Dr. Rachel Mathieson

Dr. Rachel Mathieson


I have spent my working life in education, crossing several times between school teaching and research. I have an MSc in Educational Research Methods, a DPhil in Education, and a PhD in Music, as well as first degrees in Modern Languages and in Music.

I have taught in a variety of contexts. My first teaching post was in Reception/Year 1, but my most recent experience was as Director of Music in a sixth form college, teaching A-level Music and running extra-curricular activities. I continue to teach, and think it is important to maintain a realistic perspective on how teachers and students experience teaching and learning within the classroom. My many years as a classroom teacher have also fuelled my keen awareness of the workplace experiences of school teachers.

My DPhil investigated how Year 1 teachers responded to the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy (1998-9). I was interested in how and why actors in a particular situation accommodate or reject requirements imposed by others, and how they respond to change. In my PhD in Music, I explored university Music students’ thinking about performance. Preparation for formal assessment again revealed issues relating to accommodating and managing the expectations of those in positions of authority and/or power. These studies highlight the importance of the self, of enjoyment, and of being treated with respect for one’s knowledge and experience within one’s chosen area. Both studies used ethnographic methodology, and in both cases I was fortunate to spend a whole academic year in the field collecting interview and observational data.

Research interests

Since coming to Leeds in 2017, I have been working on a research project exploring the fortunes of Core Maths, a relatively new type of qualification in England, which could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of students and have an important influence on post-16 education, and indeed on the numeracy levels and critical analytical skills of the population. Following the publication of the final project report in September 2020, we are now, funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account through the LSSI, using the findings from our research to inform an impact project, working in partnership with the Advanced Maths Support Programme (AMSP) and the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM).

I am part of an Impact Acceleration Account project about how teacher well-being is related to their workplace experiences. This project, conducted in partnership with the National Education Union (NEU), and the National Association of Schoolmasters & Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), examines the causes of well-being and burnout in teaching, generating a range of practitioner-focused guides and support materials, focused on tackling stress, improving well-being and mental health, and reducing burnout. We are also looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teachers, and in particular how teachers, and schools as communities of practice, are modifying their approaches and practices, particularly in assessment, to accommodate the changed circumstances of schools and students.

I am also Research Fellow on the ICKLE (Impact of COVID-19 on Key Learning and Education) Project, funded by UKRI-ESRC, investigating how demographic factors and home learning experiences during the months when most children were unable to go into school relate to children’s progress between reception and Year 1 in four key areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • DPhil (Oxon) in Education
  • PhD (Hull) in Music Education
  • MSc (Oxon) in Education Research Methods
  • PGCE (Oxon)
  • BA Hons (Oxon) in Modern Languages

Professional memberships

  • British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics

Student education

I have contributed variously to modules EDUC2106 - Education Policy and Politics, EDUC 2108 - Managing Classroom Behaviour, EDUC5043M Critical Perspectives on Leadership Theory and Practice, and EDUC5060M - Getting Started: Research Questions and Approaches in Education.

I have also been Associate Lecturer in the Business School on dissertation module LUBS 5376M.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Curriculum, Pedagogy and Policy