The Centre of Resilience for Social Justice (CRSJ) at the University of Brighton invites applications for a collaborative full-time three-year PhD research studentship to commence October 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter. This PhD studentship offers a unique opportunity for applicants to join the CRSJ which leads our vibrant resilience research and practice development. In collaboration with researchers from the CRSJ, Blackpool Council and Boingboing, the PhD project will contribute to the wider research of Blackpool HeadStart programme. The studentship will particularly focus on the Academic Resilience Approach (ARA) which is a whole school-based resilience intervention. The ARA aims to create a protective environment and build resilience of the entire school community. This PhD project will research this complex intervention using a mixed-methods design incorporating sophisticated quantitative and qualitative designs. The successful applicant is expected to live in either Blackpool or Brighton and spend considerable time in both locations.
Blackpool HeadStart is a £10 million Big Lottery-funded programme implementing co-produced social justice resilience approaches in schools and local communities to support the mental health of 10–16 year olds. Much of this initiative is based on the work of Professor Angie Hart and collaborators at the University of Brighton and beyond. Blackpool is a vibrant town in the north of England which faces multiple social and economic challenges. They are using a community development approach whilst also adapting traditional intervention methods to build a more resilience-based way of working. The resilience paradigm views health as a normal and reflexive process of adaptation to both physical and mental stressors. In the last two decades, a large body of research has been conducted in order to understand the protective factors that allow individuals to be resilient in their wider system.
The CRSJ at the University of Brighton is leading the theoretical development and implementation of socio-ecological approaches to resilience research, policy and practice in health, development, education and social care. The CRSJ aims to improve the lives of young people through a deeper understanding of the way communities and individuals develop and deploy supportive frameworks, and works directly with them to implement exemplary change.
School-based interventions seek to promote and improve educational, physical, mental and psychosocial outcomes for students. Some of these interventions are aimed at children who present a current cause for concern because they are already underachieving academically or presenting signs of poor health or wellbeing; whilst some others aim to improve outcomes across the whole population of children. Incorporating both, the ARA extends the scope and focus of such interventions to include the participation of entire school community (including, but not limited to, students, teaching staff, non-teaching staff, parents, carers, governors, professionals working with the school and sometimes the wider community). It provides a Resilience Framework within which schools identify their strengths and improve current practice (e.g., quality of relationships; school values and ethos, the nature of school policies; mental health and wellbeing support offered to students). The ARA brings significant benefits to school community, promoting a school environment where school community feel safe, sense of belonging; learn and build coping skills; and explore their identity.
This project aims to investigate key factors as predictors of resilience, academic success and psychosocial wellbeing. It also aims to identify barriers and enablers of taking a whole school approach among Blackpool schools. This project will be an opportunity for the successful candidate to contribute to the high profile research in school-based resilience undertaken at the CRSJ through testing the impact and potential sustainability of the ARA.
This project is an excellent fit to the current research agenda of the CRSJ. It also aligns to The Brighton Futures Research and Enterprise Strategy in the areas of Radical Futures, Responsible Futures and Healthy Futures. This project will i) strengthen leading-edge social justice approaches and complex system orientation to resilience research; ii) continue to open up multidisciplinary areas of enquiry in mental health, public health and development; iii) integrate resilience and systems based approaches; iv) contribute to University of Brighton’s impact agenda; and, v) generate, transmit and share knowledge locally, globally and professionally with a focus on its application for practical purposes.
By working with a leading resilience centre and a local team dedicated to Blackpool HeadStart, the research will have a direct impact on Blackpool young people and widely through disseminating the findings across the UK and internationally. The research will ultimately help many schools identify sustainable interventions supporting everyone but especially disadvantaged children who will become more resilient and better able to deal with challenges. The PhD student is expected to communicate the findings of the study within peer-reviewed journals, conference presentations and reports.