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Dr Helen Hendry

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a specialist in early education with a particular focus on literacy and inclusion. I draw on nearly 30 years experience as a teacher, advisory teacher, teacher educator and researcher. I joined the OU in 2019 as a lecturer on the MA in Education programme after 13 years working on a range of Education programmes at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. Originally an early years and primary teacher and senior leader for EYFS and Literacy in schools in Cornwall, Slough and Buckinghamshire, I later became a Lead Practitioner for Early Years and then an Area SENCO where my role was to train and support early years settings with SEN provision in Slough. I worked with multi-agency teams across education, health and social care to provide referral, advice and training for the maintained, private, voluntary and independent Early Years education sector. My interest in research and high-quality pedagogy led me to study the first modules of my MA in Education with the OU which helped me to begin my career in Higher Education. In 2006, I joined Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln where I contributed to initial teacher training in curriculum and pedagogy for the EYFS, KS1, Literacy, inclusion, PSHE and cultural and linguistic diversity. I provided school experience supervision and mentoring training across the Primary phases. In this role, I led Literacy in ITT for several years and organised the 'Leading partners in Literacy' project to develop collaborative practice with schools in ITT at BGU funded by the TDA. I also co-ordinated 'Poetry Train' in conjunction with the Poetry Society to support trainee teachers' confidence and strategies for poetry teaching. You can read more about this at:

Following my experience of the Primary PGCE programme I gained a role as a Senior Lecturer for the Education Studies undergraduate Programme at Bishop Grosseteste University and later became Programme Leader. I led modules on Education policy and curriculum, research methods and language and literacy in education. I am motivated to develop student-centred innovative practice in HE e.g. I created a collaborative research module in which students and staff worked together on practitioner research and publication as co-inquirers. I am also a passionate advocate for children’s literature and have involved students in enrichment experiences such as shadowing the UKLA children’s book awards and working with visiting authors, illustrators and librarians on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 

Research interests

My research interests include early years and primary literacy, particulalry reading for pleasure and play-based learning with a focus on iniital teacher education and professional development in these areas. I am involved in research and partnerships around improving access to training for early childhood educators in lower income countries as well as co-creation and mentoring in UK ITT. I gained my PhD from the University of Leicester in October 2016. My doctoral study focused on the development of student teachers’ and newly qualified teachers’ knowledge and practice for teaching early reading. This was influenced by a cultural historical activity theory perspective on learning and considered tensions between policy and practice experienced by trainee teachers as well as challenges presented by the history of debate about teaching early reading. Since then, I have conducted funded research into expert consensus for the training of ECD cadres at scale in collaboration with an international team of early years researchers as well as contributing to a mapping study of UNICEF interventions in South Asia in connection with the pre-primary framework areas.  I have completed a case study of play-based pedagogy as an approach to support tranisition and inclusion in Year 1 and acted as a co-invetogator for a baseline evaluation of a play-based learning initiative in Primary schools in Ghana. I also led an internally funded reseaarch and scholarship project establishing a model for module co-creation with Masters in Education students which has influenced current practice at the OU.

Drawing on my passion for developing EY practitioners' expertise I led a funded exploration of ECD practitioner training needs in South Africa and Kenya and created a proposed framework for an innovative approach to training for marginalised EY practitioners in low-resource contexts with partners in these countries. This has now been recognised as part of the Open Societal Challenges initiative and we are working together to seek funding to pilot this programme with practitioners.

I am Co-Director of the OU Children's Research Centre and Co-direactor of the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice and have recently  completed a 3 year (Mercers' Company) funded project exploring promoting reading and writing for pleasure through extra curricular programmes for disadvantaged pupils leading to a new framework for practice. The next phase (2024-28) centres on the role of talk in reading and writing for pleasure in Literacy programmes for 5-16 year olds. Alongside this I have recenly completed a study of informal book talk with early years and KS1 practitioners, and am currently researching the experiences of student teachers as readers and as RfP ambassadors with their peers in ITT.

Teaching interests

I  am a Senior Lecturer on the Education Studies (Primary) programme, with a specific focus on E309 Comparative and international education as well as equality, diversity and inclusion, employability and student voice across the programme. I am currently leading production of a new edition of an Education Studies Core modlule 'Learning and Teaching in the Primary Years', supporting the work of seven academic authors, liasing with a wide range of OU teams and an external AV team ensuring key current issues in education are addressed, including well-being and sustainability, integrating support for students' study skills, enhancing representation and diversity in module materials and increased interactivity in module content.

Previously, I worked with the Masters academic team on the Inclusive Practice pathway and chaired the EE812 Educational Leadership and Management module.This involved working with the team to support students and associate lecturers, planning for new developments and developing new online content. I have also worked with other team members on  Personal Development Planning and reflective practice activities for students linked to Master’s module developments and contributed to new developments on the E822 multi-disciplinary dissertation module. Before joining the OU, I developed a Masters programme in Children’s Literature and Literacies in collaboration with colleagues from English, Education Studies, Early Childhood Studies and BA Primary QTS and the Library. I have collaborated on the design and authoring of free to access online professional development materials including 'Professional development for inclusive education' for teachers in low resource contexts as well as a badged online course 'Developing reading for pleasure: engaging young readers'  available on OpenLearn.

Impact and engagement

I have been a member of the United Kingdom Literacy Association for many years and have been involved in their digital literacy SIG and student shadowing of the UKLA book awards. I am currently part of the ITE SIG working with other HEIs. I am a member of ECDAN and I also convene an informal research netweork of Early Childhood researchers between The Open Unievrsity and the University of Sheffield. I am an affiliated Fellow of the Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute. Through this membership, I worked with the National Collaborative Outreach Programme in the East Midlands to provide Year 12 students with experience of research in Higher Education and near-peer mentoring from undergraduate students. In 2020, I began working with Professor Teresa Cremin and colleagues from the Reading Agency to design the 'Teachers Reading Challenge' including a website and series of resources to support teachers, and others working with children and young people to enrich their knowledge of contemporary children's literature, and continue to support this inititiative with new content and developments. This initiative continues to develop and has now reached over 6,000 educators. I am one of the leaders of  the year long OU 'Reading Schools' whole school improvement programme for Primary English Leaders and school staff with OU colleagues. This transformative programme shows an impact on reading engagement and reading attainment for pupils who have previously not enjoyed reading. I am also leading a new initiative that supports student teachers to develop their own RfP pedagogy and advocate for research informed RfP amongst their peers. These Student RfP ambassadors are spearheading bespoke activities in their teaching programmes with the support of the OU/ UKLA team and their HEI tutors in 18 UK universities.

I have collaborated on research into training for Early Childhood Development cadres for the UK Department for International Development with colleagues from the University of Hong Kong, McGill University, Canada, University College London and the University of Nebraska College of Public Health. This involved canvassing the opinions of 14 global experts comprising wide experience and expertise related to ECD cadres training. The panel included individuals with extensive front-line experience in training ECD cadres across diverse, low-resource contexts spanning the world regions, including East, Central, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific; Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, and South America. Experts occupied senior leadership positions across leading international non-governmental organisations and academic institutions and / or contribute to global policy setting via membership of key steering committees. I have also liaised with frontline staff from UNICEF regional offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, as part of a mapping study of pre-primary interventions for UNICEF. I recently gained OU funding to bring together academics, policy makers and policy influencers in ECD for a knowledge exchange summit. This 2 day event connected research with policy direction and enabled forward planning for potential new developments in ECD practitioner training in lower income countries.I have facilitated the TESSA MOOC with teacher educators in Africa andI developed online Inclusive teacher education modules for teachers in Kenya with OU colleagues and the Commonwealth of Learning. In 2020-21 I led a research and development project with the support of SAIDE in South Africa and SAPCONE in Kenya, to create a research-informed proposed framework for multi-sectoral ECD practictioner skills-focused professional development as well as working closely with colleagues from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana on a baseline evaluation of a play-based approach to learning in the primary phase. I continue to work in partnership with SAIDE and colleagues in Turkana, Kenya to share these ideas with others and progress towards making this resaerch led programme into a flexible, sustainable, open access professional development resource for use by training providers and multi-sectoral practitioners in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Editorial (2024-05-31)
Cremin, Teresa and Hendry, Helen
Education 3-13 ((early access))

Workforce preparation for delivery of nurturing care in low‐ and middle‐income countries: Expert consensus on critical multisectoral training needs (2024-01)
Pearson, Emma; Rao, Nirmala; Siraj, Iram; Aboud, Frances; Horton, Caroline and Hendry, Helen
Child: Care, Health and Development, 50, Article e13180(1)

Literacy histories as opportunities for learning: Reflecting, connecting, and learning from Margaret Meek Spencer (2022-07)
Cremin, Teresa and Hendry, Helen
English in Education, 56(3) (pp. 209-221)

A pedagogical meeting place or a problem space? Extending play-based pedagogy in Year One (2022)
Nicholson, Philip and Hendry, Helen
Education 3-13, 50(2) (pp. 184-196)

Monsters: interdisciplinary explorations in monstrosity (2020-03-25)
Erle, Sibylle and Hendry, Helen
Palgrave Communications, 6, Article 53

Becoming a teacher of early reading: charting the knowledge and practices of pre-service and newly qualified teachers (2020-01-22)
Hendry, Helen
Literacy, 54(1) (pp. 58-69)

‘On the outside I’m smiling but inside I’m crying’: communication successes and challenges for undergraduate academic writing (2018)
Elliott, Samantha; Hendry, Helen; Ayres, Chloe; Blackman, Kim; Browning, Francesca; Colebrook, Daisy; Cook, Colin; Coy, Nathan; Hughes, Jessica; Lilley, Natasha; Newboult, Devon; Uche, Oluchi; Rickell, Amber; Rura, Gagan-Preet; Wilson, Heidi and White, Philip
Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(9) (pp. 1163-1180)

[Book Review] Understanding schematic learning at two, by Julie Brierley and Cathy Nutbrown. pp 208. London: Bloomsbury. 2017. (2017)
Hendry, Helen
British Journal of Educational Studies, 66(2) (pp. 272-274)

Teachers' views of the impact of school evaluation and external inspection processes (2016-03-01)
Hopkins, Elizabeth; Hendry, Helen; Garrod, Frank; McClare, Siobhan; Pettit, Daniel; Smith, Luke; Burrell, Hannah and Temple, Jennifer
Improving Schools, 19(1) (pp. 52-61)

Reading Teachers: Nurturing Reading for Pleasure (2023)
Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen; Rodriguez-Leon, Lucy and Kucirkova, Natalia
ISBN : 9781032105024 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Harnessing Professional Development for Educators: A Global Toolkit (2022-08-11)
Fox, Alison; Hendry, Helen and Cooper, Deborah
ISBN : 9780335251407 | Publisher : Open University Press | Published : Maidenhead

Reading Head Teachers (2023)
Hendry, Helen; Thompson, Sonia and Truby, Andrew
In: Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen; Rodriguez-Leon, Lucy and Kucirkova, Natalia eds. Reading Teachers: Nurturing Reading for Pleasure (pp. 135-149)
ISBN : 9781003215615 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Conclusion : Reading Teachers of tomorrow (2023)
Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen; Rodriguez-Leon, Lucy and Kucirkova, Natalia
In: Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen; Rodriguez-Leon, Lucy and Kucirkova, Natalia eds. Reading Teachers (pp. 193-197)
ISBN : 9781003215615 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

My reading practices (2023)
Hendry, Helen
In: Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen; Rodriguez-Leon, Lucy and Kucirkova, Natalia eds. Reading Teachers: Nurturing Reading for Pleasure (pp. 68-69)
ISBN : 9781003215 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Approaches to Reading and Writing for Pleasure: An Executive Summary of the Research (2023-12-06)
Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen; Chamberlain, Liz and Hulston, Samantha
The Mercers' Company, London.

Reading and Writing for Pleasure: A Framework for Practice (2023-12-06)
Cremin, Teresa; Hendry, Helen and Chamberlain, Liz
The Mercers' Company, London.

Partners in Play Baseline Evaluation Report (2022-01)
Akyeampong, Albert; Addae-Kyeremeh, Eric; Cullen, Jane and Hendry, Helen
Open University, UK.

Reaching expert consensus on training different cadres in delivering early childhood development: technical report (2017)
Pearson, E.; Hendry, H.; Rao, N.; Aboud, F.; Horton, C.; Siraj, I.; Raikes, A. and Miyahara, J.
United Kingdom Department for International Development

Training early childhood development cadres in low-resource contexts (2017)
Pearson, E.; Hendry, H.; Rao, N.; Aboud, F.; Horton, C.; Siraj, I.; Raikes, A. and Miyahara, J.
UK Government Department for International Development