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Dr Melanie Peter

Course Leader/Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School of Education
Areas of Expertise:
Education and teaching
Research Supervision:

Melanie Peter has a background in special education and is a published authority on the arts and special needs, with expertise also in early years, primary education, and partnership with families.

[email protected]


Since qualifying as a special needs teacher, Melanie has maintained involvement in special education ever since and is widely known for her innovative developmental approaches using the arts, especially drama. A former Advisory Teacher, she has expertise also in movement and dance, and was the educational consultant for CBBC's BAFTA-winning show, Boogie Beebies!

Melanie has authored curriculum policy materials at home (for the Primary National Strategy and on-line interactive training resources for special needs) and abroad (National Curriculum for Eire). She is a regular contributor at conferences and training events nationally and internationally, and increasingly on partnership working with families.

Research interests
  • Special education needs and disability (SEND) - creative pedagogy, especially drama, movement and dance
  • Severe, profound and complex learning needs - specialist whole school CPD
  • Inclusive and specialist teacher training for SEND - initial and continuing professional development

Through an innovative body of work that has evolved through several action research cycles, Melanie’s research interests necessarily fuse inclusion and creativity. She has aimed to arrive at a substantive rationale for the effectiveness of interactive approaches to teaching children with special educational needs using the arts and drama as an intervention, driven by democratic Social Constructivist and Humanistic principles. This culminated in her PhD thesis (by publication) on drama as pedagogy for socially challenged children. Latterly, a second (related) quest has been to formulate development models and frameworks for training the inclusive interactive teacher, through research with trainees in special school contexts that exemplify the challenge.

Areas of research supervision

Melanie would be pleased to consider supervising doctoral students with the following research interests/topics:

  • Special educational needs and disability (SEND) 
  • Severe, profound and complex learning needs - pedagogy 
  • Autism
  • Multi-agency working with families
  • Creativity and Arts education – primary and SEND
  • Inclusive and specialist teacher training – initial and continuing professional development
  • Creative development in the early years

Recent and current doctoral supervision as first supervisor:
Conflict Resolution among Children in an Israeli Preschool Class inspired by the ‘Reggio Emilia’ Approach (2011)
'LOVECIRCLES': A critical study of an emotion-based professional development programme for educators of children with special educational needs and disabilities (2015) 
Expressive Arts in Ecotherapeutic Contexts: a social intervention for Autism (current)
A critical examination of the impact of the implementation of the Education, Health and Care Plan on organisation(s) and stakeholders supporting children and young adults with Special Educational Needs: A Case Study (current)


Melanie is a module leader for the BA Hons in Education and Childhood Studies, a tutor in MA Education, and is a research supervisor for undergraduate, post-graduate and PhD students. She is leading a new MA in Special Needs Collaboration (under development) and is also an associate tutor on autism for the University of Birmingham.

  • BA, MA in Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • PGCE in SEN/Early Years, University of Bristol
  • MEd in Education, University of Cambridge
  • PhD (pub), University of East Anglia
  • RSA Diploma in Drama-in-Education
  • OFSTED Registered Inspector for Nursery Education
  • OFSTED Primary and Special School Team Inspector
Memberships, editorial boards
  • Higher Education Academy - registered practitioner (ILTM)
  • National Association for Special Educational Needs
  • National Drama
  • The National Autistic Society
Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange
  • Consultant for Early Support initiative, 2004-5, Norfolk as pathfinder authority – devised materials and activities for this multi-agency training programme, for support to families following diagnosis of a child with SEN-D. Conference presentations and workshop provider, as parent advocate and special education professional. Materials were subsequently utilised for the rolling National Strategies Inclusion Development Programme – Autism (DCSF 2009)
  • Consultant for Tiebreak Theatre Company, 2006, Norwich, researching best-value approach for theatre-in-education companies to support work with schools;
  • Consultant for Norfolk Children’s Services, 2006 – Autism Action Group, research project manager: evaluating the use and effectiveness of a document to support transitions, generated by Asperger East Anglia
  • Lead Tutor, SEN in ITT (TDA, DfE), 2008-13, £63, 500 in total over 5 years
  • Lead Researcher, TDA SEN Research Project 9, DfE, 2008-9, £18,000
  • Consultant contributor to interactive on-line resource: Training Materials for Teachers of Children with Severe, Profound, Multiple and Complex Learning Difficulties, DfE/Special Schools and Academies Trust, 2009-12
  • Learning and Teaching Award, 2012-13, (Anglia Ruskin University - £3500.) to evaluate an original professional development model and associated structures and materials for developing special schools as placements within ITT. Dissemination through research report, internal research conferences and regional Partnership conference on SEN with over 70 attendees
  • Facilitator for Eastern Region SEN in ITT Network, 2011 to date – co-ordination of regional developments on SEN in ITT for HEIs and partnership with special schools. Dissemination and piloting of original differentiated placement models across providers in the Eastern Region. Attendance at national consultative meetings with DfE, representing the Eastern region
  • School governor of a Middle school (1994-98), a Special school (SLD) (1999 to 2005) – responsibility for staffing and curriculum sub-committees, chair of Quality Assurance sub-committee; a Secondary school (2010 to date) – SEN governor .
  • Reviewer for for Sage Publishers, the British Journal of Special Education, the British Journal of Learning Disabilities, the International Journal of Autism.
  • Education Consultant and author of teachers’ packs for Tiebreak Theatre-in-Education Company
Selected recent publications

Sherratt, D. and Peter, M., 2002. Developing Play and Drama in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. London: David Fulton. Second edition in process.

Curriculum materials/Distance education modules

DfE, 2012. Module 2.2: ‘Communication and Interaction’, for online resource: Training Materials for teachers of learners with Severe, Profound and Complex Learning Difficulties; commission from the Schools Network with Real Group, for the DfE http://www.complexneeds.org.uk/.

DfES, 2005. Primary National Strategy - Speaking, Listening and Learning: working with children who have special educational needs. London: DfES. Member of working party of consultants, contributor on drama.

NCCA, 2002. Curriculum guidelines for teachers of students with severe and profound general learning disabilities: Drama. Dublin: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

Chapters in books

Peter, M., 2014. Aesthetic Learning for All: drama-in-education for children with SEN. Chapter in The Routledge International Handbook of Arts and Education, eds Fleming, M; Bresler, L; O’Toole, J. London: Routledge.

Peter, M., in press. ‘Developing the inclusive teacher of children with SLD and PMLD’, chapter in [text on SLD & PMLD, title TBC)], ed. Lacey, P.

Peter, M., in press. ‘Creative Teaching and Learning for Children with SLD and PMLD’, chapter in [text on SLD & PMLD, title TBC), ed. Lacey, P.

Journal articles

Peter, M., 2013. Developing Special School Placements within ITT. Networks, 15, pp73-79.

Peter, M., 2013. Training special educators: sustaining professional development in special school placements. Support for Learning, 28(3) pp122-132.

Peter, M and Walter, O., 2010. Movement as Inclusive Pedagogy. Support for Learning, 25(1), pp38-46.

‘Drama: Visual ethnography within a critical realism paradigm’.  In process, to be submitted to Educational Action Research TBC.

‘Theatre companies and schools: a best value approach’.  In process, to be submitted to Drama.

Recent presentations and conferences

Peter, M., 2010. ‘Ensuring the Workforce is fully equipped for SEN Provision’, Lamb Inquiry Dissemination Conference, 2-3 February. London: Westminster Briefing.

Peter, M., 2010. ‘Policy into Practice’, SEN & Disability: Improving Parental Confidence and Outcomes for Children and Young People, 16 November. London: Westminster Briefing.

Peter, M., 2010. ‘Developing the Interactive, Inclusive Teacher – Movement as Inclusive Pedagogy’, Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress, 2-5 August. Belfast: Queens University.

Peter, M., 2011. ‘Autism: Quality Practice in Teaching and Learning’, Autism Innovation, 26 November. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University with Bents Green School.

Peter, M., 2012. ‘Considering Communication and Interaction’, ‘Training Materials for Severe, Profound and Multiple and Complex Needs’, 2 May. London: University of East London.

Peter, M., 2013. ‘Training Special Educators’, Training Partnerships for Children with Special Educational Needs, 13 May. Chelmsford: Anglia Ruskin University.

Peter, M., 2014. ‘Oral Language in Drama’, Talk for Learning and Living – symposium, 10 May.  London: University of London Institute of Education.

Peter, M., 2015. ‘Art and special needs’, conference - Royal Academy, 21 March.

Media experience
  • BBC Education Consultant– CBBC’s ‘Boogie Beebies’, 2004-8, BAFTA -winning inclusive dance show for young children; advisor on play in learning
  • Teachers’ TV – Movement as inclusive pedagogy, broadcast on recent research into Physical Development and Special Educational Needs, July 2009