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Developing and evaluating Early Years policies and programs for supporting prematurely born children's school readiness, health and wellbeing


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Monday 6 April 2020
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Professor Alison Heppenstall and Dr Liam Hill
Additional supervisors
Professor Cheti Nicoletti - University of York, Professor Nick Malleson - University of Leeds
School of Education, School of Psychology
Research groups/institutes
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This project is a White Rose Research Studentship. Every year 60,000 children are born prematurely (less than 37 weeks gestation), with many going on to have developmental problems as a direct result of this. However, for most births between 30-36 weeks, and thus the majority of premature births, no additional clinical follow-up and support is offered following their initial discharge from hospital. These Moderate-to-Late pre-term births (MtL pre-terms) still face substantially elevated risks of problems in later life though. This raises the question of how Early Years support (between 3-5 years) for children born pre-term might be improved to mitigate these risks.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>This PhD studentship will enable you to undertake an exciting program of empirical research, which aims to improve our understanding of:&nbsp;</p> <ol> <li>The effects that being born prematurely can have on a child&rsquo;s early psychological development, physical, and mental health;</li> <li>What can be done, particularly during early childhood, to help mitigate the risks of certain adverse outcomes later in life, which are more common in children born pre-term (e.g. lower educational attainment, poorer mental health and wellbeing).</li> </ol> <p>Your research will focus on using statistical and/or econometric methods to study data available from several large UK birth cohorts that your supervision team have extensive experience of working with (e.g. Born in Bradford [BiB], The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children [ALSPAC] and the Millennium Cohort Study [MCS]). This project will also link into work involving the NHSA&rsquo;s Connected Yorkshire program, which is developing a regional research database containing health and education records on approximately 220,000 Bradfordians, spanning the last ten years.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the above description defines the general area of research for the studentships; you will be able to contribute to the development of a more detailed research proposal by addressing more specific research questions. Examples of research questions you may choose to focus on are:</p> <ol> <li>What is the effect of specific health or education interventions on children born prematurely (e.g. Early Years Education and further Paediatric follow-up programs)?</li> <li>Does the effect of interventions depend on the home environment where the child grows up (e.g. on the language spoken at home, education of parents and number of siblings)?</li> <li>Are there negative spillover effects of preterm children on other members of the family (e.g. parents or siblings) or on their school peers? Do interventions help to attenuate these spillover effects?</li> </ol> <p>The intention is that these insights will feed into the development of more effective programs and activities for use in Early Years education to support children born pre-term. &nbsp;</p> <p>As part of the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds your development will be monitored and nurtured through well-established programs of training and assessment. In addition to normal supervision arrangements you will also be mentored by an existing network of experienced post-doctoral researchers and fellow graduate students within the lead supervisor&rsquo;s Health And Education INteraction lab Group (<a href="">HEADING</a>), who meets on regular basis and include experts in Developmental and Cognitive Psychology, Data Analytics, and observational and applied Health and Education research. This group is part of the newly opened <a href="">Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research</a>, and your research will be supported by a wider network of collaborators involved in the Wolfson.</p> <p>You will be supervised by Dr Liam Hill (Uni. of Leeds, School of Psychology &amp; Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research), Professors Cheti Nicoletti (Uni. of York, Department of Economics), Nick Malleson, and Alison Heppenstall (Uni. of Leeds, School of Geography and Leeds Institute of Data Analytics). As part of a larger network of Postgraduate Researchers you will also work in close partnership with the Early Years and Prevention theme of the <a href="">Yorkshire and Humber Applied Research Collaboration</a> (YH-ARC).&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Further information about the YH-ARC</strong></p> <p>The NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Yorkshire and Humber (YH-ARC) is an important programme of applied research, hosted within Bradford Institute for Health Research, and delivered through a regional partnership including universities, the NHS, Local Authorities, voluntary and community organisations, and industry within Yorkshire and Humber.</p> <p>YH_ARC supports people-powered research that aims to tackle inequalities and improve health and well-being for our communities. It has 4 core, and 3 cross-cutting themes, selected following consultation with partners and the public. &nbsp;Our 4 core themes are: Healthy Childhood; Mental Health; Older People; and Urgent Care. &nbsp;Our cross-cutting themes are: Improvement Science; Health Economics; and Implementation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Strategically YH_ARC aims to:</p> <ul> <li>Catalyse world-leading applied health and social care research, to advance knowledge and support change relevant to local needs</li> <li>Encourage high quality regional research collaborations and between ARCs nationally&nbsp;</li> <li>Engage with policy makers, professionals, health and social care commissioners to develop the research agenda and translate research findings to improve services and health outcomes, and reduce health inequalities</li> <li>Co-produce the development and translation of research with practitioners and public&nbsp;</li> <li>Develop innovative methods for applied health research for evaluation, addressing equity impact of innovation and value for money</li> <li>Build researcher capacity in service delivery and university sectors.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;You can learn more about YH_ARC at: <a href=""></a><br /> &nbsp;<br /> This studentship is part of two linked White Rose Studentship Networks within the YH_ARC. &nbsp;These linked networks include a total of six studentships and twelve supervisors across the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York.</p> <p><strong>References</strong><br /> Pettinger KJ, Kelly B, Sheldon TA, Mon-Williams M ,Wright J &amp; Hill LJB. Starting school: educational development as a function of age of entry and prematurity. Archives of Disease in Childhood Published Online First: 13 August 2019. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2019-317124<br /> &nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p><strong>Stage 1</strong> - Applicants for study at the University of Leeds must first of all <a href="">apply for the relevant research postgraduate programme</a> to commence 1 October 2020 - clearly stating that the funding you wish to apply for is &#39;White Rose Research Studentship&#39;. Please include a copy of your CV, degree certificates and transcripts to support your application.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Stage 2</strong> - Once you are in receipt of your 9-digit Student ID Number, you should complete the <a href="">online studentship application form</a><a href="">&nbsp;</a></p> <p>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. &nbsp;All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least an upper second class honours (2:1) degree or equivalent in a health, social or life sciences related subject. Knowledge of theoretical and empirical research methods in health or social sciences would be useful and highly beneficial, as well as an interest in developing advanced quantitative skills and in learning how to carry out empirical analyses using survey or administrative data on children and parents.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum requirements for candidates whose first language is not English are: &bull; British Council IELTS &ndash; score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0 &bull; TOEFL iBT &ndash; overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>This project is a White Rose Research Studentship. It will provide an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (&pound;15,285&nbsp;in session 2020/21) for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory academic progression. The award will also provide academic fees at the UK/EU rate.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Graduate School Office<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 8221.</p> <p>Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the lead supervisor, Liam Hill, to discuss proposal ideas before applying.</p> <p>e: <a href=""></a>&nbsp; t: +44 (0)113 343 5726</p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>