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Kingston University child development scientist shares expertise with politicians in Westminster as part of Royal Society scheme

Posted Friday 30 November 2018

Kingston University child development scientist shares expertise with politicians in Westminster as part of Royal Society scheme Child development expert Dr Jo Van Herwegen, right, shadowed senior policy adviser at the Department for Education Laura Reed during her week in Westminster.

A leading child development expert from Kingston University London has spent a week in Westminster, getting the inside track on how research can effectively influence policy. Dr Jo Van Herwegen was based in the House of Commons from 26 to 30 November as part of a pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the United Kingdom's national academy of science – with support from the Government Science and Engineering  profession board.

During her visit Dr Van Herwegen shadowed Laura Reed, senior policy adviser at the Department for Education, learning about her work. As well as going to seminars and panel discussions about how evidence was used in policy making, Dr Van Herwegen also attended a mock Select Committee.

The visit has provided the leading researcher, who teaches on Kingston University's Psychology BSc(Hons) and Child Psychology MSc courses, with behind the scenes insight in to how policy is formed and how her research could be used to make evidence-based decisions. It also gave members of the Department for Education the opportunity to investigate the science behind her decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

"Researchers are always asked to ensure their research has impact," Dr Van Herwegen said. "My research on interventions for children with special educational needs (SEN) and the SEN code of practice definitely has important implications for policy making, but I am hoping to get an insight in to how the research can actually reach policy makers and how we can really make a difference."

Dr Van Herwegen's work focuses mainly on language and number development in children, particularly those with developmental disorders such as Williams syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down syndrome and Specific Language Impairment. Some of her most recent work has seen her develop a toolkit of estimation games for nurseries and schools proven to help improve pre-schoolers' confidence and ability in maths.

The Royal Society's pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.

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