Teaching school children about evidence-based medicine: Cochrane UK’s outreach programme

Since 2016, Cochrane UK has been visiting secondary schools (primarily in and around Oxford) to talk about Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) and its relevance in our everyday lives. We started with visiting an after-school Science Club and now boast a growing portfolio of schools that welcome us into our classrooms. Throughout the pandemic, we continued to deliver these sessions, moving them entirely online.  If you're interested in us running a talk for your pupils, you can find our contact details at the bottom of this page.

Cochrane UK in schools

We have taught pupils from Years 9 -13 in formal lessons and in extracurricular science and medical clubs. Our talks and workshops aim to bring awareness of why it is important to question the evidence behind medical claims. We use topical newspaper headlines to illustrate how medical evidence can be misrepresented in the media - how it can sometimes be inaccurate and sometimes just plain wrong. We also illustrate the relevance of EBM on a personal, everyday level by looking at how we choose cold remedies, to how we consider medical interventions at national and global levels, using the HPV vaccination programme as an example. We also cover what constitutes a randomised controlled trial and how a systematic review is produced.

workshop at school

We have run a number of half-day workshops on EBM. For example, where we have introduced students to our Citizen Scientist platform Cochrane Crowd, a collaborative volunteer effort to help categorise and summarise healthcare evidence. You can read more about the first workshop we ran, in October 2018.

The outreach project now has momentum and we have become known in and around Oxfordshire. During the pandemic, we began delivering sessions online - and have continued to do so. This has enabled us to reach pupils across the UK. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who has undertaken similar teaching to learn about your experiences.

Below, you can view a recorded version of a talk we deliver in schools.

  • What is Evidence-Based Medicine and why is it important when making decisions about our health?
  • How can we find out if a treatment is effective and safe?
  • Why is it important to look behind the headlines?

We explore these questions, and more, in the video below. The content is aimed at sixth-form students hoping to study medicine at university. It will also be of interest more generally to those interested in learning about evidence and how to critically question health information and advice.

References and further reading

Links to videos mentioned in the video:


The PICO framework is explained in this three minute video by Cochrane UK competition winner, Sarah Tanveer

Find out more and get in touch