An exploration of the development of a Network of Health Promoting Schools in the Mid-west region of Ireland 2005-2015: a complex adaptive systems approach.

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O'Beirne, Alanna 

Alanna O'Beirne


This thesis explores the development of a Network of Health Promoting Schools in the Midwest region of Ireland between 2005 and 2015. It identifies supports and barriers to developing the Health Promoting School concept and process with school communities.

The study draws on the literature from the fields of education and health and in particular the sub-discipline of health promotion and includes an exploration of themes of leadership, collaborative working, change, systems theory and the concept of the Health Promoting School. The overarching conceptual framework of Complex Adaptive Systems is used to pull the different theories and models together.

The research adopts a largely qualitative approach exploiting a case study methodology. Four cases are presented; one case focuses on the Health Promoting Partnership which was responsible for the governance and strategic direction of the Network and the remaining three cases focus on individual school sites. In the first case partners from the agencies represented in the Partnership were interviewed and these data are combined with information from steering group meetings to provide insights into the strategic supports and barriers to establishing and maintaining a Network of Health Promoting Schools. In the three school cases, stakeholders from the school communities (Principals, Health Promoting School Coordinators, Teachers, Parents and Pupils) were interviewed and these data were coupled with individual Health Promoting School Meeting records to identify supports and barriers for the implementation of Health Promoting Schools at the ground level.

One of the key findings was that the promotion of the whole school’s participation and engagement with the Health Promoting School concept was vital to successful implementation. However this was not unproblematic. While children’s participation was supported and valued, responses relating to parental engagement were more ambivalent. Another finding was that strategic supports put in place by the Partnership were highly regarded by teachers, Principals and School Coordinators. The findings indicate that while stakeholders appreciated the need for schools to place an emphasis on health, the implementation of Health Promoting Schools had to compete with a myriad of other demands pressing on a finite amount of school time.

This research is likely to be of interest to those involved in implementing a Health Promoting School Model and process at the individual school level or more strategically in developing a Network of Health Promoting Schools. Researchers interested in adopting a Complex Adaptive Systems approach in their investigation of Health Promoting Schools will also find this study informative.

Gray, John
Health Promoting Schools, Health Promoting Schools in Ireland, Complex Adaptive Systems
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Doctoral studies completely self funded