Research project

Leading by Listening: A Playful Approach

This project page has been created to support early years and primary school educators with leading change by listening to children's voices.

On this page


Start date

January 2024

Completion date

June 2026

There is a National network being formed to take this forward in session 2024/2025. Please get in touch with Lynsey Burke if you would like to be added to the network. This project page will be built up over time to support educators in the network and will include information, resources, materials, evidence of impact and links to research articles.

In the meantime, the Playful Framework is currently being piloted in Redwell Primary School, Clackmannanshire Council, with members of staff there working alongside the Playful Researchers as co-researchers. Updates on the pilot will be provided here from January 2024 onwards.



  • Identify the issue and be clear about why you are listening. Has there been a critical incident?
  •  How does this relate to your self-evaluation processes?
  •  What other supporting evidence do you have?
  • What would children like to have their voices heard on?

Link & look

  • Link (e.g., to literature/school improvement planning/policies/frameworks/guidance/SDGs/HGIOS)
  • Look inwards, outwards and forwards (ongoing).

Action Plan to Amplify Voices

  • Co-create the plan with children; How would children like to share their voices on this issue? Who?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Take into account preferences, interests, observations.

Findings & Feedback

  • Capturing children’s voices; what are the children saying?
  • Reflecting: was that method an effective way of listening to their voices?
  • Educator observes/documents/records.

Understand & Interpret

  • What does all of this mean?
  • Avoid making assumptions. 
  • Triangulation of data?
  • Discuss with children to check understanding.

Look to the Future

  • What happens now and next?
  • How can children’s voices be used to influence change?
  • How might children like to have their voices heard in the future? 

Download the Playful Framework (PDF) on the Discovery Portal website.


Project lead(s)

Dr Lynsey Burke
Selection of cards spelling PLAYFUL

This framework (currently in draft format) was launched at an Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) conference on 9 November 2023 with school leaders in Scotland. Here is the initial feedback from the keynote speech.

“A great framework to ensure all relevant stakeholders can contribute and ensure everyone is represented”


“Having a framework like this really helps to focus thoughts. Loving the ideas on how to evidence this approach, and already thinking how I can use this approach for other things too!”


A list of quotes from people who participated in the Playful framework

Related groups

Education and Society

Project type

Research project