Why does evidence matter? Because it transforms ambition into action
Tom McBride reflects on the need for a serious answer to an apparently straightforward question, "does evidence really matter?"
The EIF is dedicated to improving outcomes for children and young people – reducing short-term hardship and improving long-term outcomes. But although our mission is simple, the evidence base on what works to identify and intervene effectively with these children is complex and nuanced, as is well demonstrated by our major reports on early years parent-child interactions, social and emotional learning and interparental relationships, and our recently relaunched programme guidebook. So while it’s hard to argue with the general principle for evidence-based policy and action to support all children to achieve their potential, it takes skill, determination and hard work to make this a reality.
While it’s hard to argue with the general principle for evidence-based policy and action to support all children to achieve their potential, it takes skill, determination and hard work to make this a reality.
With early intervention in the UK developing so quickly, I think open dialogue and debate is an important part of moving our shared agenda forward. EIF’s annual conference brings together practitioners, commissioners and researchers working in the early intervention field to hear about the latest research and exchange ideas about future direction. This year’s event is on 11 May in London, and we have a great agenda in place. Highlights include a keynote speech by Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families at the Department for Education, and breakout sessions on social mobility, vulnerable children, service integration and interparental conflict.
Donning my Director of Evidence hat, I will be taking part in a debate with David Halpern of the Behavioural Insights Team, Alison Michalska of ADCS and Abdool Kara of the NAO on the topic of whether evidence really matters – though I suspect you can guess my position on this surely straightforward and uncontroversial question! Nevertheless, at a time when demand on services is rising and resources continue to come under pressure, it has never been more important for the ‘what works’ community both to understand the utility and value of our research, and to listen to the needs and concerns of those we hope are using it to better the lives of children across the country.
This will be my first conference since joining EIF late last year, and I am very much looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible. I hope you can join us.