WiSE - The Wellbeing in Schools Study (2013 - )

Research suggests that schools have an important role in supporting young people’s health and wellbeing and in acting as buffers against negative health behaviours and outcomes (WHO, 2012).

The Wellbeing in Schools (WiSe) study is a longitudinal survey exploring the role of schools on the health and wellbeing of 11-18 year-old students in Northern Ireland.  The study involves 90 post-primary schools across Northern Ireland (approximately half of all post-primary schools). Topics include: general health; wellbeing; family and peer relationships; neighbourhood; attitudes to school; bullying; social media; sleep; physical activity; nutrition; smoking (including e-cigarette use); alcohol; medicine and drug use; sexual matters; and risk behaviours.

This survey is now in its fifth year, tracking students on a two-year cycle.  In 2013/14, at baseline, students were in Year 8, and a first follow-up sweep was completed in 2015/16 when the pupils were in Year 10. Findings suggest that wellbeing decreases over time and significantly more for girls than boys. Most recently, a third sweep has been completed involving pupils are in Year 12, at age 16. An additional School Climate Survey explores the impact of school level factors on student health and wellbeing.

WiSe is a joint initiative between the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation and the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI at Queen’s University Belfast.  The team has hosted showcase events for policy and practice audiences (2013 / 2015 / 2017) and has brought survey findings to schools as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science (2017). The WiSe team is currently developing the first School Research Partnership in Northern Ireland, which aims to support school-based health and wellbeing research and related activities in Northern Ireland.

The team is currently preparing a large grant proposal to ESRC to carry on this important work. This proposed mixed-methods longitudinal study will provide a unique opportunity to explore how young people’s experiences of, and trajectories through, secondary schools impacts upon their post-16 transitions and, particularly, their health and wellbeing during the critical 16-18 years period. This work will assess the role schools might play, in terms of their ethos, policies and practices, in shaping the development of young people’s health and wellbeing over time and investigate how young people’s involvement in social networks might be associated with their health and wellbeing over time.