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School Health Research Network

Improving young people’s health and wellbeing in schools.

Students in a science class

Adolescence is a critical time for young people’s health, when both healthy and unhealthy habits and behaviours can emerge.

During this time, secondary schools are in a strong position to help young people to be healthy, but evidence on how best to do this is rarely generated or used by schools in Wales.

The School Health Research Network (SHRN) aims to improve young people’s health and wellbeing by providing robust data for schools and both national and regional stakeholders.

Comprising over 200 schools, SHRN is the largest national network of its kind in the world. It brings together all of the maintained, mainstream secondary schools in Wales with academic researchers, policy-makers and practitioners from health, education and social care.

Every two years, schools complete a bilingual electronic Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, based on the World Health Organisation’s collaborative Healthy Behaviour of School-aged Children survey.

The results of the survey are then used to inform schools about the health and wellbeing of their students.

SHRN also use the data to produce research evidence on how best to improve young people’s health and wellbeing in schools, along with helping schools to understand this evidence and how it can be used.

Key findings

The last Student Health and Wellbeing Survey (2017/18) included over 112,000 young people from 193 schools, representing approximately 60% of all students in mainstream, maintained secondary education in Wales.

Bespoke school reports

After the survey, each participating school receives a bespoke Student Health and Wellbeing Report, providing a detailed breakdown of the school’s data compared against national averages.

The reports include suggested whole-school approaches for improving their students’ health and wellbeing; up-to-date research findings, and links to supportive national agencies.

The reports are used by schools for:

  • The self-assessment of wellbeing
  • Engaging all members of the school community with the health needs of their learners
  • Planning and enriching the curriculum
  • Informing Healthy School initiatives

Annual dissemination events provide the opportunity for schools to report on their data and any actions taken. Schools have reported working together with other organisations to create effective change in their health and wellbeing policies and practices, informing practice within their regional consortia.

Improving evidence-informed practice

Along with bespoke reports for each network school, SHRN surveys have also produced a number of briefings on a range of health and wellbeing topics, including the wellbeing of young people in care and the update of e-cigarettes.

These publications have been used to support SHRN’s aim of improving evidence-informed practice in the school health community. Summaries of each report are provided to network schools and other stakeholders to support evidence-informed planning.

Subjects previously covered in these briefings include mental and emotional health and wellbeing; smoking and alcohol use and other substance use; sex and relationships; and healthy eating and physical activity.

Research impact

SHRN aims to encourage schools to focus on prevention by providing health data for policy planning, monitoring, evaluation and revision.

Data gathered by SHRN’s surveys has been used by the Welsh Government on briefings and reports, such as the Well-being of Wales 2017-18 report, and used to assess progress on current plans, as well as being used by Public Health Wales when monitoring the Public Health Outcomes Framework for Wales.

Data from the surveys was also used to inform implementation of the Donaldson Curriculum Review for Wales, including presentations to the Sex and Relationships Education Expert Panel. When making their recommendations for the Cabinet Secretary for Education, the panel cited SHRN data in their findings. These recommendations are now being used to inform the new Sex and Relationships Education curriculum in Wales.

Schools have also used data provided by SHRN on violence against girls to support them in fulfilling their duties under the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act.

Meet our experts

Dr Gillian Hewitt

Dr Gillian Hewitt

Research Associate, DECIPher

+44 29 225 10083
Professor Simon Murphy

Professor Simon Murphy

Professor in Social Interventions and Health, Director DECIPHer and Lead for the Schools Health Research Network

+44 29208 79144
Professor Graham Moore

Professor Graham Moore

Professor of Social Sciences & Public Health

+44 (0)29 2087 5387

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