Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Contact Details

Dr Sharon Elley

Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy

My research broadly falls under the sociology of education, youth studies and widening participation to education and employment for marginalised groups. I combine previous professional experience with my academic interests in researching inequalities associated with interconnections of gender, class, disability and sexuality in relation to childhood, youth and adulthood transitions across the life-course.

For eight years, I worked for North Lincolnshire’s Youth Service in various roles including sex and relationship educator, youth projects manager, detached and outreach youth worker. I take a keen interest in widening participation to education as I firmly believe that education is one of the few levellers of inequality available in society.

I returned to higher education myself with two GCSEs and I was later awarded ESRC 1 + 3 funding to study a PhD at the University of Leeds. A large part of my role in the School has been as Director of Foundation Level, managing and developing our BA Social Sciences programme over 6 years. This is a widening participation initiative enabling students to return to education to realise their potential and ambitions. Currently, I am the Teaching Assistant Manager in the School and this involves working closely with our PG students in relation to teaching and learning.

Research Interests

I am keen to bridge the academic-researcher-practitioner gap in the exchange of academic knowledge, professional practice and public policy. I research children and young people's intimate and personal relationships; youth and adulthood transitions; and educational/employment (dis)engagement. I am interested in peoples’ experiences of informal and formal educational practices and provision.

My doctoral research is entitled: 'Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Young People's Lived Experiences' and explores the 'gap' that exists in SRE knowledge, provision and practice. Understanding how young people’s everyday experiences are shaped by the interconnections of class and gendered heterosexual inequalities remain key to my work. Developing action and participatory research methods, researching biographies over time (QLR) and enabling marginalised groups to set the agenda and claim spaces for themselves also remain a key goal.

I am the Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families, the Life Course and Generations (FLaG) and I take an active role in equality, diversity and inclusion issues. My current research involves being the Co-Investigator on a 3 year ESRC funded project about ‘Living Gender in Diverse Times’ (2018-2021) with Professor Sally Hines (PI) and Dr Kim Allen (Co-I); and a 2 year DRILL funded project on ‘A Society Fit for Autistics’ working as an interdisciplinary team of professionals and academics in partnership with the University of Glasgow (2017-2019). I also recently completed a small action research project in collaboration with ‘Living Autism’, York (2017) and PG students delivering employability workshops to autistic UG students at the University of Leeds.


I currently convene and/or teach on:

  • Social Inequalities in Contemporary Society, Foundation Level
  • Crime and Deviance, Level 1
  • Debates in Childhood and Youth, Level 2
  • Contemporary Children, Young People and Families, Level 3
  • Education, Culture and Society, Level 3
  • MA in Childhood Studies

PhD Supervision

I have experience of supervising MA and PhD students to completion and I am keen to supervise promising students in a range of topics, including:

  • General education, and particularly widening participation and higher education.
  • Children, young people and their families with a particular focus upon social identity, personal relationships, intimacy, and socio-economic inequalities, and diverse genders and sexualities.
  • Autism, equality and inclusion across the life-course.

Key Publications


  • Elley ST, Understanding Sex and Relationship Education, Youth and Class: A Youth Work-Led Approach’ (Palgrave, 2013)

Journal articles

  • Elley ST, ‘Confronting a Culture of Laddishness and Riskiness in Higher Education’, Discover Society 2015
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88786/

  • Irwin S, Elley S, ‘Parents' hopes and expectations for their children's future occupations’, The Sociological Review, 61.1 (2013)

  • Elley ST, ‘Young People and Sex Education: Rethinking the Interconnections between Class, Gender and Sexuality’, Sociology, 45.3 (2011), 413-429
    DOI: 10.1177/0038038511399621

  • Irwin S, Elley ST, ‘Concerted cultivation? Parenting Values, Education and Class Diversity’, Sociology, 45.3 (2011), 480-495
    DOI: 10.1177/0038038511399618

  • Elley ST, ‘If I shut my eyes, I cannot hear you: The Regulation of Parent and Adolescent Communication about Sexual Practices and Identities in the Family Context’, Sociological Research Online, 15.2 (2010)
    DOI: 10.5153/sro.2114

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