Geographies of Children, Young People and Education


Our research sub-theme brings together scholars working on the geographies of children, young people and education.  We work with and for children and young people across diverse communities.  Our work addresses the most pressing concerns facing today’s (and tomorrow’s) children – including social justice, environmental change, wellbeing, housing, play and education.  

Geographers have for several decades been interested in how societies create spatial rules for children. In particular, the young are deemed ‘out of place’ in public places whereas societies create other institutions – like schools – where children are ‘in place’. Similarly, there has been significant attention to the geographical aspects of childhood experience – how children move around, understand and feel about their (local) environments. Often, both of these phenomena are cross-cut by other factors, such as gender, class, ethnicity and disability, and so children’s geographers have sought to understand the complex, dynamic and contingent ways in which children engage with places.

A key concern underpinning our research on children, young people and education has been with the development of innovative conceptual and methodological approaches. Geographers at Birmingham have been at the forefront of nonrepresentational, new materialist, posthuman and neuro-geographical theories of childhood and education. They have also developed creative, participatory,  interdisciplinary and digital methods – from apps to arts-based interventions and from biological sampling to social media analyses – that have opened out new possibilities for exploring children’s voice, agency and participation about issues that matter to them.

Our work critically examines and impacts upon some of the most pressing questions facing today’s (and tomorrow’s) children. In the UK, India and Peru, we explore children and young people’s experiences of living in urban places, and especially new urban forms like masterplanned towns. Our work in this area continues to impact local, national and international policies and practices for urban planning, education, health and wellbeing. In Brazil and South Africa we have been working on young people’s experiences of and adaptations to Covid. Across communities we have also been researching young people’s experiences of and learning about environmental challenges (from environmental resources to plastics and trees), resource insecurity and disaster risk reduction.  In Spain we are using participatory arts-based methods to explore young people’s emotional responses to climate change.

Over the last few years we have had PhD students work on diverse topics related to childhood and youth - including informal and outdoor forms of education; the mobilities associated with living in separated families; the emotions and aspirations of expectant fathers; identity, belonging and education in partition experienced communities in India; and young people’s experience of platform urbanism and smart cities in China.


Research areas

The following research projects are examples of the work we are doing:

Planning, childhood and youth

  • Grant (2023-2024): Planning for intergenerational futures (QR funding) 
  • Grant (2023-2025): Effects and mechanisms of traffic restriction schemes outside schools in Great Britain (NIHR Funding)

Housing insecurity and childhood

  • Grant (2023-2025): Exploring local data and strategies to support families at risk of housing insecurity (NIHR funding)

Youth mobilities and futures

  • Grant (2023-2024): Futures of Ukraine: youth, mobility and post-war reconstruction (QR funding)

Young people and Covid 

  • Grant (2022-2024): PANEX: Adaptations of young people in monetary-poor households for surviving and recovering from COVID-19 and associated lockdowns (T-AP; ESRC/FAPESP/NRF) 
  • Children, Young People, Families and Public Health

  • Grant (2022-2027): NIHR School for Public Health Research (Kraftl – national Children, Young People and Families co-lead)
  • Children and Environmental Change

  • Grant (2022-2027): Voices of the Future: Collaborating with Children and Young People to Re-Imagine Treescapes (NERC/AHRC/ERC)
  • Grant (2023-2024): Wellbeing and Ecosocial Crisis: Youth Perceptions on Mental Health and Climate Change (EUniWell Seed Fund) 
  • Grant (2023-2024): Lead Co-I for the arts-based “CoLab” project on climate change and wellbeing led by the Institute for International Visual Arts (Saintbury Trust). 

Research funding

Our research is funded by a range of funding organisations including the EU, ESRC, AHRC, NIHR, FAPESP, T-AP, Leverhulme and collaborations with organisations who apply via international funding agencies.

Postgraduate opportunities

PhD projects within this subtheme are potentially funded by the UK ESRC (through the Midlands Graduate School) and AHRC (through the Midlands 4 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership) and other CDTs, as well as specific schemes run by e.g. UKRI and Leverhulme.