Secondary school is a critical period for young people, when key health risk behaviours (e.g. smoking, unhealthy diets) can markedly increase. There is limited evidence, however, on how best to promote student health and wellbeing, and much of the good quality research has been conducted outside of the UK.
Health improvement research is challenging in secondary schools for a variety of reasons, including the assessment and inspection burden on schools and a tendency for health-related research to be done to, rather than with, schools. Consequently, the quality of health improvement research may be reduced, which not only diminishes the effort that schools put into taking part, but also limits its usefulness to others.
Strengthening school-based health improvement research in Wales would have substantial benefits for schools and health and education policy-makers as they would be able to draw on better evidence when deciding how to improve student wellbeing. Stronger collaborations between schools, policy makers and researchers will also mean that research becomes more relevant and responsive to the needs of the education sector.
The School Health Research Network aims to build an infrastructure for school-based health improvement research in Wales and to narrow the gap between schools, policy makers and academic researchers.
The network is a partnership with Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, Cancer Research UK and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
The development of the School Health Research Network will be evaluated over the course of the scoping and feasibility study using semi-structured key informant interviews and focus group discussions with all relevant stakeholders, including school staff, students and parents, and others who might use, support or benefit from the network, e.g. policy-makers and researchers.