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Dr Sarah Cousins

Honorary Associate Professor

Dr Sarah Cousins is an experienced early years teacher, leader, consultant, lecturer and inspector. She led early years, primary and education programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at London Metropolitan University and the University of Bedfordshire before joining the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Warwick in 2015. Sarah was Director of Early Years Programmes and Interim Director of Academic Studies at the Centre for Lifelong Learning.

Sarah has 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 settings.

In 2016 Sarah co-led 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 Sarah collaborated with Sue Johnston-Wilder to develop research about students’ maths anxiety, and how they are helped to become resilient. In 2019 Sarah co-led a special needs and early years project in Nairobi as a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) fellow with the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS).

Sarah is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She was chair of the Sector Endorsed Foundation Degree in Early Years Professional Association (SEFDEY) between 2019 and 2022.

In 2020 Sarah led a working group to develop the 2021 Birth to Five Matters document for the early years sector in England.

Sarah has served as external examiner at St Mary’s Twickenham and the University of Surrey. She has scrutinised a number of course proposals as a member of the University Course Approval Panel and Partnerships panel. She has also reviewed courses at a number of universities, including at the University of Northampton, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Bangor University.

Further, Sarah has reviewed varied research papers in international journals, including Ethnography, International Journal of Early Years Education and Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies.

Sarah has recently published a book with Dr Hilary Minns on how to use rhymes and stories to support early learning.


Cousins, S. & Minns, H. (2024) Supporting early learning through rhymes and stories. Routledge.

Cousins, S. & Jones, C. (2023) Perspectives on the Value of Studying an Early Years Foundation Degree (EQF Level 5) in England: Past, present and future destinations. In Formenti, L, Galimberti, A. & Del Negro, G. eds. New Seeds for a World to Come: Policies, practices and lives in adult education and learning, 10th ESREA Triennial Conference. Milan: Ledizioni Publishing: 129-134. 

Cousins, S., Crowley, M., Dallal, J., Daly, J., Hayes, C., Hickman, K., Johnson, T., Jones, C., Powell, D. & Whitehouse, A,. (2023) Student perceptions on the impact of the Foundation Degree in Early Years: a collaborative investigation. In: Aabi, M. ed. Education at the crossroads: research and reflections. University of Ibn Zohr; ;

Cousins, S. & Crowley, M. (2023) Students learning in a social context. In: Hayes, C. ed. The Early Years handbook for students and practitioners: an essential guide for the Foundation Degree and Levels 4 and 5. Routledge.

Baker, J., Cousins, S. & Johnston-Wilder, S. (2019) 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) Practitioners' constructions of love in the context of Early Childhood Education and Care: a narrative inquiry. EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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

2022, Perspectives on the value of studying an Early Years Foundation Degree (EFQ Level 5) in England: past, present and future destinations. Education Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) Triennial Conference, University of Milan Bicocca, Milan

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, 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