificated route.

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.

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 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).


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