Inclusion and Special Educational Needs Research Cluster

Inclusion as a human rights issue related to social justice is an area of central importance to the Institute of Education. As a research cluster focusing on inclusion, we have particular expertise in removing barriers for those described as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with specific interests in: 

Regarding SEND law specifically, the University of Derby offer a SEND Legal Advice Clinic to the residents of Derbyshire.  

Focussing on inclusion more broadly, we also have expertise in the areas of LGBT+ and children seeking sanctuary. The work of the ISEND Cluster is also closely aligned with the Race and Education Research Cluster. 

Our aims

The work of the ISEND Research Cluster aims to: 

Our teams are delivering these aims through a wide range of projects which are shaping policy and practice, and ultimately improving outcomes for children and young people. 

These projects include activities as diverse as conducting large-scale policy and practice evaluations, to centralising the voices of young disabled researchers. 

Research Cluster Team

  • Wykeham Bosworth-Nightingale - PhD Scholarship Student. An Ethnographic Study of a Supported Internship Programme
  • John Brown - PhD Student. Uncovering Teachers' Lived Experience Accounts of Hidden Disability and Being Professional
  • Wendy Conrad - EdD Student. Sanctuary Families' Perspectives on Accessing Education for Children with SEND in England
  • Kayte Haselgrove - PhD Student. How do the Orientations of the Subject Specialist Teacher in the Further Education and Skills Sector in England Change Over Time and in Response to Institutional and External Forces and Factors?
  • Alison McIntosh - EdD Student. Spaces of Punishment: A Foucauldian analysis of removal rooms in UK secondary schools
  • Sarah Roeschlaub - PhD Student. An Investigation into how Same-Sex Families Conceptualise their Family Unit and the Influence of External and Internal Factors on Them
  • Ifza Shakoor - PhD Student. Equality and Inclusive Practice in Career Development: Diversifying the pipeline
  • Maria Szreder - PhD Student. Scholarship Student. Investigating Supported Internships in England and the United States: The discursive construction of supported internships and implications for the social inclusion of people with disabilities
  • Alex Tomkins - EdD Student. Exploring assessment practices informed by Hermeneutic Phenomenology in special education

Learn more about doctoral study at the University of Derby

Our research

We pursue research and development work with a wide range of partners from across the public, private, voluntary and charity sectors. For more information, see our project pages. 

Policy and Practice Evaluation 

In January 2024, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, and Integration (Ireland) published the University of Derby Consortium’s End of Year Three Evaluation of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM). Led by Professor Deborah Robinson, the research investigated the implementation and impact of Ireland’s flagship AIM model; this policy seeks to build more inclusive practices for children with disabilities in early education. 

Funded by the Irish Government, the research involved gathering data from over 2,000 stakeholders. The findings from the evaluation have already informed the phased extension of the AIM programme (announced in the Irish governmental budget 2024). 

Engaging Teachers in Action Research for ISEND 

Funded by the Department for Education via the National Association of Special Educational Needs (nasen), Dr Geraldene Codina is leading the national Action Research and Lesson Study project for ISEND. Working with up to 125 schools, this project is supporting teachers to develop more inclusive practice through a focus on collaborative, evidence-informed approaches and to embed a research culture in their schools. 

Young Researchers, Young Voices 

Centralising the voices of young disabled adults, Dr Liam Maloy is leading the Young Researchers Young Voices Project. Funded via SDSA this project has engaged five young disabled adults in research training which they are now utilising as the basis for gathering other young people’s lived experience accounts about their Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs). Initial findings show that the people involved in the plan are the most critical element to the young people.  

Just Like Us

Funded by the National Lottery, Dr Adam Brett is leading a three-year project working with eight secondary schools, to evaluate the impact of their LGBT+ Pride groups. The project is in coordination with the LGBT+ young person's charity Just Like Us, and aims to highlight the positive impacts that pride groups can have in school in helping to develop inclusion and allyship.

Past Projects

The ITT: Team Programme Alumni Evaluation (funded by the Young Enterprise) is aimed at engaging young people aged 15-19 with mild to moderate learning difficulties. It provides them with a structured enterprise learning opportunity based on running an actual business.

In the East Midlands, children and young people with learning disabilities are struggling to find opportunities for them and their families to experience exceptional arts and a lack of job opportunities for disabled artists means creative opportunities are limited.

The Mighty Creatives commissioned the University of Derby for the educational evaluation of the project. SPLASH! is a project funded by the Arts Council of England.

Research-informed teaching

The Institute of Education runs a number of courses which are shaped and informed by the work of this research cluster.

For further details contact: Trevor Cotterill 


For further details contact: Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler


  • PG Cert - National Award for SEN Co-ordination: Leading Effective, Inclusive Practice in SEN

For further details contact: Jo Baines or Julia Trickey


For further details contact: Dr Jennifer Marshall or Wendy Conrad 

A child's hand covered in yellow paint.

ISEND Events

Discover our future and past Research Cluster events.

Find out moreFind out more

Join us

If you are interested in joining this research centre, want to find out more or are interested in applying for a PhD in this area, please contact Cluster Lead Dr Geraldene Codina.



  • Cotterill, T. (2023). A Student Guide to the SEND Code of Practice: Exploring key areas of need. London: Routledge.
  • Cotterill, T. (2023). Autism: A Student’s Guide. London: SAGE








  • Cotterill, T. (2016) ‘Accountability in Education’, in A. O’Grady & V. Cottle (Eds) Exploring Education at Postgraduate Level, Abingdon:  Routledge
  • Cotterill, T. (2016) Assessment, Learning and Evaluation in A. O’Grady & V. Cottle (Eds) Exploring Education at Postgraduate Level, Abingdon: Routledge
  • Lamb, B. (2016) ‘Achieving best value from your Pupil Premium allocations’,  Every Child Journal. Vol 6.1. 
  • Moore, N., Sahar, A., Robinson, D. and Hoare, M. (2016). Evaluation of the impact of the Team Programme. University of Derby: ICeGS. 
  • Robinson, Deborah 2016. Effective inclusive teacher education for special educational needs and disabilities: Some more thoughts on the way forwardTeaching and Teacher Education.
  • Robinson, Deborah, Moore, Nicki and Parker, Gordon 2016. An evaluation of BookTrust additional needs resources. Institute of Education, University of Derby.