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Dr Helen Hendry

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a specialist in early education with a particular focus on literacy and inclusion. I draw on over 25 years experience as a teacher, advisory teacher, teacher educator and researcher. I joined the OU in 2019 as a lecturer on the MA in Education programme after 13 years working on a range of Education programmes at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. Originally an early years and primary teacher and senior leader for EYFS and Literacy in schools in Cornwall, Slough and Buckinghamshire, I later became a Lead Practitioner for Early Years and then an Area SENCO where my role was to train and support early years settings with SEN provision in Slough. I worked with multi-agency teams across education, health and social care to provide referral, advice and training for the maintained, private, voluntary and independent Early Years education sector. My interest in research and high-quality pedagogy led me to study the first modules of my MA in Education with the OU which helped me to begin my career in Higher Education. In 2006, I joined Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln where I contributed to initial teacher training in curriculum and pedagogy for the EYFS, KS1, Literacy, inclusion, PSHE and cultural and linguistic diversity. I provided school experience supervision and mentoring training across the Primary phases. In this role, I led Literacy in ITT for several years and organised the 'Leading partners in Literacy' project to develop collaborative practice with schools in ITT at BGU funded by the TDA. I also co-ordinated 'Poetry Train' in conjunction with the Poetry Society to support trainee teachers' confidence and strategies for poetry teaching. You can read more about this at:

Following my experience of the Primary PGCE programme I gained a role as a Senior Lecturer for the Education Studies undergraduate Programme at Bishop Grosseteste University and later became Programme Leader. I led modules on Education policy and curriculum, research methods and language and literacy in education. I am motivated to develop student-centred innovative practice in HE and I created a collaborative research module in which students and staff worked together on practitioner research and publication as co-inquirers. I am also a passionate advocate for children’s literature and have involved students in enrichment experiences such as shadowing the UKLA children’s book awards and arranging for visiting authors to contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Research interests

My research interests include early years pedagogy, play-based learning, early years and Primary Literacy, pre-primary provision in lower income countries as well as mentoring and academic literacies in HE and ITT. I gained my PhD from the University of Leicester in October 2016. My doctoral study focused on the development of student teachers’ and newly qualified teachers’ knowledge and practice for teaching early reading. This was influenced by a cultural historical activity theory perspective on learning and considered tensions between policy and practice experienced by trainee teachers as well as challenges presented by the history of debate about teaching early reading. Since then, I have conducted funded research into expert consensus for the training of ECD cadres at scale in collaboration with an international team of early years researchers as well as contributing to a mapping study of UNICEF interventions in South Asia in connection with the pre-primary framework areas. Recently, I completed a case study of play-based pedagogy as an approach to support tranisition and inclusion in Year 1. I am currently involved in a 3 year funded project exploring promoting reading and writing for pleasure through extra curricular programmes for disadvantaged pupils.

I am a member of the OU Children's Research Centre and the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice. I work closely with colleagues from the Early Years and Primary team and the International Development Office to collaborate on research and development projects.

Teaching interests

I am a lecturer on the Master's in Education programme. I work with the core academic team on the Inclusive Practice pathway and chair the EE812 Leadership and Management module.This involves working with the team to support students and associate lecturers, planning for new developments and developing new online content. I am a member of the EdD supervisory team. I am working with other team members on the PDP and reflective practice activities for students linked to Master’s module developments. Before joining the OU I had recently developed a Masters programme in Children’s Literature and Literacies in collaboration with colleagues from English, Education Studies, Early Childhood Studies and BA Primary QTS and the Library.

Impact and engagement

I have been a member of the United Kingdom Literacy Association for many years and have been involved in their digital literacy SIG and student shadowing of the UKLA book awards. I am currently part of the ITE SIG working with other HEIs. I am a member of ECDAN and I also convene an informal research netweork of Early Childhood researchers between The Open Unievrsity and the University of Sheffield. I am an affiliated Fellow of the Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute. Through this membership, I worked with the National Collaborative Outreach Programme in the East Midlands to provide Year 12 students with experience of research in Higher Education and near-peer mentoring from undergraduate students. In 2020, I worked with Professor Teresa Cremin and colleagues from the Reading Agency to design the 'Teachers Reading Challenge' including a website and series of resources to support teachers, and others working with children and young people to enrich their knowledge of contemporary children's literature. In 3 months since the launch c2,500 teachers and other educators have completed the challenge!

I have collaborated on research into training for Early Childhood Development cadres for the UK Department for International Development with colleagues from the University of Hong Kong, McGill University, Canada, University College London and the University of Nebraska College of Public Health. This involved canvassing the opinions of 14 global experts comprising wide experience and expertise related to ECD cadres training. The panel included individuals with extensive front-line experience in training ECD cadres across diverse, low-resource contexts spanning the world regions, including East, Central, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific; Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, and South America. Experts occupied senior leadership positions across leading international non-governmental organisations and academic institutions and / or contribute to global policy setting via membership of key steering committees. I have also liaised with frontline staff from UNICEF regional offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, as part of a mapping study of pre-primary interventions for UNICEF. I recently gained OU funding to bring together academics, policy makers and policy influencers in ECD for a knowledge exchange summit. This 2 day event connected research with policy direction and enabled forward planning for potential new developments in ECD practitioner training in lower income countries.I have facilitated the TESSA MOOC with teacher educators in Africa andI am currenlty developing online Inclusive teacher education modules for teachers in Kenya with OU colleagues and the Commonwealth of Learning. 


Monsters: interdisciplinary explorations in monstrosity (2020-03-25)
Erle, Sibylle and Hendry, Helen
Palgrave Communications, 6, Article 53

Becoming a teacher of early reading: charting the knowledge and practices of pre-service and newly qualified teachers (2020-01-22)
Hendry, Helen
Literacy, 54(1) (pp. 58-69)

A pedagogical meeting place or a problem space? Extending play-based pedagogy in Year One (2020)
Nicholson, Philip and Hendry, Helen
Education 3-13 ((Early Access))

‘On the outside I’m smiling but inside I’m crying’: communication successes and challenges for undergraduate academic writing (2018)
Elliott, Samantha; Hendry, Helen; Ayres, Chloe; Blackman, Kim; Browning, Francesca; Colebrook, Daisy; Cook, Colin; Coy, Nathan; Hughes, Jessica; Lilley, Natasha; Newboult, Devon; Uche, Oluchi; Rickell, Amber; Rura, Gagan-Preet; Wilson, Heidi and White, Philip
Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(9) (pp. 1163-1180)

[Book Review] Understanding schematic learning at two, by Julie Brierley and Cathy Nutbrown. pp 208. London: Bloomsbury. 2017. (2017)
Hendry, Helen
British Journal of Educational Studies, 66(2) (pp. 272-274)

Teachers' views of the impact of school evaluation and external inspection processes (2016-03-01)
Hopkins, Elizabeth; Hendry, Helen; Garrod, Frank; McClare, Siobhan; Pettit, Daniel; Smith, Luke; Burrell, Hannah and Temple, Jennifer
Improving Schools, 19(1) (pp. 52-61)

Reaching expert consensus on training different cadres in delivering early childhood development: technical report (2017)
Pearson, E.; Hendry, H.; Rao, N.; Aboud, F.; Horton, C.; Siraj, I.; Raikes, A. and Miyahara, J.
United Kingdom Department for International Development