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Southampton Education School
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Professor Anthony Kelly MA, HDE, MSc, MPhil, PhD, FInstP, FIMA, FAcSS

Professor of Education (Former Head of Southampton Education School)

Professor Anthony Kelly's photo

Professor Anthony Kelly is Professor of Education at the University of Southampton. He specialises in the theory of Educational Effectiveness and Improvement; in particular, as it relates to educational leadership, governance and policy analysis, in adapting Capability and Game Theoretic concepts to schooling, and in developing innovative quantitative approaches and mathematical modelling techniques for use in educational research.

One of the great strengths of education as an academic discipline is the fact that it offers so many opportunities for inter-disciplinary research. And the best educational research reflects that, drawing on knowledge from other disciplines in a way that is both robust and accessible.

His most recent books are on the use of game theory in decision-making (Cambridge University Press), conceptualising a theory of intellectual capital for schools (Kluwer Academic Press), adapting Sen's theory of capability to school choice (Palgrave Macmillan), using effectiveness data for school improvement (Routledge, with colleague Chris Downey) and developing metrics for equity, diversity and competition (Routledge). He has published approximately one hundred peer-reviewed papers and monographs, and has given presentations in some thirty countries. Many of his former students have gone on to successful academic careers in universities or to school headships.

Tony’s interests also extend to promoting the teaching of Physics, and with Dr Charles Jenkins, was the co-inventor of the ‘Lab in a Lorry’ initiative: a travelling Physics laboratory (generously) supported by Schlumberger plc and the Institute of Physics. He is a Fellow / Academician of several learned societies in the UK and overseas, including the Institute of Physics and the Academy of Social Sciences. 

Tony Elliott-Kelly came to Southampton in 2001 from the University of Cambridge and before that from a school headship in Ireland. His background is in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and he holds degrees from Ireland and Cambridge (where he studied Physics under George Batchelor and Education under Mel West). Tony’s headship in Ireland coincided with some of the worst periods of political upheaval there. He was one of the leading figures in the movement to integrate and rationalise education in the border region and he developed new governance structures there which have since become models for a number of schools. Additionally, he initiated the first school in Ireland to be built and managed by a public-private finance partnership. He was the educational representative on the Committee for Peace and Reconciliation, which was set up by the European Union to oversee the distribution of funds to projects that encouraged cross-community reconciliation, and he retains an interest in Anglo-Irish affairs.

 Tony is currently head of the Leadership, Effective Education & Policy (LEEP) research centre. He supervises PhD students from around the world researching in his areas of interest and serves on the editorial boards of several leading peer-reviewed journals. He is on national and international steering groups and approval panels in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He has appeared as an expert witness before the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and his work has been cited in parliamentary debates. 

In what little spare time he has, he plays Bridge (at international level) and is a keen skier, and follows his interest in football, rugby and cricket from the comfort of his armchair!

Research interests

Core interest: School Improvement and Political Economy
Specialisms within the field of School Improvement: management and governance; education and schooling theory; the use of attainment / performance data in schools; school effectiveness theory
Specialisms within the field of Political Economy: education, knowledge and the economy; government policy analysis, school choice; human development and capability theory; game theory; intellectual capital theory
Research methods: survey and questionnaire design; mixed methods; innovative quantitative and qualitative approaches; research design in science and mathematics; testing (proof of) concept.
Other interests: Physics and Mathematics education - promoting Physics outside the classroom and in less-developed countries - and sustainability schooling.

Research group

Leadership, Effective Education & Policy

Affiliate research groups

Quantitative Methodologies Special Interest Group, Centre for Leadership and Management in Education (CLAME), South Asian Communities (SAC) special interest group, The Centre for Educational Policy

Research project(s)

Data dictatorship and data democracy: understanding professional attitudes to the use of performance data in schools - Dormant

Understanding non-participation in education and training in one local authority - Dormant

Use of performance data for school improvement - Dormant

Improving the capacity of School Effectiveness data to inform school improvement and student learning and aspirations

To design, develop and pilot a travelling Physics laboratory, the ‘Lab in a Lorry’

Curriculum 2000 evaluation: analysis of key skills data

Case studies for Excellence in Cities

Investigating secondary schools’ use of pupil attainment data.

The experience of returned VSO volunteers in the education sector

Value for Money in Schools

Post-16 progression and its problems

0-7 multi-agency working: a pilot

How the presentation of data affects its interpretability and utility

Equity in School Attainment in Jersey

Research alternative accountability systems and write RS policy on how accountability should and does affect STEM

Learning loss and learning inequalities during the Covid-19 pandemic: an analysis using the UK Understanding Society data

School improvement in challenging contexts: insights from ten new headteachers.

Awards & Memberships

American Educational Research Association (USA)
British Educational Research Association (UK)
Fellow, Institute of Physics (London)
Fellow, Institute of Mathematics (London)
Fellow, Royal Statistical Society (London)
New York Academy of Sciences (New York)
Human Development and Capability Association (Harvard)
International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI)
Visiting researcher, examiner and advisor at some of the world’s leading universities
Advisor to several governments and political parties on schooling policy

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Book Chapters



Working Paper


EdD Doctorate of Education (EdD)

MPhil in Research Methodology

Research Training Provision 

MA (Ed) Institutional Management and Leadership for professional development

MA (Ed) Dissertation through Flexible Study

BSc (Hons) Education Studies

PhD Students

Mohammad Aldhaen: Teachers' perceptions in planning in-service education and training programmes in Kuwait

Ebtesam Alharti: Continuing professional development of teachers in Saudi Arabia

Selar Ali: Higher Education in Kurdistan

Sara Almeida: Athletes, coaches and non-sport related people's perceptions about coaches behaviour

Rosaria Carotenuto: The management of pupil misbehaviour in schools

Sorrapong Charoenkittayawut: School Effetiveness and Attainment Equity in Thailand

Christopher Downey: Use of data in  schools

Rosa Drown: Improving access to education for Roma children in Romania

Livinus Ikwueke:  How can exam malpract ice be prevented in Nigeria?

Joseph Jum: Catholic schools and educational outcomes: the case of Cameroon

Peter Kanani: Headship and school performance

Martin McMullan: Mobility of young people (Northern Ireland specific) and attitudes towards difference

Paul Spencer: Mathematics teachers' and teaching assistants' professional development

Claudia Sumner: Random allocation of secondary school places at oversubscribed schools: exploration of parental attitudes and behaviours


Professor Anthony Kelly
Southampton Education School University of Southampton Building 32 Southampton SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number : 32/2063

Facsimile: (023) 8059 3556

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