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Catherine Burke


Reader in History of Education and Childhood

E-mail Address


(+44) 01223 767566


  • BA (Hons) in History, University College, Cardiff
  • MEd (Networked Learning / Telematics) University of Sheffield
  • PhD in Social and Labour History, Sheffield Hallam University

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • History of Education Society, UK, President 2014-2017
  • British Educational Research Association (BERA)
  • RIBA Schools Forum
  • Editorial Board History of Education Journal
  • International Visual Sociology Association, Board member

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Catherine Burke is Reader in History of Education and Childhood at the University of Cambridge. She teaches history of education and childhood on the Education Tripos. She teaches on the MPhil / MEd programme and supervises Doctoral researchers. Catherine is an historian currently engaged with cultural and material histories of educational contexts and of childhood in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Her current research examines the relationship between innovation in teaching and the design of formal and informal learning spaces; the view of the child and young person in the design of education; the history of 20th century school architecture and its pioneers. A major focus of the research is bringing an historical awareness to current initiatives to 'transform' education via school building renewal.

Catherine has for some time been a member of the Executive Committee of the History of Education Society (UK) and was President of the Society 2013-2016. She has researched and published on the history of school architecture, the participation of children in the design of school, as well as on contemporary school architecture. She is currently the editor of the Sources and Interpretations section of History of Education Journal and is joint series editor of the Routledge Progressive Education series.

Catherine's book, A Life in Education and Architecture. Mary Beaumont Medd 1907-2005 published by Ashgate in 2013, won the History of Education Society UK Book prize in 2014.

Academic Area/Links

  • Architecture and Education
  • Cultural Histories of Education
  • History of networks in educational innovation
  • Visual methodologies in the participation of children in the design of education
  • Histories of creative pedagogies

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Research Topics

  • History of 20th century school architecture: relationships between designers, policy makers, HMI and teachers in international contexts
  • Children and young people's participation in the design of museum and gallery spaces as informal contexts for education

Funded Research Project(s)

  • Educational aims and values through Architecture (University of Cambridge Arts and Humanities Research Fund) 2017-18
  • Sir Alec Clegg Revisited (University of Cambridge Arts and Humanities Research Fund) 2016-17.
  • Participatory Design of the Future-Building School (AHRC - NWO) 2011-13
  • 'The Decorated School' International and interdisciplinary network funded by the Arts and Humanites Research Council, 2011-12.
  • Creative Spaces 2 with CAPEUK and North West Museums and Galleries
  • An investigation into the choice of single or multi-storey primary schools for Cambridgeshire County Council, 2010.
  • Documentary Film and Educational Research (British Academy) 2009-11
  • Principles of Primary School Design: Towards a Common Vocabulary of Practice 2009-10

Prospective PhD Applications

Catherine welcomes informal contact from prospective PhD students on the following research areas

  • History of education and childhood
  • Documentary film and educational research
  • Children and young people's participation in design of education
  • Informal learning in museums and galleries
  • Architecture and education

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Course Involvement

  • Education Tripos
  • MEd
  • MPhil Arts, Culture and Education
  • EdD

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Principal and Recent Publications

Burke, C. 'Humanism, modernism and designing education: exploring progressive relations between Australia, New Zealand and the West Riding of Yorkshire 1930s–1970s' History of Education, Volume 47, 2018 - Issue 2: Sight, Sound and Text in the History of Education. 257-268.

Burke, C. 'Feet, footwear and "being alive" in the modern school' Paedagogica Historica March 2018 vol 54:1-2, 32-47

Burke, C, 'Poetry, materialities and montage: towards new histories of 20th century school architecture' in Kelly, J. and Hegarty, S. (eds) (2017) Schools and Schooling. 1650-2000. New perspectives on the history of education - the eighth Seamus Heaney lectures.

Burke, C. and Konings, K. 'Recovering lost histories of educational design: A case study in contemporary participatory strategies' in Oxford Review of Education Vol 42 2016

Burke, C. ‘Quiet Stories of Educational Design’ in Darian-Smith, K. and Willis, J (eds) Designing Schools: Space, Place and Pedagogy. London. Routledge (Architecture) (2016) This is an international collection edited by Australian scholars from Schools of Architecture and Education, University of Melbourne.

Barfield, J., Burke, C. and Peacock, A. 'Creating a space for irresistible learning' in Biddulph, J. and Gronn, P. (2016) A University's Challenge. Cambridge's primary school for the nation. Cambridge University Press.

Burke, C. (2015) ‘Hidden Internationalisms: Tradition and Modernism in Post-war Primary School Design 1948-1972’ in Breward, C., Fisher, F. and Wood, G. (eds) British Design. Tradition and Modernity after 1948. London. Bloomsbury Academic.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor I (2015) The School I’d Like Revisited. London Routledge (revised second edition of 2003 volume)

Burke, C., Grosvenor, I. and Norlin, B. (eds.) (2015) Engaging with Educational Spaces Umea: University of Umea, e-book.

Helena Ribeiro de Castro, Béatrice Haenggeli-Jenni, Catherine Burke, Geert Thyssen, Ian Grosvenor & Pieter Verstraete et al ‘Education across Europe. A Visual Conversation.Published by Network 17 EERA (European Educational Research Association) Open access

Burke, C and Jones K (2014) Education, Childhood and Anarchism. Talking Colin Ward. London Routledge.

Burke C. and Sinha, P. ‘The City as a Classroom and the Street Children of New Dehli, India’ in Burke, C and Jones K (2014) Education, Childhood and Anarchism. Talking Colin Ward. London Routledge.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. ‘The ‘body parts’ of the Victorian School Architect E. R. Robson or an Exploration of the Writing and Reading of a Life’ in Popkevitz, T. (ed) (2013) Rethinking the History of Education. London. Palgrave MacMillan.

Burke, C. 'The Decorated School: cross-disciplinary research in the history of art as integral to the design of educational environments'. Paedagogica Historica

Vol 49, No 6, December 2013. Special Issue. Modes and meaning: Displays of evidence in education.

Burke, C. 'Looking back to imagine the future: connecting with the radical past in technologies of school design'. Technology, Pedagogy and Education. October 2013.

Burke, C., Howard, J. and Cunningham, P. (2013) (eds) The Decorated School. Essays in the Visual Culture of Schooling. London. Black Dog.

Burke, C. (2013) A Life in Education and Architecture. Mary Beaumont Medd 1907-2005. London. Ashgate.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. ‘The Steward Street School experiment: a critical case study of possibilities’. British Educational Research Journal  Vol 39:1 148-165 . 2013

Burke, C. 'The Decorated School: past potency and present patronage' in Forum, Volume 54, Number 3, 2012. pp. 465-471.

Burke, C. (2011) 'Creativity in School Design' in Sefton-Green, J., Thomson, P., Jones, K. (eds) The Routledge International Handbook of Creative Learning. London. Routledge.

Burke, C. (2011) ‘“Education Through Art” The School Mural as Extended Architecture’ in Braster, S., Grosvenor, I. and del Mar del Pozo Andres (eds) The Black Box of Schooling. A Cultural History of the Classroom. Peter Lang.

Burke, C. and Cunningham, P. ‘Ten Years On’: making children visible in teacher education and ways of reading video' in special issue Paedagogica Historica. International Journal of the History of Education:Volume 47 Issue 4, 2011 "Education in Motion: producing methodologies for researching documentary film on education".

Burke, Catherine and Grosvenor, Ian (2011) 'The Hearing School: an exploration of sound and listening in the modern school', Paedagogica Historica, First published on: 10 January 2011 (iFirst)

Burke, C., Cunningham, P. and Grosvenor, I., Editorial in Special Issue of History of Education Journal, 'Putting Education in its Place: Space, place and materialities in the history of education. History of Education, Volume 39, Number 6, November 2010: 677-680

Burke, C., 'Putting education in its place: mapping the observations of Danish and English architects on 1950s school design' Paedagogica Historica, Volume 46 Issue 5, October 2010: 655 - 672  

Burke, C. and Dudek, M. 'Experiences of learning within a 20th-century radical experiment in education: Prestolee school, 1919-1952' Oxford Review of Education, Volume 36, Number 2, April 2010: 203-218.

Burke, C. 'About looking: vision, transformation, and the education of the eye in discourses of school renewal past and present' British Educational Research Journal, Volume 36 Number 1 February 2010:65-82.

Burke, C. '"Inside out": a collaborative approach to designing schools in England, 1945-1972' Paedagogica Historica International Journal of the History of Education, Volume 45 Issue 3 2009: 421-433.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. (2008). School. London: Reaktion Press. [ Translated in Arabic, 2013]

Burke, C. (2008). 'Play in focus: children's visual voice in participative research' in: Thomson, P. (Ed.) Doing Visual Research with Children and Young People. London: Routledge.

Burke, C., Gallagher, C., Prosser, J. and Torrington, J. (2008). 'The View of the Child: Explorations of the Visual Culture of the Made Environment.' in: Tom Inns (Ed.) Designing for the 21st Century. Interdisciplinary Questions and Insights.. London: Ashgate.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. (2007). 'The Progressive Image in the History of Education: Stories of Two Schools'. Visual Studies, 22 (2), 155-168.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. (2007). 'Designed spaces and disciplined bodies: E.R.Robson's grand architectural tour.' in: Greetje Timmerman, Nelleke Bakker, Jeroen J.H. Dekker (Ed.) Cultuuroverdracht als pedagogisch motief. Historische en actuele perspectieven op onderwijs, sekse en beroep.. Groningen: Barkhuis.

Burke, C. (2007). The View of the Child: Releasing 'visual voices' in the design of learning environments. Discourse, 28 (3), 359-372.

Burke, C. with Prosser, J. (2007). 'Childlike perspectives through image-based educational research.' in: J. G. Knowles and A. Cole (Ed.) Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: perspectives, methodologies, examples and issues. Sage.

Burke, C. and Ribeiro de Castro, H. (2007). 'The School Photograph: Portraiture and the Art of Assembling the Body of the School Child'. History of Education, 36 (2), 213-226.

Burke, C. (2007). 'Inspiring spaces: creating creative classrooms'.Curriculum Briefing, 5 (2), 35-39.

Burke, C. (2005). 'The School Without Tears'. E. F. O'Neill of Prestolee School'. History of Education, Volume 3, 263-275.

Burke, C. (ed) (2005). 'Containing the School Child:Architecture and Pedagogies'. Double Special Issue of the Journal Paedagogica Historica. Taylor and Francis.

Burke, C. (2005). 'Contested Desires: The Edible Landscape of School'. Paedagogica Historica, 41, 571-587.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. (2005). 'School Buildings, a safe haven, not a prison.' in: C. Cable and I. Eyres (Ed.) Primary Teaching Assistants. Curriculum in Context. David Fulton.

Burke, C. (2005). 'The Edible Landscape of School' in: M. Dudek (Ed.) Children's Spaces. London: Architectural Press.

Burke, C. (2005). 'Light in the History of Schooling' in: M.Lawn and I. Grosvenor (Ed.) Materialities of Schooling. London: Symposium Books.

Burke, C. and Grosvenor, I. (2003). The School I'd Like. Children and Young People's Reflections on an Education for the 21st Century. London: RoutledgeFalmer. [Translated in Chinese, 2005]