Pat Sikes is Professor Emeritus of Qualitative Inquiry in the School of Education, University of Sheffield (UK). She has focused on narrative auto/biographical approaches since the late 1970s, and throughout her career has undertaken research which has used them to investigate topics around teachers' lives and careers. From 2014, she principally investigates the perceptions and experiences of children and young people who have a parent with young onset dementia. Research ethics are another key concern and focus of her work. In 2018, the British Educational Research Association awarded her the John Nisbet Fellowship for an outstanding contribution to educational research over a career.
Sikes was the subject of media moral panic in the UK, over a pre-publication article on the topic of consensual teacher-student romantic and/or sexual relationships in UK secondary schools. Unlike more recent scholars subjected to media hysteria, Sikes was supported by her university and retained her academic position. Instead of self-censoring her article in response to media, Sikes published the offending article in 2006, titled "Scandalous stories and dangerous liaisons: when female pupils and male teachers fall in love". In the abstract, Sikes wrote that her "paper draws on accounts of heterosexual attraction and consensual sexual relationships between female secondary school pupils and their male teachers as stories that have been told, by the people involved, in a positive fashion. The paper considers the ways in which sexual activity and identity are controlled and regulated through discursive practices and invites questioning of orthodoxies and norms."
Sikes declares her personal interest upfront:
- "I met the man I married in 1970 on my first day at upper school when I was 14. He was 22, starting his first day as a teacher and I was in his history group. Very quickly, but without anything being said, we recognised our mutual attraction, although it was not until two years later, on the evening that he left the school to take up a post elsewhere, that we explicitly and unequivocally declared our feelings for and to each other. Despite our discretion, I later learnt that senior members of staff had been aware that there was something there and they were not in the least surprised when I returned to school, after the summer vacation, as their ex-colleague’s girlfriend. I doubt that any one considered me to have been ‘exploited’, and I certainly felt nothing of the kind. I do have to say, however, that the school I attended was a liberal Leicestershire comprehensive, where pupil–teacher relationships were not unusual, and that the staff were, on the whole, young, progressive and full of the social idealism of the 1960s." (p. 270).
Sikes details her experience of moral panic in a 2008 article for Qualitative Inquiry: "At the Eye of the Storm: An Academic('s) Experience of Moral Panic".
With Heather Piper, Sikes published a book on the topic of false allegations of sexual misconduct in schools, titled "Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom: Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in Schools" (2009, Routledge). (For a review, see Steven Angelides (2011).
The sociologist Richard Yuill includes Sikes in his book chapter documenting attacks on himself and past researchers of lawful/unlawful age-gap sex, appearing in the volume Censoring Sex Research (2013), in the chapter titled Intergenerational Sexualities: A Case Study on the Colonization of Late Modern Sexual Subjects and Researcher Agendas.
- Scandalous stories and dangerous liaisons: when female pupils and male teachers fall in love, Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 6:3, 265-280, <DOI:10.1080/14681810600836471>. Journal link. Sci-hub link.
- Sikes. (2008). At the Eye of the Storm: An Academic('s) Experience of Moral Panic. Qualitative Inquiry. Volume 14: Number 2. pp. 235-253. Journal link. Sci-hub link.
- Review of Sex and Lies by Angelides (2011). Sci-hub link.
- libgen: Censoring Sex Research