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Dr Sarah Cousins

Director of Early Years Programmes and Interim Director of Academic Studies


WCE0.4, Centre for Lifelong Learning, Westwood Campus
+44 (0)24 7652 2468


Dr Sarah Cousins is a former early years teacher, leader, consultant and inspector. She worked in a range of settings and schools in London over a period of ten years. She then worked as an early years consultant for local authority before moving to London Metropolitan University to lead a new early years teaching degree.

In 2012 Sarah took up the role of Principal Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire, with responsibility for primary teacher training. Here she prepared the department for a successful Ofsted inspection, developed the new Early Years Teacher Status programme and led on postgraduate education courses. In 2015 Sarah gained a professional doctorate in education (EdD) from the University of Sheffield. Her doctoral research focused on the importance of love in out-of-home, early years education and care settings. In 2015 she also took up the position of Director of Early Years at the Centre for Lifelong Learning. In 2016-17 Sarah was engaged in a widening participation project to support university students to gain the maths and English qualifications they lacked in order to progress in their professional careers. In 2017-18 Sarah collaborated with Sue Johnston-Wilder from the Department for Education Studies at the University of Warwick to develop research about students' maths anxiety, and how they are helped to become resilient.

In 2018 Sarah was seconded to the role of Interim Director of Academic Studies at the Centre for Lifelong Learning. Sarah is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a mentor on the Academic and Professional Pathway for Experienced Staff (APP EXP) at the University. Sarah is the chair of the Sector Endorsed Foundation Degree in Early Years Professional Association (SEFDEY). In 2019 Sarah became an Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) fellow. She leads a small scale development project on the early identification of children with special educational needs in Nairobi.

University committee and panel membership
  • Partnerships Committee
  • Course Proposal Scrutiny Panel
  • Degree Apprenticeship Sub Group
PhD Supervision

Potential PhD candidates are welcome to contact regarding research proposals related to one or more of the following topic:

  • Foundation degrees in early years
  • Poetry in research
  • Mathematical anxiety and resilience in lifelong learning contexts
  • Love in early childhood education and care


Baker, J., Cousins, S. & Johnston-Wilder, S. (in press) Maths - a place of loving kindness and resilience-building. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 17 (1), 111-126

Cousins, S., Baker, J., Brindley, J. & Johnston-Widler, S. (2019) Stories of mathematical resilience: how some adult learners overcame affective barriers. Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 21 (1), 46-70

Cousins, S. & Cunnah, W. (2018) Investigating emotional, sensory and social learning in early years practice. Abingdon, England: Routledge

Cousins, S. (2017) The use of poetry in a spiral-patterned methodology for research about love in early childhood. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 30 (4), 323-339.

Cousins, S. (2017) Practitioners' constructions of love in early childhood education and care. International Journal of Early Years Education, 25 (1), 16-29.

Moate, J. Cousins, S. Cunnah, W & Roulotie-Lyhty, M. (2017) Educational research for democracy, In A. Raiker, A. & M. Rautiainen, M. Educating for democracy in England and Finland: principles and culture, Abingdon, England: Routledge, 127-139

Cousins, S. (2016) ‘Policies for Quality Early Years Provision’, In E. Slaughter (Ed.), Quality in the Early Years, Maidenhead, England: Open University Press. Cousins, S. & Knight, P. (2016), ‘Quality experiences for babies and very young children’, In E. Slaughter, (Ed.), Quality in the Early Years, Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.

Cousins, S. (2016) Is love important in early years? Children’s Centre Leader, June 2016,

Cousins, S. (2015) Perspectives on love. Early Years Educator, 17 (8), pp 25–27 DOI: 10.12968/eyed.2015.17.8.25

Cousins, S. & Dunne, U. (2013) Peer support for technology enhanced learning: developing a community of learners, Journal of Pedagogic Development, 3 (3), 47-53

Cousins, S. & Bissar, D. (2013) Adapting to the digital age: A narrative inquiry approach. Research in Learning Technology, 21 (1), 5-18.

Conference papers

2019, Early childhood students negotiate new, difficult spaces in the intersection between their places of study, homes and settings: a discussion paper. Early Childhood Studies Degree Network Research Conference, Hamilton House, London

2018, The establishment of a university GCSE/A Level English and maths centre of excellence to include non-traditional learners and address affective barriers to progression. Universities Association for Lifelong Learning Annual Conference, Downing College, Cambridge

2017, Changes to widen participation in ealry childhood programmes. European Early Childhood Research Association Conference, University of Bologna, Italy

2015, Practitioners' Constructions of Love in Early Years Care and Education. TACYC Annual Conference, The International Convention Centre, Birmingham

2015, Practitioners’ Constructions of Love in the Context of Early Childhood Education and Care, European Early Childhood Education Research Association Conference, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

2014, Landscapes of Love in Early Childhood Education and Care: a narrative and poetic inquiry, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2014, Diverse Landscapes of Love in Early Childhood Education and Care, British Early Childhood Education Research Association, Birmingham

2013, Peer Support for Technology Enhanced Learning: a learning journey, University of Bedfordshire Teaching and Learning Conference, Luton

2013, E-Portfolios on a Teacher Training course: a peer support scheme to develop effective digital pedagogies, Teacher Education Policy in Europe, Finland

2013, Pioneers on the Frontiers of learning? A narrative inquiry approach to new pedagogical practices using technology in Arts and Humanities learning and teaching, Higher Education Academy Arts and Humanities Conference, Brighton