Senior Lecturer MA Education
I am currently Programme Leader of the MA in Special Educational Needs, Provision and Practice.
I began my career in education when I undertook a BA (QTS) in Primary Education at the University of Sunderland between 2007-2011 and won the Langham award for outstanding academic contribution with my thesis. I then completed an MPhil with Distinction from the University of Cambridge in 2012 and went on to receive full ESRC funding for my PhD in Education, completed through the University of York in 2015.
I have also worked in central and local government, as a Youth Policy Advisor at the Cabinet Office, and for the Mayor of London’s Education and Youth Team at Greater London Authority. I am the Founder and Director of Inclusive Classrooms, a social enterprise organisation providing training and professional development opportunities for Teaching Assistants in mainstream primary schools.
I have published a range of papers on my research into the role of TAs, was the sole author of the Mayor of London’s London Curriculum programme for primary schools 2015-2018 and have authored a range of professional development materials for Teaching Assistants through my work with Inclusive Classrooms.
Teaching and supervision
I teach across the suite of MA courses in the School of Education, primarily on modules exploring research methods and policy issues related to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. I also teach on the M-level modules of the PGCE School Direct and PGCE in Primary Education. I managed the MA Education full-time and part-time courses between 2016 and 2020.
I supervise a range of students on the MA Thesis module.
Research interests for potential research students
My research interests focus on the process of Social Inclusion for children identified with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), as well as the influence of Teaching Assistants on academic and social outcomes of pupils identified with SEND. My interests also extend to exploring innovative research methodologies for conducting research within the field of Special and Inclusive education. I supervise students at MA, PhD and Professional Doctorate level on the topics highlighted.
Benstead, Helen (2021) Primary ITT trainees' perceptions of and perspectives on the role of TAs. Support for Learning, 36 (4). ISSN 0268-2141 (In Press)
Benstead, Helen (2021) Primary initial teacher trainees' perceptions of and perspectives on the role of the teaching assistant in English primary contexts. Support for Learning, 36 (4). pp. 630-649. ISSN 0268-2141
Benstead, Helen (2019) Exploring the relationship between social inclusion and special educational needs: mainstream primary perspectives. Support for Learning, 34 (1). pp. 34-53. ISSN 0268-2141
Martin-Denham, Sarah, Donaghue, Jacob and Benstead, Helen (2017) The prevalence of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) identified in young people, aged 3-16, across the City of Sunderland: University of Sunderland, School of Education. Project Report. University of Sunderland/ Sunderland City Council.