Person-Centred Planning Within Education: What does the Research Say and How Can it be Used to Support Vulnerable Pupils with SEMH Needs?

  • Anthony Gray

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Background: Opportunities for children to be involved in the decisions made about them is a part of current statutory educational legislation. Person-centred planning (PCP) has been proposed as an appropriate method of meeting statutory requirements. However, there is a dearth of research into its application within education. Young people within alternative provisions (APs) may be prone to lacking opportunities of being heard. Methods/Participants: The first paper describes a systematic literature review of current research into PCP within education, pupils with SEMH and the associated outcomes. The second paper reports on an action research project with staff from an AP for children at risk of exclusion, who opted to trial the use of the PCP approach 'MAPs' (carried out virtually due to Covid-19 social restrictions). Evaluation of the MAPs trial involved two focus groups exploring the staff member's observations and views. Analysis/Findings: More rigorous research is needed into PCP and its effectiveness, including the use of standardised and observable outcome measures, more varied ranges of contexts and participants, and longitudinal and child-led designs. Findings from the action research indicate that (virtual) use of MAPs requires staff to carefully consider their setting's structure, needs, capacity and capabilities. Pre-meeting preparation and adapting the MAPs process with technology can improve engagement, access and provide alternative ways of working. The MAPs process provides a range of positive outcomes as a by-product of its implementation, e.g. improved relationships, increased information sharing. Conclusion/Implications: PCP appears to be an effective way of engaging children, young people and their families but research within education is currently limited and methodologically weak. A dissemination strategy for sharing the present findings with participants and the EP community is discussed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor) & Clare Nuttall (Supervisor)


  • Person-centred planning
  • SEMH
  • Education
  • MAP
  • Alternative Provision

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