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Rachel Simpson

Associate Professor, Director of Non QTS Programmes

Associate Professor, Director of Non QTS Programmes in the School of Education+44 (0) 191 33 48344


I am an Associate Professor in the School of Education, specialising in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).

I graduated from Sheffield University in 1996 with a BSc(Hons) degree in Animal and Plant Biology. I then completed a PGCE in Primary Education at Homerton College, Cambridge University. I taught in primary schools in Cambridge for fourteen years, including ten years as a deputy head teacher. During this time, I was a Leading Teacher for the Cambridgeshire Local Authority for Gifted and Talented pupils, and a subject leader of many subjects in primary schools including science, mathematics and PSHCE.

I moved to Vietnam in 2012, where I gained a year’s teaching experience in an international school (as well as continuing to develop my love of exploring the world)! I then returned to the UK to work in Higher Education at Leeds Trinity University, as an Associate Principal Lecturer in Primary Education. As well as teaching Primary Science, I worked on Professional Studies programmes, had the role of as welfare tutor, and co-led a student engagement project supported by the HEA.

I joined the School of Education at Durham University in 2015, as an Assistant Professor, and became an Associate Professor in 2019. I teach on the PGCE and BA Primary Education programmes, including leading the Primary Science Education team, Professional Studies input including a Leadership module, and Masters’ Level modules. 

I have been in the leadership roles of PGCE Primary Programme Director and Deputy Director for Primary Professional Programmes. Currently, I am the Assessment Leader across the ITE programmes, overseeing high quality assessment and feedback on all ITE modules, with a particular responsibility for the PGCE Programmes. I am also the Co-Programme Director of the PGCE International Programme, based in Geneva. I am a Senior Fellow of the HEA. 

My research interests reflect my passion for student-centred learning. I co-led a university-funded 'Enhancing the Student Learning Experience' project in 2016-17, focusing on trainee teachers’ engagement in feedback systems, through the introduction of peer review tools. I am currently researching ways to enhance trainee teachers’ engagement, resilience and passion for their profession, by designing, implementing and evaluating a creative teaching package. I have designed and delivered a range of bespoke presentations and workshops to colleagues in schools (UK-based and international) and Higher Education in the field of creative teaching and teaching for creativity, and I am currently actively involved in an Into Opera residency based in schools in Norwich. I have also been engaged in Outreach with Partnership primary schools, including leading Continuing Professional Development for Primary Science subject leaders in local schools since 2017.

Research interests

  • Research Interests Creative teaching and the creative teacher Peer Review as a Formative Assessment Tool in Higher Education Primary Science Education