Children and young people's participation: practice examples

Case studies of organisations who have engaged with children and young people.

Young Leaders of Learning Programme

Education Scotland have developed a Young Leaders of Learning programme (YLL). The aim is to engage even more with children and young people to listen to their views about how to improve Scottish education. 

Education Scotland are fully committed to the rights of children and young people to share their views about what is important in their lives. Central to this is giving children and young people increased opportunities to shape improved educational experiences.

Education Scotland developed the programme following on from engagement with over 150 children from 10 schools in Aberdeen, Moray, and Glasgow (5 primary and 5 secondary). The children taking part in the programme have ranged from Primary 4 to Secondary 6.

The purpose of the programme is to ensure that children and young people are actively involved in ongoing self-evaluation activities leading to improvement by:

  • taking part in reciprocal visits to other schools to identify what is working well, areas for improvement and effective practice
  • promoting ways that children and young people can be involved in school improvement activities in their own school

There are many benefits to the programme, including:

  • supporting schools’ own self-evaluation activities as children and young people will be able to share practice and become more familiar with the language and processes of school improvement
  • an opportunity to build leadership skills in young leaders of learning
  • early feedback suggests that the impact on learner participation across the schools has been significant, with head teachers taking a more strategic approach, and ensuring the wider learner population takes forward some of the outcomes from the visits
  • upholding relevant articles of the UNCRC : Article 12 states that every child has a right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously. Article 13 states that every child must be free to say what they think and to seek and receive all kinds of information, as long as it is within the law

A process of ongoing evaluation is in place, and at each visit feedback is taken from the YLLs. At the end of the year, lead staff are asked to share the impact on their school and the children and young people. This information is collated and shared.

Further information: film clip of training of YLLs, information about a reciprocal visit and a school’s own film about the programme.

Map-do review, Innerwick Early Years Setting, Innerwick Primary, East Lothian

A form of participatory practice based on a child's right to have a voice in decision making


The Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) team at Innerwick are passionate about listening to children’s voices – a practice central to a play-based pedagogy which promotes each child’s right to be heard and to play. This well-established play-based pedagogy embraces articles 12, 13 and 31 of the UNCRC. Map-do-review was originally developed as part of a BA Childhood Practice research project (S. Laing, 2015) during 2013-14 and has since been shared through workshops, presentations and tours of the setting. Education Scotland described the method as 'empowering children to lead their own learning and providing them with a meaningful voice' - Inspection Report, 2019.

Map-do review leads to positive outcomes, including:

  • enabling children to have a genuine voice
  • empowering children to lead their own learning through play
  • encouraging collaboration and cooperation between peers
  • developing problem-solving skills and resilience
  • supporting high-level learning and autonomy 

The map-do review method in practice

Map-do-review involves children engaging with a map of the learning environment. The map is a learning tool, produced at the start of each academic year through a collaborative process led by children. Children spend time at the map and create a plan for play with adult support. The method enables all children, irrespective of developmental stage, to have a voice. Children participate at their own level by using their own form of self-expression. The practitioner’s role involves observing, listening intently to children and documenting their own particular voice throughout, be it gesture, eye contact, symbol-making or verbal. Children’s plans and subsequent learning develop into sustained periods of play, which can extend over long periods of time. A child returns to the map when they feel ready to review the outcome of a plan.

Map-do-review supports a variety of children’s voices, not solely the verbal, from the photos taken by children when designing the map at the start of each year to the symbols and drawings representing plan ideas.

Understanding the process

Making the map

At the start of each academic year children create a new map of the learning environment using their own photos. They are fully involved in this process with practitioners acting as facilitators. The new map goes on display and children engage as and when they wish.

At the start of the academic year 2021/22, children and practitioners made two separate maps, one for inside and outside. This came about because there had been an increase in the amount of time children played outside and plans written about such play. Practitioners wished to fully recognise and promote that shift in interest.

Creating a plan

A plan can be:

  • created by a child with the support of a practitioner, who facilitates by listening, scribing and engaging in sustained shared thinking
  • created individually or co-constructed between peers

Written example of a shared plan created by three children on 27 March 2019

“The bulls are going to arrive tomorrow. Stick them right into the pen. One bull will go in the pen, we need another shed for another baby to come… only two. We will have four gates so the bull can get in, so they can’t get out. They are in the willow house so they get fresh air. Put in barley and more straw. Bring the food in my skid steer… a bobcat.” 

Do acting on a plan

Children act upon their plans – this involves solitary and collaborative play.

Reviewing the plan

Children often collaborate in plan making, however the length of a plan and the decision to create a review is self-determined by individual children. 

Within the group of children who created the above shared plan, one child wrote a review on 1 April 2019, whereas the final review was written on 15 May 2019. The reviews are featured below in written format.

Plan review, written on 1 April 2019

“It was a bit tricky, doing that work in there. Getting all four gates, that was tricky. XXX and XXX did it with me, we needed more people… 10.”

Plan review written on 15 May 2019

“I liked helping XXX, it was very kind of him to bring his bulls to nursery. It’s lovely to see XXX bulls, they have not arrived yet, we are going to get them from XXX farm. Build a farmer van, bull will go in, to arrive at nursery.”

Success of the practice

The map-do-review method and its positive impact for children have been recognised as good practice. In 2019 Innerwick Early Years Setting received our ELC Innovation Award. This award identifies innovative practice in the ELC sector and supports further development through the Innovation Fund Project and by applying improvement methodology. 

The improvement methodology involved the creation of a driver diagram in order to direct change. A planned programme of outcome and process measures aimed to gather data throughout the project which ran from May 2019 to April 2020. The measures and gathered data provided an overview of which change ideas had the most impact.

Outcomes from Innerwick Early Years Setting’s Innovation Fund Project

The following outcomes were made from Innerwick Early Years Setting’s Innovation Fund Project:

  • increase in the child’s voice – children significantly more engaged in map-do-review
  • the team’s commitment succeeded in making children’s voices more prominent

An improved method for documenting children’s plans made their voices more visible, acting as a daily reminder of their learning which engaged them deeper. A new location for the map provided a larger area for documentation. Both change ideas increased children’s voices considerably – raising levels of involvement in learning and frequency of engagement in map-do-review.

We have published more detailed information on the planning stage for this project as a slide.

For further information on children’s participation and the creation of map-do-review, contact Sarah Laing:


We aim to review and update this information every year so that the examples are kept up-to-date.

If you have a practice example that you would like us to consider to include, please email the details to:

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