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Impact case study

Developing Special and Inclusive Education Practice

Unit(s) of assessment: Education

Research theme:

School: School of Education


As a result of Professor Gill Richards' research, specific Special Educational Needs (SEN) placements are now an integral part of initial teacher training courses. Her research has also informed how new and existing teachers develop the skills to raise the attainment of pupils with SEN.

Richards’ work has been disseminated through publications, presentations at national and international conferences, government websites and local authority conferences. Her research has had a significant influence on national training for SEN coordinators and her text for new teachers is recommended for many primary and secondary teacher-training courses.

National FE teacher education

The context of Professor Susan Wallace’s and Dr Sheine Peart's research is disengagement and exclusion among FE learners, arising from behaviour and motivation issues rooted in experiences of social and / or cultural exclusion.

Peart's research into Black men's experiences of FE has been widely reported in the local and national press. It won a British Education Research Association Award (2012) and led to the creation of the East Midlands' Black on Track programmes, aimed at raising the levels of inclusion and engagement among Black males. Peart's research has been disseminated through journal articles and her 2012 book, Making Education Work.

Wallace's research findings reach a wide readership of teachers and trainee-teachers in texts which are essential reading on most FE teacher-training programmes. These, along with her academic papers, have informed national policy and practice debate about learner behaviour and motivation in FE. Wallace's work has been disseminated through publication in international journals, presentations at international conferences and keynote addresses at events for education practitioners.

School practice

Research by Dr Anne Emerson and Dr Andrew Grayson has had an impact on the use of facilitated communication, a technique to help disabled people to communicate. Their research has provided evidence of the technique's effectiveness, particularly in the assessment of people with severe intellectual impairment.

Emerson's work with Nottingham City Council's Children’s Services has changed special schools' practice by introducing facilitated communication with autistic children who have severe communication difficulties. Videos from the project are used in staff training to demonstrate how each child has progressed as a result of the new teaching methods.

Research background

Education research at NTU focuses on special and inclusive education and on teacher-training. This focus has its roots in work by Professor Richards on inclusion and equity; by Emerson and Grayson on autism; by Wallace on inclusive practice in FE; by Peart on inclusion and ethnicity; and by Coates on SEN. This research has national and international reach.

Richards' research on inclusion has developed over 15 years. She has led on a number of externally-funded projects, including:

  • an investigation into the impact of the specialised SEN placement pilot programme for trainee teachers, for the former Training and Development Agency (2009-2010)
  • responding to learners' views – which developed inclusive practice by FE colleges and training providers, for the former Learning and Skills Development Agency (2003-2004)
  • Count Me in FE – a project investigating students' experiences of inclusion in FE colleges, for the former Learning and Skills Development Agency (2003-2004)
  • NTU's involvement in the Canterbury Christ Church University project, Strengthening Specialist SEN expertise for serving teachers (2005-2009)
  • a longitudinal study for Nottinghamshire County Council into the aspirations of girls living in an area of significant disadvantage (2008–2014).

Dr Anne Emerson's research, carried out over five years, is informed by her experience as a practitioner in speech and language therapy and by her combined practice-led research. She is most associated with the technique of facilitated communication, used to aid people with severe communication difficulties. The research has led to invitations to international and national conferences and consultations, and provides direct support to individuals and schools. Nottingham City Council funding has supported collaborative work with educational psychologists at special schools. Emerson and colleagues provide training for teachers and parents in communication techniques developed by them and evaluate the effectiveness of intervention.

Professor Wallace's research has focused on discovering strategies to motivate and include disengaged young learners in FE colleges. This work has informed several books by Wallace for FE teachers (for example, Wallace 2007/2011), which are widely used in the UK as key texts for FE teacher-training. Wallace is currently leading a collaborative research project with Wollongong University, Australia, to compare engagement and inclusion of young adults in FE and the equivalent Australian sector, Technical and Further Education.

Dr Peart's work over the past five years has focused on the experiences of young Black men in FE, and on discovering strategies to build their sense of inclusion.

Dr Janine Coates's research over a five-year period has considered the personal experiences and perceptions of sport and physical education of children with SEN in special and mainstream schools. The aim of her research is to inform inclusive practice in these settings through pupil voice and empowerment.


  • Corroboration of the impact of Wallace's work from Standards and Verification UK (SVUK), which regulated teacher-training for the FE sector until 2011. The SVUK makes specific reference to Wallace's: Teaching, tutoring and training in the LLS (2007-2011).
  • Corroboration from the former Training and Development Agency (TDA), Department for Education, of the impact of Richards’ work: "Dr Richards' work has been of a uniformly high quality and has directly informed national policy and professional practice." (Programme Leader Special Educational Needs and Disability, TDA, Department for Education 2010.)
  • The impact of Peart's work is corroborated by the current success of the Black on Track project in the East Midlands. Her research, which led to the project, won a British Education Research Association Award in 2012. The on-going impact in terms of raising the motivation, engagement and achievement of young Black men in FE can be seen in this YouTube video and in newspaper reports.

Related staff


Related projects

  • Professor Gill Richards: Girls' aspirations – a longitudinal study for Nottinghamshire County Council into the aspirations of girls living in an area of significant disadvantage (2008-2014).
  • Professor Gill Richards: The impact of the 'Specialised SEN placement' pilot programme for trainee teachers funded by the TDA (2009).
  • Dr Sheine Peart: Black on track – a project that utilised young Black men's experiences to inform inclusive practice in further education, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (2013).