"We Make the Road by Walking": A Freirean Analysis of Primary School Teachers Views and Experiences of Personal Education Plans for Children in Care in Northern Ireland


There is overwhelming evidence of the poor educational outcomes of children in care in comparison to their peers and concern regarding the effectiveness of the Personal Education Plan (PEP) policy in promoting their educational attainment. This study explores the views and experiences of primary school teachers in respect of Personal Education Plans; on multi-professional collaboration in this context; their understanding and experience of children’s educational rights and explores alternative models to support children in care achieve their potential in education. This qualitative study utilises a multi-disciplinary Research Advisory Group (RAG) of experienced professionals in the education of children in care. Data was collected through online semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of twenty primary school teachers in Northern Ireland. Data was thematically analysed and emerging themes were further explored in a focus group. The findings illuminated three key areas; the PEP as a dynamic working document and process; The PEP as a collaborative process and the PEP as a rights- based approach to the education of children in care. These findings were analysed through Freire’s lens of critical Pedagogy and theory with the aim of promoting a more child rights attuned Personal Education Plan Framework to help enhance educational outcomes for children in care. Conclusions and recommendations for policy and practice reform are outlined incorporating the alignment of extant education policies and procedures; the development of flexible child participation approaches in the Personal Education Planning process and the creation of communities of learning in a post COVID-19 world.


Patricia Nicholl
Student, Doctorate in Childhood Studies, Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Learner Diversity and Identities


Education, Rights, Children in care, Children, Friere

Digital Media


"We Make the Road by Walking" (mp4)