Dr Jodie Pennacchia

Dr Jodie Pennacchia

School of Education
Research Fellow

Contact details

Educational Equity Initiative
School of Education
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Jodie Pennacchia is a Research Fellow in Educational Equity. Her research focuses on disadvantaged learners, particularly those who experience educational exclusion or do not follow traditional or linear educational trajectories.  Informed by policy-sociology, her work analyses learners’ experiences and outcomes, and the equity and inclusion issues that surface through policy and practice in a range of educational sectors, phases and pathways.


Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (2022) 

PhD in Social Policy and Administration (The University of Nottingham, 2017) 

MA Research Methods (The University of Nottingham, 2012) 

MSC Social Policy and Planning (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2009) 

BA (hons) English Language and Literature, The University of Oxford (2007)


Jodie began her career working in learning support roles in mainstream and alternative schools. These experiences inspired her to undertake further study to better understand how inequities are created and sustained through educational systems and practices, and how these might be ameliorated to enable all young people to flourish.  This began with an MSC in Social Policy at The London School of Economics, where her dissertation focused on the perceptions and experiences of young people in alternative provision settings, and continued with an ESRC funded 1+3 PhD, where Jodie carried out ethnographic research to understand the impacts of academisation on disadvantaged students in an ‘underperforming’ secondary school. 

Jodie has undertaken research in both academic (University of Birmingham, University of Nottingham) and applied (Learning and Work Institute) settings. This includes applied research on the Further Education and adult learning sectors, such as research to inform the development of the National Retraining Scheme in England, an evaluation of Department for Education’s Career Learning Pilots, and research on the barriers to learning for disadvantaged adults.  Jodie has published work stemming from various funded projects, including on quality and inequity in the alternative provision sector (The Prince’s Trust, 2014); the social justice issues that emerge in the context of college governing (ESRC, 2021), and most recently on understandings and practices of inclusion in relatively more inclusive schools (Teach First, 2023). 

Jodie is Fellow of the Higher Education Authority and has taught undergraduate and postgraduate students in three diverse higher education institutions, most recently as Senior Lecturer in Youth at Nottingham Trent University.


Jodie’s research on educational inequities spans sectors and pathways, with a particular focus on the educational offer for learners excluded from/not following a ‘traditional’ or linear academic trajectory. This has led to a particular interest in alternative provision for young people outside of mainstream school, and the further education sector, including the following funded projects: 

Transforming lives, transforming policy? What can be learnt from alternative education provisions to support and retain children with diverse needs in schools? (Funded by Midland’s Innovation, August 2023 – July 2024). 

Inclusion in English Secondary Schools (Funded by Teach First, January 2022 – April 2023).

This study was in partnership with educational charity The Difference and FFT Education Datalab. Informed by FFT’s experimental work to combine measures of attainment and inclusion to develop a more encompassing measure of effective schools, the study used a multi-case study approach to analyse the systems and practices of relatively more inclusive schools alongside how inclusion is conceptualised through contemporary schooling practices. 

Processes and practices of governing in colleges across the UK (Funded by ESRC, 2018-2021).

This project used innovative video methods to analyse the practices, relationships and materialities that collectively constitute college governing.  In collaboration with Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker, Jodie has published work from this project which elucidates how issues of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are managed in the college governing space. 

Quality in alternative education (Funded by The Prince’s Trust, 2014).  

With PI Professor Pat Thomson, Jodie undertook a UK-wide study of quality in alternative educational provisions for young people outside of mainstream schools. This was one of the earliest large-scale studies to investigate what ‘quality’ means in the alternative provision sector, and has been widely drawn on to inform subsequent academic and government research and development of a sector that is currently the subject of considerable policy interest and reform.

Other activities

Jodie is a founding member of the Alternative Provision Research Network, a collective of academics and practitioners with an interest in the social justice issues pertinent to the alternative provision sector.   The collective is developing a position paper on what social justice means in the context of alternative provision, and will be hosting its second international conference in July 2023.


Recent publications


Griffiths, J, Greany, T, Pennacchia, J, Graham, J & Bernardes, E 2024, 'Belonging schools: how do relatively more inclusive secondary schools approach and practice inclusion?' Impact, no. 20. <https://my.chartered.college/impact_article/belonging-schools-how-do-relatively-more-inclusive-secondary-schools-approach-and-practice-inclusion/>

Johnston, C, Malcolm, A & Pennacchia, J 2024, 'How is theory used to understand and inform practice in the alternative provision sector in England: trends, gaps and implications for practice', International Journal of Inclusive Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2024.2342363

Pennacchia, J 2023, 'Exclusionary tactics in English secondary education: an analysis of fair access protocols', Journal of Education Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2023.2222409

Ireland, A, Pennacchia, J, Watson, C & Bathmaker, A-M 2022, 'How is the role of student governor understood in further education colleges in the UK?', Journal of Further and Higher Education, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 561-573. https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2021.1986474

Bathmaker, A & Pennacchia, J 2022, 'Who governs and why it matters. An analysis of race equality and diversity in the composition of further education college governing bodies across the UK', Journal of Vocational Education and Training, pp. 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2022.2126878

Pennacchia, J & Bathmaker, A 2021, 'Negotiating tensions between the high‐performing and socially just college: A consideration of the discursive construction of youth in English college governing boards', British Educational Research Journal, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 1120-1138. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3713

Pennacchia, J 2016, 'Alternative programmes, alternative schools and social justice', Critical Studies in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2015.1132972

Pennacchia, J 2016, 'Complementing the mainstream: an exploration of partnership work between complementary alternative provisions and mainstream schools', Pastoral Care in Education, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 67-78. https://doi.org/10.1080/02643944.2016.1154094

Pennacchia, J 2016, 'Disciplinary regimes of ‘care’ and complementary alternative education', Critical Studies in Education, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 84-99. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2016.1117506

Pennacchia, J 2016, 'Hugs and behaviour points: Alternative education and the regulation of ‘excluded’ youth', International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 622-640. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2015.1102340

Commissioned report

Greany, T, Pennacchia, J, Graham, J & Bernardes, E 2024, Belonging Schools: How do relatively more inclusive secondary schools approach and practise inclusion? Teach First. <https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/belonging-schools>

View all publications in research portal