MPhil/PhD Studentship: Can family-focused interventions improve fundamental movement skill proficiency of Early Years children in the UK?

Investing in excellence: studentship opportunities

The University of Derby has an opportunity for a full-time postgraduate research studentship in the Biomedical and Clinical Sciences area of research in the College of Science and Engineering.

Qualification type: Location: Funding amount: Hours: Closes: Interview: Start date:
MPhil/PhD Derby, UK £18,622 stipend pa + UK home tuition fees (£4,712) full time 5pm Wednesday  20 December 2023 22 to 26 January 2024 March 2024

The successful applicant will receive a maintenance stipend (based on the minimum stipend defined by UKRI, currently £18,622 for the academic year 2023/24) and home MPhil/PhD tuition fees (£4,712 - subject to amendment) only up to the target submission date.

Please note: this opportunity is only open to home/UK students due to CAS and visa processing restrictions related to the start date.

The intended intake period is March 2024, or the next available intake. 

The successful applicant will be expected to complete their MPhil/PhD within 3 years on the MPhil/PhD route, contribute to the College REF submission and get involved in the wider research activities of the College. 

Applicants will become part of a friendly and welcoming team and will be supported and managed by their supervisors. 

The vacancy details are as follows: 


    1. A narrative review to explore facilitators and barriers of FMS in Early Years children in the home-setting
    2. Completion of focus groups to identify parents’ perspectives of barriers and facilitators around Early Years interventions
    3. An intervention mapping study to develop appropriate FMS interventions with parents
    4. Pilot study to test the feasibility of the FMS intervention (objectives 3 and 4)

Project description 

The development of FMS in the early years lays the foundation for engagement in PA and the maturity of complex motor skills that enhance health and wellbeing in childhood and beyond, preventing obesity and its associated health consequences (Wick et al., 2017). FMS are the building blocks for complex movements, and they play a vital role in enhancing overall motor competence (MC), gross and fine motor skills and postural control (Logan et al., 2018). Creating an environment for developing FMS and MC, including practice opportunities, is important to sustained involvement in and achievement of PA for children (Dobell et al; 2020). Better MC is linked to better physical literacy (ability to move effectively, with confidence and read the demands of the PA environment); ensuring children have a higher ability to take part in more activities (Whitehead 2001). A window of opportunity to develop these skills has been identified as 3-5 years (Xin et al., 2020). Recent studies have examined the effectiveness of school-based interventions and reported improvement in FMS proficiency and positive PA behaviour change (Bolger et al., 2018; Government 2022). However, there are a lack of follow up studies into the effectiveness and sustainability of these interventions (Kelly et al., 2020). In contrast, there is little research on parenting interventions to increase child FMS (Ha et al., 2021). Therefore, home-based interventions targeting the education of parents in skill perception could help them become role models for their children, enhance their FMS mastery and improve PA levels (Lijuan et al., 2017); supporting the TOPOL review (2019) to focus on preventing obesity through education. This project aims to identify the determinants Early Years children (3-5 years) and parents face around FMS and how family/parent interventions can be developed to improve FMS competency of Early Years children.

Potential project impact 


This project aims for three publications of 3*+ quality in international journals fitting UoA 3 and/or 24, for multiple UoD researchers, strengthening the REF UoA 2027 submission. This project aligns with research the proposed supervisors are completing around PA and FMS, in SOES with Tom Outram and Simon Briley and with Prof Mike Duncan (Coventry University), Dr Lawrence Foweather (Liverpool John Moores) and Dr Wesley O’Brien (University College Cork). This project will furnish a REF impact case study on FMS in children, building on research returned in REF2021 in UoA3 by the DoS. The research will be impactful, developing FMS interventions practitioners/parents can implement, whilst influencing policy around the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.


Knowledge enrichment opportunities for undergraduate/postgraduate students on PA, health, and FMS modules across different sport programmes, projects, placements and research informed teaching.

Knowledge Exchange:

Principal accountabilities and responsibilities

In this project, successful applicants will be required to:

The successful applicant will become adept at managing research projects and adhering to timeframes for key milestone deliverables.

The project will require ongoing engagement with multiple stakeholders. This provides successful candidates with unparalleled opportunities to develop in-demand skills and experience and develop a strong institutional network that will enhance their future employment prospects.

Applicants will need to evidence the following essential attributes, skills, and abilities:

To apply 

Completed applications should be submitted via our online application system quoting funding reference: S&E_movementskillproficiency_1123.

For other enquiries which are subject-specific please contact:

Dr Clare Roscoe

Dr Andy Pringle

Closing dates for applications: 5pm Wednesday 20 December 2023. 

Interviews: 22 to 26 January 2024

If you have not been invited for an interview by the interview date, please assume your application has been unsuccessful.  

Find out more about our research degrees.

Apply for this Biomedical and Clinical Sciences studentship post

Getting started

Before you begin your application, make sure you have:

Studentship funding reference code

This is provided on the individual studentship advert and must be specified in your application. 

Personal statement

A 500-word personal statement outlining your suitability for the studentship project. This is a mandatory requirement and you must upload it into your application. You should include your reasons for applying for the studentship, your experience in the field, how you feel you would benefit from studying and relevant information about your previous studies.

Your CV

A CV outlining your academic and professional experience.


Your qualification details including grades and dates taken. You will have the opportunity to upload scanned copies of your qualification certificates and transcripts in the application. If you have no formal qualifications, you can also state this in your application.

Passport/birth certificate

A scanned copy of your passport or full birth certificate. This will help us verify your application to study with us.

Academic references

Two signed academic references. This is optional at application stage but highly encouraged. If successful in your application, two academic references will be a mandatory requirement of admission. The references should be in written format, signed and dated from either a supervisor or tutor from your most recent studies.