• Room 02.006 - 8 College Green

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

- Health and wellbeing in schools
- Early childhood development


Research activity per year

Personal profile



My research interests lie in three main areas: child health and wellbeing; early child development and social cohesion; and programme evaluation with a particular interest in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) through the NIHR funded LINKS Study.


Research Interests

I have extensive experience conducting both quantitative and qualitative research. I have completed a number of major evaluation and research projects and am committed to research in the field of child development and the improvement of outcomes for children, particularly in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). 


Current Roles

Deputy Director (2023-) of Innovation Zones

The Zones are community-based partnerships between Queen’s University, the Colin and Shankill areas of Belfast and a range of external research, policy and practice experts. QUB began working the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership (CNP) and Shankill Children and Young People’s Zone (Zone) in 2016 supported by an investment from QUB to focus on engaging local communities facing disadvantage with social innovation research.


Core Delivery Team member (2018-) of the LINKS Project

Along with Professor Paul Connolly (LINKS Director, UU) and Professor Sarah Miller (QUB), I am part of the Core Delivery Team for the LINKS Project. LINKS is a global network of researchers and practitioners that share a commitment to contributing  to sustainable development and peacebuilding through investment in high quality early childhood development programmes. 


Fellow of The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice (September 2023-)


Programme Director for the MEd Educational Studies, SSESW (September 2023-)


Appointed member of the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) peer review college (January 2023- )


I was appointed to the International Network on Peacebuilding with Young Children (INPB) Executive Committee member (March 2024)


I am an Expert Consultant for the Early Childhood Peace Consortium. Hosted by Yale, the ECPC seeks to join forces with the international community by creating a global movement to build more peaceful homes and societies, drawing on the experience of early childhood development and the transformative power of children and families, pillared by science- and practice-based evidence. (https://ecdpeace.org)


Additional roles:

Member of Senior Management Team, Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (Education Theme Lead) (2019-2021)

Research Impact and Public Engagement Champion (School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work) (2018-2023)

NINE Pathway Lead at Queen’s University Belfast, Health, Well-Being and Society (2018-). 

Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership (NINE DTP) is a collaborative enterprise between seven Universities across Northern Ireland and the North East of England, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, with support from the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland (DfENI). 

 Member of Research Committee (School of Social Science, Education and Social Work) (2019-2023)

Program Co-Chair American Educational Research Association (AERA) Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Special Interest Group (2018-2021)

Athena SWAN Champion for School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (2014-2018). I led the School of Education's first successful Bronze Award application (2016).

Member of SWAN Self Assessment Team, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (2018-2022)

Member of the ESRC Impact Accelerator Account Steering Committee, QUB (2019-)

Member of Cross-Faculty and Joint Degrees Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Sub-Group (2016-2018)

Fellow of the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation, QUB (up to 2021)

Fellow of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health, Northern Ireland., QUB (up to 2016)

Member of School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work School Management Board (SMB) (2016-2018) 

Member of School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work Research Ethics Committee (2016-)

Mentor, Queen’s Gender Initiative (2016-).

Personal Development Review (PDR) reviewer, SSESW (2019-)


 Current and recently completed projects:

NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development for Peacebuilding at Queen’s University Belfast Funder: NIHR (£2million) Role: Co-Investigator. 

Team: Connolly, P. (PI), Dunne, L., Kee, F., McGovern, M., Miller, S., Taylor, L., Winter, K.,  and Woodcock, K. Role: Co-Investigator and member of Leadership Team

This project aims to study the potential for ECD (early childhood development) programmes to promote sustainable development and peacebuilding. The team will establish an international network of researchers from several low and middle income countries (LMICs) that have been affected by ethnic divisions and political violence. The network will build research capacity in those countries and help to support the development and robust evaluation of ECD services, thus contributing to the international evidence base.

 The team is working with several strategic partners, including UNICEF, the Yale Child Study Center, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Global TIES for Children research center at New York University and the Early Childhood Peace Consortium.


An Evaluation of Nuffield Early Learning Intervention (2016-2018) Funder: Education Endowment Foundation (£133,022). Role: Principal Investigator

Team: Dunne, L. , Miller, S., Gildea, A. and McCartan, C.

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI)is an evidence-based oral language intervention for children in nursery and reception who show weakness in their oral language skills. These children are at risk of experiencing difficulty with reading. The programme aims to improve spoken language skills such as vocabulary knowledge, story-telling and listening skills.   The team conducted a baseline measure of language and literacy abilities in Reception year children in 182 schools.


 Project Daire: Derry/Londonderry as the nexus city for food, education, trust and health. (Funder: Invest Northern Iireland (£727,000). Role: Co-Investigator.

Team: Woodside, J., Dean, M., Dunne, L., Elliott, C., Hunter, R., McCole, P., McKinley, M. & O'Connell, N.


Using Game Theory to assess the effects of social norms and social networks on adolescent smoking in schools: a proof of concept studyFunder: Medical Research Council (£727,000). Role: Co-Investigator 

Team: Kee, F., Dunne, L., Hunter, R., Kumar, R. and Zhou, H.


AnEvaluation of Peeple Learning Together Programme (2016-2018)Funder: Education Endowment Foundation (£233,854). Role: Co-investigator 

Team: Miller, S., Dunne, L., Laishley, A. and Smith, A.

 Peep Learning Together Programme(LTP), established in 1995 helps parents and carers to make the most of everyday learning opportunities with their children. The programme is offered on a universal basis to families in its catchment area. Peep aims to improve overall attainment, but has a particular focus on literacy.  This randomised controlled trial evalaution, being conducted across 130 Nursery settings, aims to explore the impact of the Peep programme on parent and child outcomes.


Wellbeing in Schools Survey (WiSe) (2014-) Funder: Public Health Agency/COEPHNI

Team: Connolly, P., Kee, F., Dunne, L., Davison, J. and Lloyd, K.

This survey began in 2014 as a Year 8 extension of the Young People’s Behaviour and Attitudes Survey (YPBAS). Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) has been commissioned by a number of government and public bodies to carry out this work in 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010 and most recently in 2013. This school based survey aims to capture the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviours of 11-16 year olds in Northern Ireland. Survey items cover a broad range of physical and mental health and wellbeing measures. 


A randomised controlled trial evaluation of Cancer Focus NI’s smoking prevention programme among Year 9 pupils in Northern Ireland (2014-2015)Funder:Public Health Agency (£79.000)

Team:Thurston, A. , Dunne, L., Gildea, A., Kee, F., Lazenbatt, A. and Britton, J.

This project aims to test the feasibility of scaling the ‘Dead Cool’ programme. The project evaluated how effect the Dead Cool programme is at reducing smoking behaviours and changing reported attitudes to smoking in Year 9 students.


A randomised controlled trial of the Lifestart parenting programme (2008 – 2014)

Funder: Atlantic Philanthropies (£979,000)

Team: Miller, S., Dunne, L., Millen, S., Neeson, L. and McGeady, C.

This randomised controlled trial evaluated the impact of the Lifestart parenting initiative, a five-year home visiting programme, on parent and child outcomes. 424 parents and children aged less than 12 months were recruited from across Ireland and randomly assigned to either the intervention or control group.  The intervention group received the programme for five years; the control group did not, but continued as normal.  Both groups were tested at three time points: pre-test, mid-point (child aged 3 years) and post-test (child aged 5 years). 




EDU7200 Assessment Issues in Teaching and Learning in Classrooms (Module Convenor, 2016-2017; 2017-2018; 2018-2019); (Module Co-Convenor, 2019-2020; 2020-2021)

EDU7257 An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education (2015-16) (Module Convenor)

EDU7208 Educational and Professional Studies (2015-16; 2016-2017; 2017-2018) (Tutor)

EDU7321 An Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Education (2014-15) (Module Convenor)


EDU8003 Principles of Research Design (Integrated PhD) (Module Convenor) (2020-2021)

EDD9065 Critical Perspectives on Early Childhood (Module Convenor) (2015-16; 2016-2017; 2017-2018;2020-2021)


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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