Experiences of person-centred planning meetings as part of the education, health and care plan (EHCP) process: An IPA investigation.

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Ashleigh Shuttleworth, Anna Doedens-Plant, Helen Jones and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

Background: Eliciting pupil and parent views and encouraging their participation in planning is considered a vital tool in pursuit of a more inclusive culture in education (Mitler, 2000). A range of tools known as person-centred planning (PCP) tools have been designed to enable this. Educational psychologists (EPs) in a local authority in the South of England have developed a format for conducting Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) planning meetings inspired by an established PCP format (Promoting Alternative Tomorrows of Hope [PATH]; O’Brien, Pearpoint & Kahn, 2010).

Aims: To find out how participants experienced a recent person-centred planning meeting (PCPM).

Participants: A purposive sample of five participants took part: a child (aged 10, in Year 5), his parents and his SENCo who had taken part in the same PCPM and a SENCo who had participated in a different PCPM.

Method: Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed and the transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).

Findings: Four superordinate themes were generated:

  • Child at heart of person-centred planning meeting
    • Participants experienced the meetings as child-centred, through prioritisation of the child’s thoughts, the accessible format and the physical positioning. SENCos felt that reliance on language during the meetings could represent a barrier to child-centredness.
  • Focus on relationships
    • Relationships between attendees were described as pivotal to the success of the meeting. In particular, participants appreciated the experience of equal power relations (especially regarding the EP’s role) within the meetings.
  • Focus on the positive
    • PCPMs were experienced as affirming through enabling celebration.
  • Focus on productivity
    • PCPMs were seen as part of the wider process of obtaining an EHCP
    • PCPMs were also seen as having wider benefits; in particular, the graphic element made the process memorable, leading to a greater number of effective actions.

Implications: EPs should promote a collaborative environment and reflect on the impact of their presence on others’ experiences of power relations. In order to facilitate genuinely person-centred meetings, EPs may want to consider ways to adapt the format of PCPMs to make the meetings more easily accessible to children and young people who struggle to communicate verbally.