Anglia Ruskin University launches groundbreaking research body

Published: 22 February 2011 at 13:43

The Childhood and Youth Research Institute is set up to help shape public policy

Anglia Ruskin University is launching a groundbreaking cross-faculty research body in Chelmsford on March 3. The Childhood and Youth Research Institute is a unique initiative which will utilise the expertise of academics from different backgrounds to bring critical mass and interdisciplinary perspectives to policy making.

Anglia Ruskin has a long history of excellence in child-centred fields as diverse as social justice, children’s health and ophthalmology, education, children’s book illustration and music therapy, and a significant amount of the research undertaken through the Institute will be based on the participation of children and young people.

The Childhood and Youth Research Institute is led by sociologist and disability researcher Dr Chrissie Rogers, supported by a team of three post-doctoral research fellows – Dr Tam Sanger, Dr Zoe Jaques and Dr Darren Sharpe - and a cross-discipline steering group.

Acutely aware of the need for such a facility, Dr Rogers, who has a learning-disabled daughter herself, said:

“The Childhood and Youth Research Institute will be of huge significance to vulnerable, marginalised and excluded children and young people and their families, both regionally and nationally, who will ultimately benefit from the discoveries made through targeted research.

“Research will be based on the participation of children and young people who have voices that want to be heard. It is these individuals who can improve the way things are done in the future by changing society’s, largely outdated, preconceptions about critical issues surrounding them.

“Public expenditure plans for the next four financial years set out challenges for children, youth and family services, which research must support. The support that councils receive from central government is being reduced by 28 per cent. Cuts are expected across children’s services, but youth services and Connexions are likely to suffer more than most and support services for schools will be significantly reduced.

“We aim to respond to the adjustment in policies and approaches and the needs of children and young people through collaboration with other researchers and institutes. We will focus on how social policies meet social needs, the development of impact measurements, and the consequences of welfare reforms upon children and young people’s lives as well as health and social care agencies.”

The Childhood and Youth Research Institute will produce work on a diverse range of topics, including disability, inclusion and special educational needs, intimacy, sexuality/asexuality, marginalised and vulnerable children and young people, children’s literature and performance, early childhood, crime/deviance, families, formal and informal education, mental and physical health, law, pregnancy and care.

Dr Rogers, Dr Poul Rohleder and Dr Tam Sanger are already conducting research focusing on the experiences of young men and women with mild to moderate learning disabilities. This research will take the form of three separate focus groups with young men, young women and parents/carers where they will explore issues around friendships and intimate relationships.

Dr Sanger said:

“We feel that this is extremely important, particularly the inclusion of the young people themselves, as often these are voices which are not heard when intimate life is discussed. We hope to add to understandings of what intimacy means for young people with learning disabilities, as well as the attitudes and experiences of their parents and carers.

 “Those with learning disabilities are often seen as being either totally disinterested in sex and intimacy or as unable to control sexual urges, which is a misconception we hope to challenge through this work.”

Dr Zoe Jaques’ main research interest involves children’s fiction and she has published articles on The Water-Babies, the His Dark Materials trilogy and the Harry Potter series. Her latest work is Lewis Carroll’s Alice: A Publishing History, and Dr Jaques said:

“There are few bibliographical studies of children’s literary texts, despite the multiple editions in which such texts are reproduced. This work is crucial to the development of serious scholarship in children’s book studies, which should be a significant focus of new research.

“Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice novels have a publishing history almost as entangled as the stories themselves. In addition to exploring the early textual history of the Alice books, this work traces and interrogates the subsequent transformations of Alice up to the present day.”

The launch event begins with a drinks reception at 5.45pm in the mezzanine area of the Michael Ashcroft Building. The institute will be officially opened by Anglia Ruskin Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Thorne at 6.30pm, followed by an introduction to the institute by Dr Rogers and a “Question Time” event chaired by Charlotte Hill, CEO of UK Youth. There will also be a performance by Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, a Jamaican dub poet and storyteller.

The Childhood and Youth Research Institute is one of five dedicated research institutes at Anglia Ruskin University; the others being the Cultures of the Digital Economy, the Postgraduate Medical Institute, the Global Sustainability Institute, and the Institute of International Management Practice.