Nottingham ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

Image of Jodie Pennacchia

Jodie Pennacchia

Postgraduate Research Student, Faculty of Social Sciences



From 2004-2007 I completed my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature at The University of Oxford. I then worked as an English tutor and administrator in an alternative education provision for young people who had been excluded from mainstream school. Touched by my experiences at the provision, I went on to study for a masters in social policy, where I focused on Education policy, Child Rights, and poverty and inequality debates. For my dissertation I explored the narratives of 13 teenagers who had been excluded from school. This work showed that these young people did not accept the popular perception of alternative provision as inferior to mainstream school, and it highlighted the unique contribution such provisions can make.

After this I worked for two years as a mentor and tutor in an inner city academy school in London. This role was an example of how academies are able to monopolise on their increased autonomy by creating non-traditional roles and employing people without QTS status. My role was focused on supporting the academic performance of young people working at key grade boundaries. However, I sought to make it about more than this, and I became a form tutor with pastoral responsibilities and took on responsibility for organising year 7 transitions. Throughout this time I was able to work with a range of students and to see how education policies play out in schools, with different consequences for different students.

It is the culmination of these two experiences of working in education that has inspired my PhD project.

Teaching Summary

I am currently teaching on the Year One Undergraduate Policy and Social Justice module in The School of Sociology and Social Policy.

Research Summary

PhD Working Title: Academy schools, Innovation and Social Justice

Academy Schools have been the flagship education programme of the past decade, posited by successive governments as a method of improving maintained schools and ameliorating educational inequalities (DfEE, 2000; Woods, Woods, & Gunter, 2007, p. 237; Gove, 2012; DfE, 2012F). This policy is underpinned by a belief that increasing schools' autonomy over their curriculum, timetable, school day, staff pay and conditions, and budget will enable them to fulfil these twin aims because schools will use this autonomous scope to innovate, tailoring their educational offering to the specific needs of their student cohort (DfEE, 2000; Woods at al, 2007; DfE, 2012F). The aim of this study is to investigate the ability of the academies policy to fulfil its stated policy objectives, with a particular interest in the scope for academies to take innovative approaches to the amelioration of educational inequalities. To facilitate this, the academy model will be investigated through the lens of vulnerable students, with a particular focus on groups which traditionally underachieve in the English education system, and those at risk of exclusion. The aim is to understand how schools are utilising their freedoms, if and how they are innovating, which students are benefitting from any innovation, and whether academy status has enabled schools to better support their most vulnerable students.

Recent Publications

Past Research

January-November 2014

I worked as a research associate in The School of Education on a project exploring quality issues in alternative education provisions across the UK. This project included an international literature review, 17 'snap-shot' case study visits to various types of alternative programmes across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and a wider process of stakeholder consultation. The project culminated in a report for The Prince's Trust, and several conference presentations.

The full report can be accessed here:

August 2013 - October 2013

I completed an ESRC Internship with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, Glasgow. This internship consisted of a literature-based project exploring the links between evidence and innovation in the context of Scotland's social services. The outputs included; a written report, a blog, and a collection of resources on the IRISS learning exchange.

The Report can be accessed here:

The blog posts can be accessed here:

Nottingham ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 748 4507