ABSTRACT This paper reports on research into personal education plans (PEPs) for ‘looked after’ children (children in care) in one large county local authority in England. PEPs were introduced by guidance from the Department for Education and Employment and Department of Health in 2000. The fieldwork for this research began two years after this guidance was published. The research findings show that although social services staff and teachers are critical of specific aspects of PEPs, they have helped to raise the profile of the educational needs of looked after children in the local authority studied. They have provided a forum for social work and education professionals to meet in the interests of particular children. Key problems relate to practical issues: ensuring social workers and teachers feel able to fulfil their expected roles in relation to the education of looked after children; making the system focus on meeting the needs of children as well as practitioners; difficulty in meeting specified timescales; more meaningful, constructive and sensitive involvement of children in the process of producing and reviewing PEPs. The broader issue, however, is about the ability to plan the education of looked after children. Additional barriers to planning were particularly apparent in residential care and specifically within secure accommodation.