Professor Kay Tisdall

Chair of Childhood Policy

  • Moray House School of Education and Sport, IECS
  • University of Edinburgh

Contact details


I am part of the growing Childhood & Youth Studies Group ( This includes the MSc Education (Early Childhood Practice and Froebel) pathway (see

My own background is within childhood studies and particularly children's human rights. I work within and across a number of policy areas, from education to family law to child protection, on such topics as children affected by domestic abuse, children with disabilities and additional support needs, and ending child marriage. In particular, we have a collaborative programme with children, young people, adult stakeholders and academics, on children and young people’s participation in decision-making. This includes how to involve children and young people meaningfully and ethically within research, as well as policy-making and formal decisions.  I have the opportunity to learn from work here in Scotland as well as cross-national work with colleagues in such places as Brazil, Canada, China, Eswatini, India, Norway and South Africa.

I previously worked within social policy in the School of Social & Political Science, here at the University of Edinburgh. I also have worked outside academia: from 1999-2003, for example, I held a joint post between the University and Director of Policy & Research at Children in Scotland (the national umbrella agency for organisations working with children and their families).


I have an undergraduate degree in social studies from Harvard University, a PhD in Social Policy from the University of Edinburgh, and a LLB from Strathclyde University.

Responsibilities & affiliations

A selection of community service includes:

  • Member of Expert Committee on Competency Framework for Child Participation, International Bureau for Children’s Rights (2023- )
  • Member of Advisory Group for Connecting Children (Sweden) (2022- )
  • Member of the COVID 19 Learning and Evaluation Oversight Group (2021-2024)
  • Member of the National Child Protection Leadership Group (2017-2023)
  • Member of Advisory Group ‘Child Rights Partners’, UNICEF UK (2014-2019)

Postgraduate teaching

Co-Convenor Global Childhoods & Human Rights

Co-Convenor Involving Children & Young People: Research and Consultation

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I concentrate my supervision on PhD projects involving: children's human rights; children's participation in decision-making; and methodologies of research and consultation with children and young people.


Current PhD students supervised

  • Ruth Barnes --  Exploring children’s wellbeing, consent and agency, and parental consent, in competitive sport
  • Eilidh Lamb -- Creating spaces for children who are victims and witnesses of violence to be heard and supported: Exploration of the multi-dimensional use of space in Scotland’s first Barnahus (Child’s House)
  • Sara Lembrechts  - Children’s Rights in Appellate Asylum Proceedings in Belgium
  • Boshi Liu – Chinese Children Choosing Hobbies
  • Tao Liu -- TBC
  • Ewajesu Okewumi -- Children’s Participation in Public Decision-making in Nigeria: A case study of the National Children’s Parliament
  • Jennifer O’Donovan – Irish Language Learning
  • Joyce Serwaa Oppong -- Balancing the benefits against the challenges for children in the e-waste industry in Ghana
  • Xuanyi Ren -- The understandings and practices of Chinese young people’s participation in the context of rural Chinese boarding school
  • Laura Weiner – Youth Constructions of Activist Competency
  • Yi Yan - TBC

Past PhD students supervised

Selection of past PhD supervision with:



Research summary

As stated above, my research interests extends across a range of human rights issues for children. I often become involved in projects because they cross policy boundaries or disciplinary divides. Such interests include: children's rights and citizenship; disability issues affecting children; education and schooling; family law; social media and children's privacy; and methodologies to involve children and young people in research and policy-making. 



Current research interests

I am currently working on projects that address such issues as: contested child contact in the contexts of domestic abuse; children's activism to stop child marriage; arts-based methodologies in peace-building; safe, inclusive and participative pedagogy in fragile contexts; youth livelihoods; and children who live in multilingual families.

Knowledge exchange

I am deeply interested in working with others for knowledge exchange and impact. This is a regular part of my work, from accepting speaking engagements across Scotland and different parts of the world, to undertaken research with external organisations in order to maximise impact, to contributing to policy developments in stakeholder groups and meetings. We are contributing to the Observatory on Children's Human Rights Scotland.

Affiliated research centres

Current project grants

• Economic and Social Research Council, Innovations in Social Care. ‘Children and families affected by domestic abuse’ (CAFADA). (2019-2024) PI Jane Callaghan, University of Stirling. CI. Project website:

• Frobel Trust. ‘Froebel Hub and Spoke’ (2021-2024) Principle Investigator, Lynn McNair. With Luke Addison, Simon Bateson, Kristina Konstantoni, Marlies Kustatscher, Maggie Morrison, John Ravenscroft, Cowgate Under 5s. Co-Investigator.

• Mobile Arts for Peace, Large Grants (UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund) ‘Art-Based Intergenerational Monitoring, Evaluation and Reflexive Learning’ (2022-24) PI Laura Wright (University of Edinburgh), with a number of partners. Co-Investigator.

• RSE Network Grant. ‘Research Network on Children’s Human Rights: Mobilising expertise from research, policy and practice’ (2023-2025) PI Kay Tisdall, with Jennifer Davidson (Strathclyde University) and Fiona Morrison (University of Edinburgh)

• Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant. ‘International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership’ (2021-2028) Principle Investigator Tara Collins, Toronto Metropolitan University. Part of the management team.

• UKRI Collective Fund and Economic and Social Research Council. Global Challenges Research Fund ‘Safe, Inclusive Participative Pedagogy: Improving Early Childhood Education in Fragile Contexts’. (2020-2024). PI. Project website:

• World Vision International. ‘National-Level Child Participation Infrastructures’ (2023-2024) with Karina Padilla. PI.

Past project grants

Selected previous grants held include:

• British Academy. Global Challenges Research Fund ‘Shaping Futures: Young Livelihood options in creating inclusive cities’. (2020-2023). PI Sukanya Krishnamurthy, University of Edinburgh. CI. See

• ESRC Impact Acceleration Grant. 'Making Children’s Rights Real through Implementation of the UNCRC' . (2021-22) Project website: see Observatory of Children's Human Rights Scotland

• GCRF AHRC Changing the Story Large Grant. 'Cuál es la verdad? (What is the Truth?) De-constructing collective memories and imagining alternative futures with young people in Chocó through music and arts (2019-21) CI. Project website:

• Global Child Forum. ‘Children’s Participation in Business’ (2019-20). With Tara Collins, Ryerson University.

• European Commission. ‘Improving justice in child contact’ (2018-2021) With Scottish Women’s Aid and other partners in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Portugal and Romania. PI. Project website:

• RCUK Cross-Council Mental Health Network Plus Call. ‘Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) Network’ (2018-2022). PI Lisa McDaid, University of Glasgow. CI. Project website:

• Scottish Government. ‘Theory of Change: Making Children’s Rights Real’ (2021-2022) Principle Investigator, with Matter of Focus and Public Health Scotland. Project website:

• Scottish Government. ‘The views and experiences of child and adult victims and witnesses in domestic abuse court cases’ (2021-22) Principle Investigator, Claire Houghton, with Fiona Morrison and Camille Warrington (University of Edinburgh) Team member

• Scottish Government. ‘Children’s Participation in Family Actions: Probing Compliance with Children’s Human Rights’ (2018-2020). With Fiona Morrison (University of Stirling) and Clan Childlaw. CI.

• World Vision International. ‘Child activists for ending child marriage: exploring children’s experiences in Bangladesh’ (2018-19) With Patricio Cuevas-Parra (World Vision International). Academic PI.

• Carnegie Trust. ‘Language, Place and Identity: exploring children's linguistic and cognitive development in heritage and community languages’ (2018-2019) PI Antonella Sorace, Edinburgh University. Co-investigator.

• GambleAware. ‘The effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable people’ (2018-19). Led by Ipsos MORI. Consultant on ethics and methodology.

View all 160 publications on Research Explorer