Analysis of Health Promoting Schools shows clear educational benefits

  • Jonathan Coleman

Independent analysis has found that the Health Promoting Schools service is having a hugely positive impact on student outcomes, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says.

Key findings in the analysis released today include that students in Health Promoting Schools have 29 per cent better reading performance, 60 per cent increased attendance and 42 per cent fewer stand-downs and or suspensions when compared to schools not participating.

“The Government has taken an evidence-based and targeted approach to health services,” Dr Coleman says.

“Health Promoting Schools was developed by the World Health Organization, and encouraging its uptake here in New Zealand was one of the deliverables in the Childhood Obesity Plan launched in 2015.

“The service, through the Ministry of Health, works with school leaders to identify health and wellbeing priorities for their students and to create and implement an action plan. It is a school-community-led process.

“Initially we set the goal of signing up 150 decile 1-4 schools to Health Promoting Schools, we’ve more than doubled that goal with 310 schools.

“As at the end of June 2017, there were 1,565 Health Promoting Schools in total across the country.

“We’re keen to see even more schools signing up to this clearly successful service.”

The independent analysis was carried out by Dr Heidi Leeson. It focused on 807 Health Promoting Schools and compared them with 1,132 other schools. The full report is available here.

An example of Health Promoting School in action - Northland

Waiharara School is a decile 1, year 1-8 primary school in Kaitaia, Northland, with a 100 per cent Maori roll of 17 students. A new principal, faced with less than 10 per cent whanau engagement and a roll declining at 45 per cent a year, engaged the Health Promoting Schools service in 2016.

Students were encouraged to find out what hauora or health meant to the wider school-community. Students highlighted the importance of physical, spiritual, family/whānau and mental health. They identified the need for a student-led local curriculum that builds on their prior knowledge and physical environment.

The school then developed some health and wellbeing priorities including students taking control of their own learning. One outcome was a school trip organised by two students to clean up a local beach for Seaweek.

The process increased whanau engagement to 90 per cent and turned around the declining roll so that it is now increasing by 42 per cent a year. There is evidence of accelerated learning for at-risk students. Year 1 students are now achieving at, or above, the national standard.

Improving boys’ writing is a current focus. An Education Review Office report in February 2017 said, “Children benefit from a settled and positive school tone. They are confident, capable learners”.