Personal profile


Neil studied Psychology at the University of Liverpool from 1995-1998.  He then went on to study for a PG Cert in Learning and Teaching and a PhD in Education at Liverpool John Moores University from 1998-2001.  He worked for a year at the University of Bolton from 2001-2002, before taking up a lectureship in psychology of education at the University of Manchester in 2002.  Neil became a senior lecturer in 2007, and was promoted to Professor of Psychology of Education in 2010.  He was Research Director for Education from 2013-2016.  Neil was Head of the Manchester Institute of Education from 2016-2020. He became Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Humanities in 2021.

Research interests

Main areas of interest
  1. Social and emotional learning
  2. Mental health
  3. Special educational needs (particularly autism spectrum conditions)

Current and recent research projects

  • #BeeWell (2021-2026)
  • Health and Life Skills (led by U of Oslo) (2023-2027)
  • Education for Wellbeing - AWARE and INSPIRE trials (led by Anna Freud Centre) (2017-2024)
  • HeadStart national evaluation project (led by Anna Freud Centre) (2016-2023)

Examples of current or recently completed research students (with indicative topics)

  • Emily Banwell - Evaluation of iThrive in Greater Manchester
  • Megan Cutts - Wellbeing of young people with special educational needs
  • Parise Carmichael Murphy - an intersectional approach to understanding stress among adolescent boys
  • Rosie Mansfield - Adolescent mental health literacy
  • Kim Petersen - Latent classes of mental health and wellbeing in children
  • Louise Black - Complete mental health in childhood and adolescence: theory and measurement issues


Further information

Research funding

Neil has secured nearly £10 million in external research grants (as principal investigator or UoM lead), from funders including the National Lottery Community Fund, Education Endowment Foundation, National Institute for Health Research, Department for Education and Economic and Social Research Council.  He has also worked as a co-investigator on projects totalling approximately £3.5 milllion funded by Leverhulme Foundation, National Council for Special Education and others.

Professional advisory, consultancy and other work

  1. Visiting Professor at University of Stavanger (2021-)
  2. Honorary Professor at University College London (2016-)
  3. Visiting Professor at University of Western Australia (2015), University of Massachusetts (2015), Florida Atlantic University (2015), University of Illinois at Chicago (2013), Flinders University (2013, 2015), Edith Cowan University (2013)
  4. Member of Research Advisory Group, Place2Be (2022-)
  5. Member of the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (2014-2015)
  6. Invited to give evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism (2012)
  7. Consultant to NICE in their reviews of social and emotional wellbeing in education (2008, 2011).
  8. Interviewed by Therapy Today (2012), The Guardian (2012), Granada Tonight (2009), Radio 5 (2010), Radio 4 (2011), Telegraph (2010), BBC Online (2008), The Guardian (2008), The Times (2008).
  9. Keynote presentations at nearly 40 national and international conferences
  10. External examiner for programmes at the University of Birmingham (2010-2012), University of Cambridge (2012-2014), and Edge Hill University (2012-2015)
  11. Guest editor of Cambridge Journal of Education (2016), Psychology of Education Review (2013), Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs (2010).
  12. Editorial board member for the International Journal of Emotional Education, School Mental Health, Mental Health and Promotion, International Journal of School and Educational Psychology.
  13. Lead organiser for third biennial conference of the European Network for Social and Emotional Competence in Children (ENSEC) (2011)
  14. Peer reviewer for journals including School Mental Health, Autism, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Educational Psychology, Dyslexia, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research.

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute
  • Creative Manchester
  • Healthier Futures


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