Sharon Smith

Doctoral Researcher

Research Topic

 Being ‘mum’ – the subjectivity of parent carers and its impact on inclusion

Research Summary

This research study intends to explore how discourses, through policy and practice, as well as wider societal pressures, determine how parent carers of children with SEND understand their identities and experiences, and how this subsequently impacts on their interactions with the education system. It will explore how discourses construct the identity of ‘mum’, a frequently used short-hand that describes the role of parents of children with SEND, and how/why some parent carers resist this construction and attempt instead to subvert or disrupt the education system in order to seek a suitable education for their child.

Furthermore, it will seek to explore how individual experiences and understandings impact parents’ views about what effective inclusion in education looks like, whether inclusion is something they desire or do not hold as important, and how this impacts the choices they make in relation to their child’s education. Key questions that the research will address include: 

  • How is the role of parents of children with SEND articulated within official documents and policy?
  • How do parents of children with SEND understand their role, experiences and identities?
  • What discourses inform the way parents construct their experiences and identities?
  • What role do parents play in co-producing discourses that have power effects on themselves and other parents?
  • How do parents resist discourses at a collective or individual level, seeking alternative ways of being?
  • What is the impact of discourses related to parent carers in relation to inclusion in education?

Research Interests 

  • Special Educational Needs
  • Disability
  • Inclusion
  • Parent engagement/participation
  • Risk

Research Supervisors

 Professor Julie Allan and Dr Clare Joergensen


Sharon Smith is a PhD research student at the University of Birmingham. Her PhD approaches the subjectivity of parents of disabled children/children labelled with Special Educational Needs in order to explore how this impacts on inclusion. She is also interested in issues relating to risk, parent participation and philosophy of education. Sharon was awarded the inaugural BERA Doctoral Fellowship in 2019.


  • BA (Hons) Education Studies, University of Winchester
  • MA Philosophy of Education, Institute of Education, UCL

Conference Papers

 An inclusive and ethical way to approach research with parents of disabled children’ Online International Doctoral Research Conference in Education, 8 July 2020, Liverpool John Moores University.

Seminar ‘The role of risk in relation to Special Educational Needs and Disability’
Part of the Disability Futurities series organised by CCDS, Liverpool Hope University, 5 February 2020, Liverpool Hope University.

‘Parent participation and Special Educational Needs’
Education Reform Legislation in a Changing Society: Annual Colloquium, Society for Educational Studies, 27 September 2019, Oriel College, University of Oxford.

‘Risk and the calculable future of disabled students’
Disability Studies: Past, Present and Future (CDS Postgraduate Conference 2019), 11 July 2019, University of Leeds.

‘The production of the ‘effective’ special needs parent’
New Directions in Critical Disability Studies Postgraduate Symposium, 9 July 2019, University of Sheffield.

 ‘Special Educational Needs, Risk and Time’ Philosophy of Education Society Great Britain (PESGB) Annual Conference 2019, Philosophy of Education Society Great Britain, 30 March 2019, University of Oxford.


Smith, S. (2020) ‘Book review: Forms of education: Rethinking educational experience against and outside the humanist legacy’. British Journal of Educational Studies. Available online: 

Smith, S. (2020) ‘An Ethical Responsibility’. In: Goodley, D., Runswick-Cole, K. & Liddiard, K. (eds.) Interventions in Disabled Childhood Studies. Sheffield: iHuman Press. Available online: Disabled children’s childhood studies

Spencer, S. & Smith, S. (2020) ‘Women Professors and Deans: Access, Opportunity, and Networks’ In: Fitzgerald, T. (ed.) Handbook of Historical Studies in Education, p795-811. Available online:

Social Media

Twitter @Sharon_L_Smith

Contact Details