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Julia Sexton

Julia Sexton BA, PGCE, MA

Senior Lecturer


I joined Sheffield Hallam University in 2007 and I teach on BA (Hons) Childhood Studies and BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies. 

In 2016, I completed my MA in Play and Playwork, in which my thesis, which gained a distinction, explored the use of creative methods to attune to the affective atmosphere in an adventure playground.


Prior to taking up my current position as Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, I was a lecturer at Sheffield College, teaching across a range of courses including playwork, childcare and education and play therapy. 

I trained as a primary school teacher and as a playworker and have worked with children and young people in a range of settings for over 25 years including schools, adventure playgrounds, playschemes, after school clubs and specialist play projects. 

I have been involved in consultancy work which has included evaluation projects for national organisations such as Play England and SkillsActive. I regularly present at conferences including recently the 16th National Playwork Conference (2018) and the biennial International Children and Childhoods conference at University of Suffolk (2017).

Specialist areas of interest

children’s right to play

historical and socio-cultural perspectives on play and playwork

the therapeutic use of play

creating a sense of belonging within borrowed spaces


Department of Education, Childhood and Inclusion

College of Social Sciences and Arts

I am currently undertaking an MA in Play and Playwork. A main area of interest is the exploration of theoretical perspectives on play and playwork and their practical application to current playwork practice.

I am interested in developing creative and experiential approaches to delivering presentations and workshops at conferences to engage and stimulate the audience. An additional dimension to this has been recently developed through the participation of students from BA (Honours) Children and Playwork in the design and delivery of workshops, enabling the students’ perspectives to be shared.

A selection of recent papers include:

September 2012 - Beauty of Play: The mystery of the missing essence of play (with Sheffield Hallam University students)

September 2011 - Beauty of Play: Dastardly deeds done in Dead Dog Wood: an exploration of dark play

July 2011 - Creativity and the links to the play of adults (with Perry Else), IPA Conference

March 2011 - Flying the flag for play and ways to do it and Intervention: Practice versus theory: Playwork students speak out (with Sheffield Hallam University students), National Playwork Conference

I teach within the Department of Education, Childhood and Inclusion (Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities). I currently teach on modules that explore children’s stories, students’ personal stories of belonging, being and becoming, spaces for children and spaces of children, the value of play and therapeutic approaches with children and young people as well as being an academic adviser and admissions tutor. 

Recently, my interest in children's spatial experiences in primary school has led to a co-authored article (with Dr Anne Kellock) entitled 'Whose space is it anyway? Learning about space to make space to learn' which is used as a set text on various undergraduate courses. 



My research interests lie in the areas of developing creative methodologies to explore affective atmospheres; children's spatial experiences; posthuman research approaches and applying the playwork lens to everyday adult and child interactions.


Journal articles

Kellock, A., & Sexton, J. (2017). Whose space is it anyway? Learning about space to make space to learn. Children's Geographies, 16 (2), 115-127.

Other activities

Else, P., Sexton, J. and Nuttall, E. (2010). A Journey, Not a Destination: Evaluating The Impact of Quality in Play. London, NCB


Julia lectures on children and playwork. She has worked as a playworker, a primary school teacher and has been involved in further education and higher education since 1997. She has undertaken consultancy work for national organisations and small voluntary organisations in the areas of articulating the importance of adventure playgrounds, accreditation of prior learning to develop transferable skills, and policy development and implementation.

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