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Influencing Strategy Blog | Katherine Lawrence

Gary Seath 7 months ago

Influencing Policy

We have combined forces with young people from the armed forces community to co-develop our influencing strategy and manifesto.

Working directly with young people means lived experience is embedded at every step to deliver meaningful change for over 12,500 children and young people from armed forces and veteran families.

Together, we continue to work as a force for good to ensure Scotland is a place where they will feel increasingly heard, understood, respected, and represented.

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We have invited some of our external partners to get involved in our launch activities by writing a series of blogs that focus on our five manifesto themes.

To start things off, we are delighted to introduce Katherine Lawrence, from the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance.

Katherine will talk about why a strong evidence base is fundamental to building a robust case for meaningful change.

 

Katherine Lawrence

Katherine is Head of Operations at the Service Children’s Progression Alliance.

The SCiP Alliance brings together practitioners, researchers, policymakers and funders to build a stronger evidence-base, better policy, and enhanced support for the education and progression of children and Young People from Armed Forces families, placing their voices at the heart of everything they do. It is led by the University of Winchester and supported by the Ministry of Defence.

Why a strong evidence base is fundamental to building a robust case for meaningful change.

I am delighted to see ‘A strong evidence base’ as theme one in the Forces Children Scotland manifesto.

The Alliance’s rigorous adherence to starting with evidence rather than with a hunch that activity will make a difference has been a defining characteristic since we started building a UK-wide network to enhance support for young people from Armed Forces families in education in 2017.  Our theory of change features a cycle where evidence is both driven by practice and policy needs and informs practice and policy decisions.

Partnership working is key to getting that information flow going.

The SCiP Alliance has been lucky to work with Forces Children Scotland, one of our earliest and strongest allies and a leading force for change. As Co-chair of our Scotland Hub they provide insight and ideas in our growing community. My dedicated, experienced Forces Children Scotland colleagues have guided my personal journey of discovery about Scotland’s education system and approach.

Practitioners and leaders looking to use research to solve problems or improve approaches turn to organisations such as the SCiP Alliance to provide evidence in a form they can quickly draw on.

I take pride in translating research into impact by giving them the awareness and confidence to incorporate research into their practice. A prime example of this is our approach to building the Thriving Lives Toolkit for schools, which I am delighted to see referenced in Forces Children Scotland’s new manifesto, particularly given their significant involvement in the rigorous evidence base underpinning it.

Teachers and school leaders told us they needed a framework through which to develop support and an evidence base of effective practice[1]. We started by commissioning foundational research by the International Centre for Guidance Studies, taking an appreciative approach, which ‘offers an affirmative approach for evaluating and envisioning future initiatives based on best practice’[2].

This is a fundamental aspect of how the Alliance operates and enables us to leverage the best of what people are doing and the voices of young people, teachers and leaders. We developed the research into the Thriving Lives Toolkit through an iterative process with the expertise and combined insights of stakeholders across the UK, such as Forces Children Scotland who shaped the tool’s content and language to reflect Scotland’s systems and structures.

Further research and a formative evaluation followed, and the evidence base was explained to hundreds of schools through conferences across the UK, including a Scotland CPD event led by the SCiP Alliance Scotland Hub.

White (2019) found that in research-informed school cultures, ‘research informed thinking and led to experimenting, testing out and trialling new approaches in more or less systematic ways’[3].

The Alliance’s thriving Lives Toolkit allows schools to do just that.  The evidence-based, partnership approach underpins our new project to develop support across the entire educational life-course from early years through into higher education.

Our Scotland Hub partners’ expertise will of course be critical to success and we are delighted to be working with new partners such as Care Inspectorate Scotland.

 

Any review of the evidence base of course is a snapshot in time in need of continual refreshing and re-examination.

Which is why we are embarking on a new project that will update our Thriving Lives Toolkit training materials with the latest data and research findings as well as integrate them into a new online platform.

New data collection by UCAS this year is an example of the impact of stakeholders communicating the evidence which will in turn drive a step change in the potential for supporting individuals and for large scale data analysis to drive further system-level understanding and change.

That evidence base must always have the voices of the young people themselves front and centre and Forces Children Scotland presents a model of inclusion and participatory approaches that we’d like to see become the norm across the sector. We welcome the co-produced nature of their influencing strategy and the weight it lends to our approach to influencing and research.

That commitment came through particularly strongly in Forces Children Scotland’s feature in our 2020 Listening to Learn report and our partnership will be key to the success of our ambitions to embed young people’s voice throughout the Alliance and to check that we make a real difference to Service children’s lives.

The call for coordinated investment in research in Forces Children Scotland’s new manifesto is particularly welcome and fits with our ambition to realise a large-scale, systematic and sustained UK-wide programme of research. Despite an ‘evidence revolution’[4] in education, the lack of data to track and thereby support young people in Armed Forces families hampers attempts to base interventions on evidence[5] .

It seems appropriate to end, not with statistics or my own opinion but with how evidence can and must include the words of young people themselves.

Sometimes those words will come out in research where they may not be voiced directly in an educational setting.

 

“[I would like teachers to know that] I may find it harder to ask for help due to the independence that I have expected of myself due to my parents’ absence.”

“You’ve got so much on your plate… I think there’s a sense of, because you’re young, they think you do just get home and doss off. But it’s different for a service child.”[6]

 

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Reference List

[1] Rose, C. and Rose, P. (2018) https://www.scipalliance.org/assets/files/TILL_2020_SCiP_consultationreport_FINALv2.1.pdf

[2] National Foundation for Educational Research (2009) https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/aen01/aen01.pdf p2

[3] DfE (2017) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/625007/Evidence-informed_teaching_-_an_evaluation_of_progress_in_England.pdf

[4] White, H. (2019) https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0253-6

[5] Granada, A. And Mulcahy, E. (2022) https://www.scipalliance.org/assets/files/Diversity-meets-complexity_FINAL.pdf

[6] Granada, A. And Mulcahy, E. (2022) https://www.scipalliance.org/assets/files/Diversity-meets-complexity_FINAL.pdf