Evidence-informed education: taking stock, looking ahead

The purpose of this CEBE workshop, held at the Wellcome Trust last November, was to exchange thinking about the direction for evidence-informed education in the next few years, by reflecting on the past. The future role of CEBE in facilitating collaboration was also considered, again in relation to its previous work.

Introductory remarks from Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning at the Wellcome Trust, described CEBE as a force for good with a track record of moving to action - a point reinforced in much of the feedback.

In her keynote, Estelle Morris, a founder member of the CEBE steering group, suggested that the issue for the future was how to nurture the many seeds that have now been sown.

Speakers from a range of intermediary organisations spoke briefly to illustrate some of the actions on evidence-use that have been taken in recent years. They included Tom Bennett, founder of ResearchED, Cat Scutt, Director of Knowledge and Research at the Chartered College of Teaching, James Turner from the Education Endowment Foundation, Jonathan Breckon from The Alliance for Useful Evidence and Andrew Morris on the work CEBE had supported to date.

Small group discussion then followed on what needs to be done better, and what opportunities there are at a system level to act upon this. Themes that emerged across the six groups were:

Use of evidence

  • It doesn’t always provide the silver bullets people are looking for. The use of evidence needs to be encouraged and modelled by leadership teams, and the success factors for effective research engagement need to be identified.

Research agenda

  • Academic interests still tend to dominate the research agenda, but this needs to be driven more by knowledge gaps. The production of practice guidance should be taken as a starting point for knowledge synthesis and primary research.

Training and development for teachers and leaders

  • Teaching qualifications and leadership programmes need to give greater emphasis to research evidence. Engaging with evidence in teacher education should be reflexive (bidirectional), rather than just reflective. 


  • A variety of communication methods need to be developed, suited to various types of audience and the language of evidence-use needs to be refined, so it is not dismissed as ‘just another initiative’.

Local provision (schools, colleges, early years and adult learning centres)

  • Evidence use needs to be understood as a feature of professionalism.

Middle tier

  • The middle tier (e.g. teaching school alliances, Ofsted, National Governance Association, TeachFirst, multi-academy trusts, regional commissioners) needs to be encouraged to adopt evidence-informed approaches.

Ideas and inspiration from across the public sectors were then offered by Huw Davies, Co-Director of the Research Unit for Research Utilisation at the University of St Andrews and Rachel Tuffin, Chief Executive of the College of Policing.

The day closed with a plenary session, bringing the thoughts from the day together. (For a fuller summary of the day, see here.)

Since the event, the CEBE secretariat has been developing a small number of groups to take forward the discussions started at the workshop in order to deepen understanding of the challenges. Two groups have now formed – Evidence for Practice Leaders and Evidence for CPD.