Dr Sara Long; Prof Graham Moore
Schools can have good or bad influences on young people’s health and wellbeing. They are important settings for early intervention to prevent later health and wellbeing problems. Effective prevention may reduce costs to health services later in life. Wales’ education system is currently undergoing major reform. From 2022, all schools will implement a new curriculum, which, for the first time, will place Health and Well-being at the centre of learning. An aim of the curriculum is that all children in Wales will be “healthy, confident individuals”. Health and wellbeing will become 1 of 6 Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLE) alongside Expressive Arts; Humanities; Languages; Literacy and Communication; Mathematics and Numeracy; and Science and Technology.
School reform has the potential for widespread benefit to pupils, schools and wider society; however, it could also lead to unintended harms. This is why it is important that new policies, such as this one, are accompanied by good quality evaluations. This research provides a time limited opportunity to lay the foundations for a high quality evaluation of the impacts of the new curriculum on pupil health and wellbeing.
Aims and Objectives
This research aims to: i) understand the aims of reform, and processes around its introduction, from the perspectives of stakeholders in Welsh education policy; ii) identify appropriate measures of pupil health and well-being, and to map out pre-reform trends in health and wellbeing to judge the success of the reform later on; iii) seek the views of school staff on what they think about the new curriculum, and how it will work in practice; iv) bring the findings together, providing a landscape to carry out a well-considered and detailed evaluation of the impact of the reform on the health and well-being of pupils in Wales.
Interviews have been carried out with people whose work is strategically linked to education policy in Wales. These interviews will be used to get an understanding of what people think about the role of schools in health and well-being; what they think the reform will look like in practice; and how to evidence whether the new curriculum has been successful. We will also measure the health and well-being of pupils that have not received the new curriculum, and from this set-up a group of pupils to compare and contrast against pupils who receive the new curriculum in the coming years. More interviews with school staff will help us understand how the new curriculum might achieve its aims for young people, schools and wider society. We will then bring all the findings together, to develop a picture of how the curriculum is expected to work. This will inform its implementation and how it will be evaluated. At the end of the fellowship, we will apply to a research funder to do an evaluation of the reform.
Public Involvement and dissemination Non-academic partners and the public, including school staff, policy partners, and pupils’ parents, will be consulted throughout this fellowship. The research is accompanied by a strategy for communicating findings to all of the people that might benefit. As well as publishing in scientific journals, we will make booklets and use social media channels such as Twitter, and webinars with school staff to reach wide audiences. A group of young people will advise us throughout the study.
Further Information and Publications
The Mother of All Fellowships Blog by Sara Long, 2019
A curriculum for children’s health and wellbeing Blog By Sara Long, 2023
School health and wellbeing and national education system reform: A qualitative study Sara Long, Jemma Hawkins, Simon Murphy, Graham Moore. British Educational Research Journal, 2023
Originally September 2022; extension to June 2023 funded.