Professor Kay Tisdall

Chair of Childhood Policy


I am part of the growing Childhood & Youth Studies Research Group. This includes the MSc Education (Early Childhood Practice and Froebel) pathway (see, which will build on the success of the previous MSc in Childhood Studies. 

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 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 the National Child Protection Leadership Group (2017- )
  • Member of Advisory Group “Child Rights Partners”, UNICEF UK (2014- )
  • Member of Steering Group, European Network of Ombudspersons for Children: “A creative project to support the participation of children and young people from across Europe to express their views about the impacts of austerity in the realisation of their rights” (2014-15)
  • Governance Board Member of Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS), National Health Scotland (2013-15, 17- )
  • Member of Advisory Group ‘Research exploring experiences of parents, carers and young people at the early stages of diagnosis of  learning disability’, ENABLE (2013-15)
  • Member of Advisory Group ‘Bringing children’s rights into domestic law research’, UNICEF UK (2012-13)
  • Member of the UNCRC Incorporation Working Group, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People (2011-14 )
  • Adviser to evaluation of Irish OMYCA initiatives, of young people’s participation (2011-12)

Undergraduate teaching

Convenor Children's Rights  (

Postgraduate teaching

Convenor Childhood & Children's Rights (

Convenor Listening to Children: 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

Joyce Serwaa Oppong  (TBC)

Bekkah Bernheim -- Gendered (Im)mobilites: Young women’s experiences of social integration

Alexandra Jundler -- Children's decision making in kinship care

Yukti Lamba -- Risk, Refuge and Resilience: A qualitative study of child migrants in urban cities of India

Niki Faranah Nik Azhari -- School design and learning spaces (TBC)

Karina Padilla Malca -- Lived citizenship in early childhood in a flood-prone area in Amazonian Peru

Laura Wright --Play-based research to explore child researchers’ psychosocial wellbeing and community participation

Past PhD students supervised

A selection of recent PhD supervision:

Yan Zhu -- Children's friendships in rural boarding schools in China

Natalia Salamanca-Sarmiento - Colombian former child soldiers’ childhood representations: redefining what is lost

Patricio Cuevas-Parra -- Exploring child-led research: Case studies from Bangladesh, Lebanon and Jordan

Yi-Tao Lee -- Raised Online by Daddy: Fatherhoods and Childhoods in Taiwanese Father-run Baby blogs

Harla Octarra -- Making visible inter-agency working processes in children's services

Mary Mitchell -- Re-imagining Family Group Conferencing Outcomes

Carine Le Borgne -- Implementing children's participation at the community level: the practices of non-governmental organisations

Amelia Alias - Children's Understanding of Online Data Privacy: A Study On Scottish Primary 6 and Primary 7 Pupils

Siew-Pien Lee -- Children's participation in decisions regarding their nursing care

Sarah Morton -- Exploring and Assessing Research Impact: A case study of a research partnership’s impacts on policy and practice


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; children and young people's involvement in mental health interventions; 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. 

Current project grants

Commissioner for Children and Young People Scotland 'Involving children in Child Rights Impact Assessment and Child Rights Impact Evaluation'. (2021) PI Children's Parliament. CI.
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

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:

British Academy. Global Challenges Research Fund ‘Shaping Futures: Young Livelihood options in creating inclusive cities’. (2020-2022). PI Sukanya Krishnamurthy , University of Edinburgh. CI. Project website:

Economic and Social Research Council, Innovations in Social Care. ‘Children and families affected by domestic abuse’ (CAFADA). (2019-2023) PI Jane Callaghan, University of Stirling. CI. Project website:

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:

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.

Past project grants

Selected previous grants held include:

• 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.
• 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.
• Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. ‘International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership’ (2016-2020) PI Tara Collins, Ryerson University. Co-investigator.
• 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.
• Salvesen Mindroom Centre. ‘Scoping Reviews in relation to key topics for children and young people with learning difficulties’. (2018-2019). 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.
• Scottish Universities Insight Institute. ‘The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Scotland’ (2016-17) With Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) and Andressa Gadda (University of Stirling). Seminar series.
• College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Edinburgh. ‘Being Young Researchers’ (2015-16) Knowledge exchange project, with City of Edinburgh Council’s Youth Participation Team. Lead applicant.
• Scottish Government. ‘Empowered and Effective Decision Making’ (2013-16) Action research with young people with disabilities. Grant held by Capability Scotland. Adviser and lead on action research.
• Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People. “Youth Football Registration in Scotland – exploring the views of young players” (2014-15) Qualitative research with young people. With Carole Ewart. Adviser.
• Office of Children’s Commissioner. “Making school complaints work for you” (2014-2015) Qualitative research with young people and parents, across 3 local authorities. With Christina McMellon. Manager.
• European Commission. “Keeping Youth Away from Crime” (2013-2015) Grant led by Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS Latvia. UK contribution with Gillean McCluskey and Sheila Riddell. Co-Investigator.
• Economic and Social Research Council, Seminar Series. “Revisiting Moral Panics: A Critical Examination of 21st Century Social Issues and Anxieties” (2012-2014) Viviene Cree (University of Edinburgh) and others. Co-Investigator.
• Scottish Government (2013) “Children’s experiences of, and views on issues relating to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)” Desk-top review to inform Scottish Government’s report on the UNCRC. With Susan Elsley (Consultancy) and Emma Davidson (University of Edinburgh). Co-Investigator.
• Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People “Preliminary Research Study into Child Contact Proceedings for Children Affected by Domestic Abuse” (2012) Legal review of contact-related decisions and qualitative research with key stakeholders. With Fiona Morrison (CRFR) and Cl@n Childlaw. Principle Investigator.
• Scottish Government “Early Learning and Childcare Provision: International Review of Policy, Delivery and Funding” policy and statistical review across European countries” (2012) With Ingela Naumann, Alison Koslowski, Caitlin McLean (CRFR) and Eva Lloyd (University of East London). Co-investigator.
• The Information Commissioner UK “Embedding Information Rights in the Primary and Secondary Education Systems of the United Kingdom” (2011-12) Feasibility Study involving literature and policy review, interviews with key stakeholders and children’s reference groups. With Carole Ewart.
• Economic and Social Research Council “Supporting the use of digital media in research with children and young people” (2011-12) With Susan Elsley (CRFR) and with Michael Gallagher (University of Glasgow). Co-Investigator.
• Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People “Early Years Practice – Consulting with Young Children” (2011) Commissioned review with A. Gadda (University of Edinburgh). Grantholder
• Economic and Social Research Council “Children and Young People's Participation: From fashion accessory to part of the fabric”. (2011-2012) Follow on Fund with Susan Elsley (University of Edinburgh), J.Sher (Children in Scotland) and S.McCausland (Barnardo’s). Grantholder.
• Economic and Social Research Council “Creative methods with research with children” (2011-2012) CPD development with S. Elsley (University of Edinburgh). Co-investigator.
• Economic and Social Research Council “Exploring Children’s Relationships in the Majority and Minority Worlds”. (2010-2012) Seminar Series with Lynn Jamieson and Sue Milne (University of Edinburgh), Philomena de Lima (UHI Millennium Institute), Sam Punch (University of Stirling), and Daniel Wight (MRC's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow. Grantholder.
• The Leverhulme Trust “Theorising Children’s Participation: learning across countries and across disciplines” (2008-2011) Academic Network with U.Butler (Bristol University), A.Gadda (University of Edinburgh), R.Hinton (DfID/Oxford University), K.Teamey (Bath University) and colleagues in Brazil, India and South Africa. Grantholder.
• European Science Foundation “Children's Participation in Decision-Making: Exploring Theory, Policy and Practice across Europe” (2008) With Profession M. Liebel (Freie Universität Berlin). Grantholder.
• Scottish Consumer Council “School councils and participation in school” (2006-07) Advice to SCC on questionnaire wording, for MORI Scotland survey of secondary school pupils. Quantitative analysis of large-scale data set and production of briefing. Grantholder.
• The Big Lottery Fund “Having a Say at School: research on pupil councils in Scotland” (2006-2010) Quantitative and qualitative research on pupil councils across Scotland, including surveys of all local authorities, surveying a census of secondary schools and a sample of primary schools in all sectors, qualitative research in case study schools with pupils, teachers and others. Grantholder, with Children in Scotland (Dr Jonathan Sher).

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