Dr Gillian Forrester

Associate Professor

Institute of Education

I have extensive experience of conducting research and publishing within the field of education and teaching in Higher Education (HE) over a period of twenty years. My PhD, completed in 2003 at Keele University, built upon a tradition of critical analysis of education policy and was an historical and sociological investigation of the introduction of performance-related pay and performance management in English primary schools.

Between 2003 and 2007 I worked as a Research Associate at the University of Manchester on several research projects across a range of areas in education including: students’ induction to online/distance learning; student support in HE; the curricula and pedagogic design and development of e-learning materials for in-service secondary school teachers in China; and educational leadership in schools in England.

At Liverpool John Moores University (2008-2015), I was Subject Head of Education and Early Childhood Studies. I was involved in various research projects: parents of children with SEN who home educate; the effectiveness of audio feedback; the development of an undergraduate journal for student writing; undergraduates as co-producers of knowledge; evaluation of regional hubs of early years practice.

I joined Staffordshire University in August 2016 where I lead the Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD) and I supervise doctoral students (PhD and EdD).

Professional memberships and activities

  • Higher Education Academy Fellowship (FHEA)
  • British Educational Research Association (BERA)
  • British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS)
  • EdD Directors National Network

Academic qualifications

  • PhD ‘Professionalism and performance: an exploration of primary school teachers’ perspectives on the new managerialism’ awarded in 2003 at Keele University
  • Associate Teacher in Higher Education, Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA), 1999
  • Higher Education Associate Teacher (PG Certificate – LTHEP) awarded in 1999 at Keele University
  • BA (Hons) Applied Social Studies and Educational Studies awarded in 1998 at Keele University


I have a wealth of experience in HE as a researcher, lecturer, module leader, course leader, personal tutor, online instructor for distance MA programmes, dissertation/thesis supervisor (undergraduate, masters, EdD and PhD) and as an academic leader. My main teaching areas are in the history of education, sociology of education, philosophy of education, education policy, research methods and supervising research projects.

At the various universities where I have worked, I have taught on (BA (Hons) Education Studies, BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies, BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS, BA (Hons) Education, MA Education, Master of Research (MRes) and Doctor of Education (EdD) programmes. My teaching is now primarily on the Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD).  I currently supervise several PhD and EdD students. Since 2015, I have supervised, as principal supervisor, six doctoral completions.

Research interests

My main research interests lie in education policy; I am broadly interested in policy processes and the lived experiences of teachers and school leaders, particularly women. My PhD and subsequent work have enabled important themes on the complex relationship between externally determined change and the professional practice of teachers and headteachers to develop into a major area of interest.

Notably, my work has made a contribution to policy sociology through critical analysis of policy texts and the generation of oral accounts within a conceptual framework which allows for a wider and deeper understanding of the interplay between neoliberalism, national policy endeavours and the lived experience of those policies in practice. My work has drawn on sociological concepts and historical methods to design and analyse professional practice in education and where I have utilised critical theories of organisation and gender.

I have been involved in various research projects over a period of twenty years and have gained considerable experience using different methodologies and qualitative methods. My preferences are for ethnographic approaches, interactionist and social constructionist methodologies, and I have utilised different interview types ranging from individual semi-structured, individual biographical/life-story approaches and focus groups as ways of eliciting the lived experiences, perceptions and perspectives of a range of research participants namely; students, parents, teachers, school leaders, academics, educational consultants and policymakers.  More recently, I have become interested in and inspired by creative art-based methods and have undertaken research using children’s drawings as visual methodology.

I was project manager for the project funded by Stoke-on-Trent Opportunities Area Programme - Improving Outcomes for Early Years, Understanding the World Area of Learning completed in 2018 with colleagues in the Education Department.  In 2019, again with colleagues, I led and completed a study funded by Staffordshire County Council which investigated the aspirations of pupils in Years 5, 6 and 9 in schools in the county. I am currently working on The DIGItal innovative Strategies for PArental and Civic Engagement (DIGI-S.PA.C.E. project) which is a three-year Erasmus+ project with the Create Partnership Trust, UK, and partners in Italy, Lithuania and Portugal.  With colleagues, I am also involved in a comparative study of the UK and Vietnam in relation to parents and teachers’ experiences of homeschooling during the Covid-19 shutdown of schools.


Professional Doctorate in Education module leader for:

  • Policy and Professional Practice
  • Theory in Educational Research
  • Designing Educational Research
  • Thesis Research Proposal



  • FORRESTER, G. & Garratt, D.  (2016) Education Policy Unravelled, 2nd edn. London: Bloomsbury. 
  • Garratt, D. & FORRESTER, G.  (2012) Education Policy Unravelled. London: Continuum. 

Journal articles

  • FORRESTER, G., Kurth, J., Vincent, P. and Oliver, M. (2018) Schools as community assets: an exploration of the merits of an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach, Educational Review, DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2018.1529655.
  • Hennessy, C. & FORRESTER G. (2014) Developing a framework for effective audio feedback: a case study.  Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 39 (7) 777-789. 
  • FORRESTER, G.  (2011) Editorial: Performance management in education.  Management in Education, 25 (1), 3-4. 
  • FORRESTER, G.  (2011) Performance management in education: milestone or millstone?  Management in Education, 25 (1), 5-9. 
  • Gunter, H.M. & FORRESTER, G.  (2010) New Labour and the Logic of Practice in Educational Reform. Critical Studies in Education. 51 (1), 55-69. 
  • Gunter, H.M.  & FORRESTER, G.  (2009) School Leadership and Education Policymaking in England. Policy Studies. 30 (5), 495-511. 
  • Gunter, H.M.  & FORRESTER, G.  (2009) Institutionalised Governance: the case of the National College for School Leadership.  International Journal of Public Administration. 32, 349-369. 
  • Gunter, H.M.  & FORRESTER, G.  (2008) Knowledge Production in Educational Leadership Project. Research Intelligence, Issue 104, 19. 
  • Gunter, H.M.  & FORRESTER, G. (2008) New Labour and School Leadership 1997-2007. British Journal of Educational Studies, 55 (2), 144-162. 
  • FORRESTER, G. & Parkinson, G. (2006) 'Mind the gap': The application of a conceptual model to investigate distance learners' expectations and perceptions of induction. Issues In Educational Research, 16(2), 152-170. 
  • FORRESTER, G., Motteram, G. & Liu, B.X.  (2006) Transforming teachers' thinking, learning and understanding via e-learning. Journal of Education for Teaching: international research and pedagogy.  32 (2), 197-212. 
  • FORRESTER, G.  (2005) All in a day’s work: primary teachers ‘performing’ and ‘caring’.  Gender and Education.  17(3), 271-287. 
  • Motteram, G. & FORRESTER, G. (2005) Becoming an online distance learner: what can be learned from students’ experiences of induction to distance programmes? Distance Education.  26(3), 281-298. 
  • FORRESTER, G., Motteram, G., Parkinson, G., & Slaouti, D.  (2005) ‘Going the distance’: students’ experiences of induction to distance learning in higher education’. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 29(4), 293-306. 
  • FORRESTER, G. (2001) Performance related pay for teachers: an examination of the underlying objectives and its application in practice.  Public Management Review. 3(4), 617 -625. 
  • FORRESTER, G.  (2000) Professional autonomy versus managerial control: the experience of teachers in an English primary school. International Studies in Sociology of Education. 10 (2), 133-151.

Book chapters

  • FORRESTER, G., Hudson-Gill, R. & Pugh, J. (2019) Understanding the World: A pilot study of effective practice and provision in early years settings. In: Chiou, V.,Holz,O., Oruç Ertürk, N. and Shelton, F. (Eds.) International Insights: Equality in Education. Münster: Waxmann, pp. 95-110.
  • Bush, M. & FORRESTER, G. (2019) Women’s Leadership Development: Preparation for Leadership in the Girl’s Secondary Independent Sector in England.  In: Storey, V.A. (Ed) Leading in Change: Implications of School Diversification for School Leadership Preparation in England and the United States. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing, 137-156. 
  • FORRESTER, G. & Gunter, H.M.  (2010) New headteachers in schools in England and their approaches to leadership. In: Shoho, A., Barnett, B.G. & Tooms, A.K. (Eds.) The Challenges for New Principals in the 21st Century: Developing Leadership Capabilities Through Professional Support.Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing. (Book Series, International Research on School Leadership). pp. 29-49. 
  • Gunter, H.M. & FORRESTER, G. (2010) Reform of the School Workforce.  In: Baker, E., McGaw, B. and Peterson, P. (Eds) International Encyclopaedia of Education (3rd Edition). Amsterdam: Elsevier. pp. 242–248. 
  • Gunter, H.M. & FORRESTER, G. (2010) Education Reform and School Leadership.  In: S. Brookes and K. Grint (Eds.) The New Public Leadership Challenge. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 54-69. 
  • FORRESTER, G. & Gunter, H.M.  (2009) School leaders: meeting the challenge of change.  In: C. Chapman & H.M. Gunter (Eds.) Radical Reforms: Public Policy and a Decade of Educational Reform. London: Routledge. pp. 67-79. 
  • Motteram, G., FORRESTER, G., Goldrick, S. & McLachlan, A.  (2007) Collaborating Across Boundaries: Managing the Complexities of eLearning Courseware Production in a Joint International Project.  In: H. Spencer-Oatey (Ed.) eLearning in China: eChina Perspectives on Policy, Pedagogy and Innovation. Hong Kong University Press. pp.189-201. 
Top 15 for Teaching Quality

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021

6th for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022

Midlands University of the Year

Midlands Business Awards 2020