Connecting research, policy and practice

We work across diverse practice and policy settings to ensure research is interpreted accurately and used optimally.

Students In After School Computer Coding Class Building And Learning To Program Robot Vehicle

Much of our research has implications for policy and practice and we regularly work with non-academics to share and conduct research. Details of some of our work includes:


Development of executive functions

Working with Psychological services in Perth and Kinross, Josie Booth has been involved in the development and testing of school-based interventions to improve executive functions. These interventions are administered by educational psychologists and involve upskilling teachers to deliver interventions and ultimately narrow the attainment gap.

Sibling relationships

2018 – ongoing: Katie Cebula and Amanda Gillooly, funded by the University of Edinburgh, have been working with the Williams Syndrome Foundation, young people with Williams Syndrome, and their families to create resources to support sibling relationships in Williams Syndrome. Katie, alongside Dr Hanna Kovshoff (University of Southampton), has been working with Sibs to share information about recent research into sibling relationships in developmental disabilities.


2019 – ongoing: With collaborators, Tracy Stewart has been involved in a new app that could reduce stress around children’s autism assessment. This app – called Helping Hand – enables parents and carers of children who have been referred for assessment in Scotland to record relevant information – such as sleeping patterns and challenging behaviour – about their child. The app could improve the process by giving clinicians a clearer insight into a child’s behaviour and thereby reduce the stress on parents, carers and children. The app also includes general information on autism and how it is diagnosed, as well as links to resources and support organisations to help prepare children for appointments.

Language and literacy

2019 – ongoing:  With funding from the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, Sarah McGeown co-founded LALco: Language and literacy: Communication, collaboration, coproduction. This is a network to connect researchers, teachers, policymakers and other individuals with shared interests in language and literacy, but different areas of knowledge, expertise and influence. 

As part of this network, we are currently working with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (2019-2020) to support teachers’ professional learning on language and literacy issues via webinars.

2020-2021: With funding from Carnegie Libraries UK, and in collaboration with Glasgow Life, the Sharing Stories project aims to connect families and communities in Glasgow with research on early language development. We also plan to co-develop resources with, and for, parents with young children living is Glasgow’s literacy hotspots to encourage and celebrate early reading.

Following the project, we will share good practice and learning across all 32 local authorities in Scotland through the Libraries Early Years Strategy Group.

2017-2020: Working closely with the Scottish Book Trust (2017 onwards) and more recently Renaissance Learning (2019 onwards), Sarah McGeown’s research on understanding and promoting reading motivation and engagement has fed into national programmes and resources aimed at developing children’s and adolescents’ independent reading.

Sarah currently works closely with the Scottish Book Trust to design and conduct more impactful research. Examples of these projects include Growing Up A Reader (2018-2019) and a collaborative PhD studentship due to start in 2020: Tackling the drop-off: Understanding the teenage reading experience. 

Tackling gender stereotypes in schools

Improving Gender Balance and Equalities (IGBE)

Sarah McGeown currently sits on the steering group of IGBE which has a remit to work across all early years, primary and secondary school settings in Scotland to challenge gender stereotypes, address unconscious bias and improve gender balance. Sarah has also contributed to a joint webinar and research-informed literature review for teachers to develop knowledge and raise awareness of these issues.

Health and wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland

 The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland is at the forefront of research conducted at Moray House School of Education and Sport, and evidence from research leaders in this area summarised some of the evidence-based approaches urgently needed.

A co-ordinated response led by Dr Josie Booth and Dr Tracy Stewart, with key contributions from Dr Shirley Gray, Stephanie Hardley, Dr Deb Holt, Dr Ruth McQuillan, and Prof Dave Collins, was submitted to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee in the Scottish Parliament inquiry into the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland.

 Our top level recommendations to consider were:

There is an urgent need for the Scottish Government to consider the intertwined factors of physical health and mental health issues within the HWB of children and young people and consider ways in which we can support change. Schools are one context where we can access and support pupils from diverse backgrounds and help develop the health behaviours which pupils will carry with them into adulthood.

Schools are in need of resources to support staff in promoting positive HWB and providing support in conjunction with other services.

Bringing together the key partners identified and working together to understand and develop strategies to support positive mental HWB and support difficulties is urgently needed. Whole systems approaches and bringing together services are key to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Our response, alongside 97 additional responses, was translated into a summary of recommendations, which can be found in the report of the Scottish Government's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee. 



Our research is often relevant to policy issues and we provide input into these discussions whenever appropriate. Current contributions to policy include:

Promoting physical activity: Active Mile initiatives

Josie Booth is one of the lead researchers involved in understanding the impact of participation in the Daily Mile. As such, Josie sits on the expert steering group for Public Health England and also the Scottish Government. This is in addition to sitting on the research advisory group for the Daily Mile Foundation, consulting on research efforts globally.  

Children’s reading development

Parliamentary Petition PE01668: Improving literacy standards in schools through research informed reading instruction

This petition calls for national guidance, support, and professional learning for teachers in research-informed reading instruction and to ensure teacher training institutions across Scotland train new teachers in research-informed reading instruction. Sarah McGeown has been providing oral evidence and written submissions to this petition, which is currently being debated by the Education and Skills committee.

Children’s and adolescents’ mental health and wellbeing

Tracy Stewart is an Expert Reference Group Member for the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme Board, NHS Education Scotland; Scottish Government.

The primary purpose of the work is to develop a programme of education and training to increase the knowledge and skills required by all staff to support children and young people’s mental health. The aim is to improve whole-system working in order to deliver better mental health outcomes for children, young people, and their families.

Tracy, as a member of the Expert Reference Group, will provide suggestions and commentary on workforce proposals. The NES Knowledge and Skills Framework for Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing is now published.