Why my PhD has been so valuable
Research student spotlight | Lisa Thomas-Brown
Lisa Thomas-Brown is a secondary school teacher based in London and has taught across the Humanities in different secondary schools. Lisa is currently Acting Designated Safeguarding Lead and Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). Lisa has previously worked as a Head of Department for both Citizenship and History as well as being an Associate Assistant Headteacher. She is also a school governor for a large secondary school.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your path into PhD study
I am a second year part-time PhD student. My PhD journey began in response to a ‘tweet’ I saw on Twitter promoting a fees-based scholarship in one of four schools within the Carnegie School of Education. Having been truly inspired by my introduction to the field of race and education by my previous lecturers where I studied an MA, I decided to explore this field further and applied to examine the experiences of teachers of colour in the UK. Very excitingly, I was selected for a scholarship and began writing my proposal and formal application. This was of course, challenging as a full time school teacher. Having studied an MA part time whilst working full-time, I knew the demands of teaching and studying at the same time. My PhD continues to challenge me academically and intellectually and as a life-long learner I delight in the acquisition of knowledge, skills and being able to apply these.
Why did you choose Leeds Beckett?
Having been fortunate to achieve a scholarship onto the doctoral programme, I would commend Leeds Beckett University for the staff, engagement, intellectual curiosity, fellow post graduate students and networking opportunities with other academics and educational professionals both face-to-face and online. The guidance by my supervisory team has been exemplary in terms of practical areas such as academic writing, conducting a literature review and their decades of experience in the field of race, education, decoloniality, feminist thought, critical race theory and wider critical theory. The Carnegie School of Education and Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality (CRED) works with organisations such as BAMEed a grassroots organisation to improve diversity and representation in school leadership and leads diversity programmes for schools such as the Anti-Racist school award.
As well as CRED, Carnegie School of Education also carries out research in areas such as Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), mental health and wellbeing, LGBTQ and coaching. I find this exciting, being able to link my school teaching and academic areas - as a leader of special educational needs and working in a PRU for example, as Professor Damien Page, the Dean of Carnegie School of Education, is currently researching this area and working with alternative provision.
What is your research about and what makes you passionate about it?
My research focuses on the leadership journeys of Black and Asian teachers from their entry to the teaching profession to their journeys to middle leadership posts (Head of Department or Head of Year) and into senior leadership (Assistant / Deputy / Headteacher) and beyond. My research (literature review) includes the past and current climate of education policy and experiences of Black and Asian teachers from the 1970s to the present day and the barriers that they face, their successes on the journey to leadership and hurdles. According to the school workforce data on diversity within educational leadership, White British Headteachers account for 92.7% of all Headteachers in England (96.3% including White Irish and White Other ethnic groups).
My research area explores the education policies in the UK as well as the wider social and public policies and legislation such as successive immigration laws and their impact on people of colour. Comparatively, I explore the trajectory of White identity in the USA, the UK and globally and how the legal and civil rights of people of colour have developed in the USA. Lastly my research explores the voices of teachers themselves and their experiences within the English school system.
How have you applied what you’ve learned from your studies to your work?
I have applied learning from my PhD in different ways including writing Equality Objectives as part of a working party on Equality and Diversity at school. Also through coordinating special educational needs, recognising the over representation and identification of particular groups within SEND (for example Black Caribbean boys) as well as within PRU.
As a senior leader; recognising the barriers that teachers of colour face in their leadership journeys as well as celebrating the successes of those who have found their chosen level of success at my school and within my educational networks.
I have also been able to apply areas of learning to my work as a school governor in terms of monitoring the teaching and learning and quality of education of different cohorts of students. In addition, monitoring inclusion and helping to provide strategic leadership and direction for the school.
What has been your favorite experience at Leeds Beckett?
It is hard to single out one particular experience. There have been several favoured experiences which are stand out moments, for example seeing the information about the fees-based scholarship and recognising that I had the skills and aptitude to do a PhD in the first place.
Another stand out moment was induction day where I met other scholars from a variety of fields as well as academic staff members, some of whom were on their 2nd PhDs!
Passing my Confirmation of Registration was also a significant occasion at Leeds Beckett. Having recognition of my research and competence as an academic was an important step.
I look forward to other special moments as I continue my PhD journey at Leeds Beckett University.