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 youth studies and the sociology of education and, in particular, young people’s issues and widening participation to education. I combine previous professional experience with my academic interests in researching inequalities associated with young people and their families.

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.

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 transitions; and educational/employment (dis)engagement. I am interested in young people’s 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 participatory research methods, researching biographies over time (QLR) and enabling young people to set the agenda and claim spaces for themselves also remain a key goal.

My current projects include: working as an interdisciplinary team and in partnership with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (CIGS) and Care-Connect, to explore students’ ‘campus cultures’ in relation to their experiences of academia, university social life and networks, alongside their use of space, place and belonging. Another current project includes: working in collaboration with Educational Engagement to develop a network and forum for communicating and exchanging research, policy and professional practice about youth, young people and widening participation.


I currently convene and/or teach on:

  • Social Inequalities in Contemporary Society, Foundation Level
  • Sexualities, Subcultures and Stigma, 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 am keen to supervise promising students in a range of topics, including:

  • general education, but, particularly, widening participation;
  • children, young people and their families with a particular focus upon social identity, personal relationships, class, gender and sexuality.

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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