Professional Learning and Leadership

About us

Professional Learning and Leadership (PLL) bridges the gap between research and practice, linking academic and professional fields. The PLL cluster retains a strong focus on close-to-practice research in the context of schooling, while remaining a hub for research in other professional fields including health and law.

Fields of inquiry include school leadership and management, international schooling, practitioner research, and subject areas of inquiry. This cluster is closely linked to our established and successful Initial Teacher Education programme.

Colleagues in a brainstorming session

Research impact

Dr Rachel Payne works on research engagement for artist-teachers in local schools. The local impact of Payne’s research has led to impact at the national level through her role as President for the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD), and as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education. Payne chairs an Initial Teacher Education Special Interest Group who have successfully lobbied the Department for Education (DfE) to implement £9,000 bursaries for secondary art and design teacher trainees in 2020-21. Payne is one of only eleven UK academics profiled on the ‘Research Impact at the UK Parliament’ website.


Mark Gibson

Dr Mark Gibson

Senior Lecturer in Education

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Name Role Email
Professor Patrick Alexander Professor of Education and Anthropology
Professor Roger Dalrymple Visiting Professor of Education, School of Education
Ms Clare Fenwick Programme Lead - Postgraduate Education
Ms Jane Fletcher Senior Lecturer in Primary Humanities & Early Years Education
Ms Kimberly Waring Paynter Interim Programme Lead - Partnerships & Mentoring (Education)
Dr Debbie Wright Senior Lecturer in Primary English

Areas of interest

  • Social, cultural, linguistic and political aspects of educational policies
  • Policy vs. practice in various sectors of education
  • Educational planning and governance at local, national and international levels
  • Educational partnerships within and across educational sectors, as well as with private organisations and companies
  • Leadership in education and its challenges
  • Student and staff perceptions of leadership in different faculties
  • Leadership in international schools
  • Leadership in complementary schools

Lecturer writing on whiteboard


School leadership in challenging times (2019-present)

  • Researchers: Linet Arthur and Deborah McGregor

Teacher retention in challenging schools (2018-present)

  • Researcher: Linet Arthur
  • The project examines why teachers stay working in challenging schools and is funded by the BA / Leverhulme Small Grants Award.

Leadership of international schools (2018-present)

  • Researchers: Mark Gibson and Lucy Bailey (University of Bahrain)
  • The project looks at the work of principals, parents and owners of international schools in Malaysia.
  • Output: one paper in EMAL, one under review.

Middle and Senior Leaders in Bangladesh Colleges (2018-present)

  • Researcher: Mark Gibson
  • This project explores the challenges facing leaders in Bangladesh Colleges.
  • Output: one paper in JHEPM.

Post Leadership Project (2016-present)

  • Researchers: Mark Gibson and Sue Simon (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia)
  • An exploration of the self-identity reconfiguration of school leaders following loss of post.
  • Output: One paper in EMAL and one in IJEM.

Leadership in complementary schools (2016-2018)

  • Researchers: Linet Arthur and Ana Souza
  • The project (funded by the BELMAS Small Award) focuses on leadership styles and professional development in extra provision expatriate communities to support language and cultural learning, specifically Brazilian complementary schools in the UK.
  • Outcomes: an article in MiE (a special edition edited by Linet Arthur, Ana Souza and Anthony Thorpe) - currently under review - and training materials for school leadership in complementary schools (also translated into Portuguese).


Souza, A. & Arthur, L. (forthcoming). CPD in complementary schools. Management in Education.

Gibson, M.T. (2020). Student intimidation, no pay and hunger strikes: the challenges facing Heads of Department in Bangladesh Colleges. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management (published online 10/03/2020).

Gibson, M.T. & Simon, S. (2020). Losing your Head: Are principals attached to their school? Educational Management Administration and Leadership 48 (1), 25-44.

Bailey, L. & Gibson, M.T. (2019). International school principals: Routes to headship and key challenges of their roles. Educational Management Administration and Leadership (published online 29/10/2019).

Simon, S. & Gibson, M.T. (2019) Principal resilience and vitality in extremis: the scenario of involuntary occupational dissolution. International Journal of Educational Management 33 (4), 709-720.

McGregor, D. & Frodsham, S. (2019). Epistemic insights: Contemplating tensions between policy influences and creativity in school science. BERJ 45 (4), 770-790.

Gibson, M.T. (2018). Leadership preparation and development within a multi academy trust: self-improving or self-serving? Management in Education 32 (2), 92-97.

Basford, L., Butt, G. & Newton, R. (2017). To what extent are teaching assistants really managed?: ‘I was thrown in the deep end, really; I just had to more or less get on with it’. School Leadership and Management 37 (3), 288-310.

Gibson, M.T. (2016). Sponsored academy school principals in England: Autonomous leaders or sponsor conduits? International Studies in Educational Administration 44 (2), 39-54.

Gibson, M.T. (2015). Ethos and vision realization in sponsored academy schools. Management in Education 29 (1), 9-13.