Connecting schools and children: towards measures of mediation


This project explores pupils’ experiences of learning, relating and belonging in school and then develops ways of supporting schools in responding to the needs of diverse learners through understanding the ways in which the cultures of schooling mediate these experiences. The study is taking place both within the Oxford Education Deanery partnership and in Spain to explore potential cultural and systemic influences.

How the research was carried out

Four schools within the Oxford Education Deanery have taken part in the first stage of the project. These schools surveyed their students in Year 8 or Years 8 and 9 using an online questionnaire. The survey is designed to identify what barriers are encountered by pupils who are experiencing different levels of connectedness or engagement with school. The research team then met with each of the schools to discuss the analysis of this survey, and any additional data collected. The second stage of the project is to explore with schools how these data can then be used to remove some of these barriers and to evaluate the outcomes of any changes schools make in response to the data.

Findings – implications for teachers

Pupils often report that other people are a major source of help at different times and places in all of the schools surveyed, with friends being the most valuable source of help. In contrast, few pupils spoke about having positive values in relation to particular lessons or curriculum subjects, implying that it was not what they were learning that was helpful but who they had to call upon. Pupils also reported that it was the behaviour of other people, particularly other pupils, that made school more difficult. In one school, slightly more focus was given to unclear instructions and explanations in lessons as something that made school difficult. Pupils reported that working in groups with friends or people they liked was helpful as was getting extra support when they didn’t understand.

Moving around school was also problematic in three of the four schools, indicative of the poor school estate which inevitably has an impact on the behaviour of children both in and out of lessons; whether they have space to be with their friends; or have time on their own. Pupils found that sports activities, clubs, school performances, charity events or team activities helped them to feel part of the school. Teachers also appeared to be as important as friends in making pupils feel part of the school. However, teachers’ behaviours were also the most common reason given for what prevents pupils from feeling part of the school.

Click here for a teacher takeaway


Professor Jill Porter (University of Reading), Professor Harry Daniels and Dr Jenni Ingram (University of Oxford)

Contact information For further information please contact Jenni Ingram (

This project is funded by the John Fell Fund

« Back to news & events list

© The Oxford Deanery 2023 | Site by One