Honorary Professor Peter Clough, BEd, MEd, PhD, (Sheffield)

Photograph of Professor Peter Clough

Honorary Professor of Education
Co-ordinator of Malta Research Methods Training and Development Programme

Email: p.clough@sheffield.ac.uk


Having trained to be a teacher at Avery Hill College in London, I taught English and Drama in the 1970’s in a London Comprehensive School, and later in a number of special schools. With the power of hindsight, I can see in my career an early interest in the ways in which schools failed children, often in the name of children failing schooling. Thus demonised, such children were given labels reifying their ‘difficulty’ in a culture of categorisation and failure.

My academic studies around this time began with a Masters dissertation trying to understand how children’s language is an important determinant of their ability to develop resilience in a frequently hostile schooling system. That eventually led to a Doctoral project and a subsequent move to being a PGCE tutor – and later, a CPD and HD tutor - at the University of Sheffield.

My academic career at Sheffield and then as Professor of Inclusive Education at Queen’s Belfast, and a Research Fellow at the University of Chester has had at its centre a concern about what the term inclusion can mean when we go beyond the simple rhetoric of where pupils are educated, to its reality in the complex and difficult lives of pupils and their families.

Educational Research and an Agnostic Inclusion

Within the broad concerns of social inclusion, my research reflects some thirty years of enquiry into learning and learning difficulties at individual, institutional and policy levels. In doing this I have focused on the lives of those living and learning with difficulty, and the impact of policy on the personal and professional lives of teachers and pupils. My teaching, writing and research has centred around my notion of an agnostic inclusion whereby:

  • Inclusion has an operational rather than conceptual focus;
  • There are as many versions of inclusion as there are people to be included – and the people who are to include them;
  • Inclusion is not the exclusive property of any one domain, be that political, academic, professional, cultural or otherwise;
  • Inclusion must not be imposed from without, but developed in partnership with those who seek inclusion;
  • Cultures (and curricula) are by definition exclusive;
  • Certain individuals and groups find their identity in exclusion;
  • Inclusion can/must only be known by its outcomes – not its rhetoric; there is a need for evidence.

There is a methodological integrity here, where the issues call not for counting and measuring learners’ difficulties but for continually developing forms of educational curricula and enquiry which recognise the realities of lived experience.


Peter has taught in various overseas locations including: Hong Kong, Singapore, The United Arab Emirates, The Caribbean, India, China and Malta. He is a member of the Malta Postgraduate programme team and currently teaches on the following:

MA in Early Childhood Education
MA Educational Studies
MA Languages, Education and Research
PhD programme

Professor Clough’s PhD students are studying topics which focus on various aspects of difficulty and inclusion, many using narrative methodologies.


Theory, policy and practice of special and inclusive education

Co-editor of the Handbook of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (Sage 2004), which provides a systematic and comprehensive international review of themes which underpin theoretical and philosophical approaches to pupils identified as having emotional and behavioural difficulties (and which is currently shortlisted for the TES/NASEN Academic Book of the Year 2005-06).

‘Routes to Inclusion’ - a project run jointly with the University of London Institute of Education - investigated the major perspectives and contributions of 30 ‘key’ academic and policy-making personnel in the UK. Funded jointly by IoE and the Dept of Educational Studies, the study is reported in Theories of Inclusive Education (Clough and Corbett, 2000, currently being revised for a second edition).

Inclusion in the Early Years (2/e Sage 2012) is a co-authored book with Cathy Nutbrown, focusing on policies and practices of the inclusion of children, practitioners and parents.

Professional attitudes/practices in social/educational diversity:

Peter developed his research focus in the area of attitudes and practices towards inclusion in the area of preschool education in the UK and other European countries (Clough and Nutbrown 2004; Nutbrown and Clough 2004). This work is rooted in previous studies which sought to identify such attitudes of teachers in secondary schools and took the form of a survey of teacher perspectives with an award from the ESRC (see below). The study was partly replicated later, and has informed a number of journal papers and book chapters. Work also includes a study of young people’s experiences of exclusion; and LEA funded evaluation of a locally developed project to explore young people’s views on practices to /manage’ their exclusion.

Qualitative Research methodologies:

The broad, ongoing project - ‘Voice’ and the uses of narrative/fiction in the social sciences - explores methodologically and substantively the contiguity of data-based ethnographic and literary enquiry. Narratives and Fictions in Educational Research, (Clough, 2002) critically surveys and exemplifies work in this. The work is further exemplified in three refereed journal articles (Clough 1999; 2001; 2004). Articulating with Difficulty (Clough and Barton Eds.1998) explored the research of ‘voice’ in inclusive education. Researching Life Stories: theory, method and analysis in a biographical age, is a co-authored book (Sage 2004) which critically explores the research of ‘voice’ in social science enquiry. My current work demonstrates the use of fictional devices to explore philosophical ideas in historico-narrative contexts (Selbie and Clough, 2004, Nutbrown and Clough, 2012). A Students’ Guide to Methodology (Sage 3/3 2012) is widely used on research methods and methodology courses for Masters and Doctoral students.

Family Literacy in Prisons Project

Peter’s current research focus is The Family Literacy in Prisons (FLiP) project - a collaboration between the School of Education, University of Sheffield, and Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) which focuses on fathers in prison and seeks to address the question: In the event of their imprisonment, how can absent fathers be supported in their vital contribution to young children’s literacy development?

FLiP has implications for desistance and resisting reoffending, and provides a positive starting point for UK prison education reform. The School of Education and Pact are continuing to run FLiP programmes in several prisons for mothers and fathers. Pact Family workers are working in collaboration with Peter Clough and Cathy Nutbrown and are fully trained in FLiP work through the University certificated route.

For further details about the project, click FLiP briefing document [pdf]
To download a leaflet about about the project, click FLiP trifold leaflet [pdf]
View the FLiP presentation

Select publications

Authored books

Nutbrown, C and Clough, P (in 2014) Early Childhood Education: History, Philosophy and Experience. London: Sage

Nutbrown, C. and Clough, P (2013) Inclusion in the Early Years: Critical analyses and enabling narratives (2nd Ed.) London: Sage

Clough P., and Nutbrown, C. (2011). Justifying Enquiry: a students’ guide to methodology in the social sciences. (3rd Edition) London: Sage Publications.

Goodley,D., Lawthom, R., and Clough, P.(2004) Researching Life Stories: theory, method and analysis in a biographical age London: Routledge Falmer

Clough P., (2002) Narratives and Fictions in Educational Research. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Clough P., and Corbett, J. (2000) Theories of Inclusive Education. London: Sage Publications.

Edited books

Clough, P. Garner, P. Pardeck, J. and Yuen, F. (Eds) (2004) A Handbook of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties London: Sage Publications

Clough P.(Ed.) (1998) Managing Inclusive Education: from policy to experience London: Sage Publications.

Clough P., and Barton L.(Eds) (1998), Articulating with Difficulty: research voices in inclusive education London: Sage Publications.

Clough P., and Barton L. (Eds) (1995), Making Difficulties: Research and the Construction of Special Educational Needs, London, Paul Chapman Publishing.

Refereed journals articles

Nutbrown , C., Clough, C., Levy, R., Little, S., Bishop, J., Lamb, T. and Yamada-Rice, (forthcoming) Families’ roles in children’s literacy in the UK throughout the 20th Century, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy

Clough, P. (2009) Finding God in Wellworth High School: more legitimations of story-making as research Ethnography and Education 4 (3) 347-356

Nutbrown, C. and Clough, P (2009) ‘Citizenship and Inclusion in the Early Years: Understanding and Responding to Children’s Perspectives on "Belonging" International Journal of Early Years Education 17 (3) 191-206

Clough, P. and Selbie, P. (2005) Talking Early Education: fictional enquiry with historical figures Journal of Early Childhood Research 3, 1, 17-39

Clough P and Richardson, G. (In Press/2005) ITE students attitudes to inclusion. In Research in Education

Clough, P. (2004) Theft and Ethics in Life Portrayal: Lolly – the final story. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 17, 3, 371-382

Clough, P. (2004) Review Essay: Teaching Trivial Pursuits: a review of three qualitative research texts Qualitative Research 4, 3, 447-56

Goodley, D. and Clough, P. (2004) Community Projects and Excluded Young People: Reflections on a Participatory Narrative Research Approach Journal of Inclusive Education. 8,.5, 273-9

Clough, P. and Nutbrown, C. (2004) Special Educational Needs and Inclusion: multiple perspectives of preschool educators in the UK Journal of Early Childhood Research 2, 2, 191-211

Nutbrown, C. and Clough, P. (2004) Inclusion in the Early Years: Conversations with European Educators European Journal of Special Needs Education 19, 3, 311-339

Clough, P. (2001) Bev: An Embodied Theory of Schooling Auto/Biography vol.4 pp 39-42

Clough P., (1999) ‘Exclusive Tendencies: concepts, consciousness and curriculum in the project of inclusion in International Journal of Inclusive Education Vol.2 No.3.

Clough P., (1999) ‘Crises of Schooling and the Crisis of Representation’ in Qualitative Inquiry


Levy, R., Little, S., Clough, P, Nutbrown, C.,Bishop, J., Lamb, T. and Yamada-Rice, D. (2014) Attitudes to Reading and Writing and their Links with Social Mobility 1914–2014 : An Evidence Review Commissioned by Booktrust Final Report February 2014