Dr Jessie Ricketts - Developmental Psychology

Dr Jessie Ricketts, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, writes about her experience of co-organising an event with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

"In January 2015, I got in touch with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). I was working on the Vocabulary and Reading in Secondary School (VaRiSS) project, funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant. Part of the VaRiSS project is a large longitudinal study and, given the novelty of its findings, and their relevance to educational policy, I was keen to organise an event that would showcase the findings for those involved in policy.

Over the next year or so I had various discussions with POST about topics that were particularly relevant to policymakers and how they might link to the findings from the project. Following various changes to school assessments, we decided that a seminar on ‘measuring literacy’ would be timely and relevant for those working in Government and Parliament.

Once we had the theme of the session in mind, we discussed the timing and format of the session, and who to invite to contribute and attend. We decided on an afternoon slot in October 2016 as a time of year and time of day when civil servants and MPs would be able to attend. Along with civil servants from the Department for Education, MPs and parliamentary staff, we invited teachers, speech and language therapists, the ESRC, the charity sector and researchers. We also advertised the session publicly, using websites and social media. The seminar was chaired by a Member of the Education Select Committee and I presented VaRiSS findings alongside eminent academics working on measuring literacy. After the presentations, a former teacher who works as an expert advisor for the Department for Education acted as discussant, stimulating a lively discussion. This was followed by refreshments and more informal discussions.

Organising the event was invaluable in allowing me to disseminate my research to groups that might otherwise not have encountered it. It also allowed me to develop and maintain contacts with a range of non-academic groups, including the Education Select Committee, the Department for Education and the charity sector."