From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

'School Effects'

Data from the 11 to 16/16+ study, which was specifically designed to investigate ‘school effects' via multilevel modelling, showed evidence of differences in smoking, drinking and drug use between secondary schools at ages 13 and 15, after taking account of a wide range of individual factors, including social class, deprivation, religion, family structure, parenting, disposable income and parental health behaviours, as well as respondents' prior health behaviours at age 11. 

The effect was strongest for smoking, and stronger for all behaviours at age 13 than age 15.  However, in the case of ‘unhealthy diet', the considerable variation between schools was almost entirely explained by pupil composition, notably the deprivation characteristics of the school.  A combination of other data on pupils' ratings of school, engagement with school and education, and the number of teachers they got on with completely explained the ‘school effect' on smoking, and partially explained those in respect of drinking and drugs. 

In combination with an independent rating of school ethos made by the investigators at the time of fieldwork, these results are compatible with the HPS concept, those schools with a better ethos having lower rates of health risk behaviours. 

A PhD project on ‘school effects'  which used quantitative and qualitative data from an earlier study, produced very similar findings for smoking. 

Analyses designed to investigate the importance of school transitions for pupil adjustment, particularly their impact on later well-being and attainment drew on 11 to 16/16+ study data obtained at 11, 13, 15 and 18/19. This study found that after a year in secondary school most participants recalled having had difficulties of adjustment to both school and peer social systems at the beginning of secondary education. Participants of lower ability and lower self-esteem experienced poorer school transitions, while those who were anxious, less prepared for secondary school and had experienced victimisation, experienced poorer peer transitions. At age 15, a poorer school transition predicted higher levels of depression and lower attainment; a poorer peer transition, lower self-esteem, more depression and lower levels of anti-social behaviour.  Similar results extended to outcomes at age 18/19, clearly demonstrating the importance of successful transition for later well-being and attainment.



West P, Sweeting H, Young R. Transition matters: pupils' experiences of the primary-secondary school transition in the West of Scotland and consequences for well-being and attainment. Research Papers in Education 2010;25:21-50

open access  


Henderson M, Butcher I, Wight D, Williamson LM, Raab G. What explains between-school differences in rates of sexual experience?. BMC Public Health 2008;8:53

pubmed  open access  


Henderson M. School effects on adolescent pupils' health behaviours and school processes associated with these effects [PhD], MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 2006.

West P. School effects research provides new and stronger evidence in support of the health promoting school [editorial]. Health Education 2006;106:421-424


Henderson M, West P, Raab G.. School effects on health behaviours. Education and Health 2005;23:57-60


West P, Sweeting H, Leyland AH. School effects on pupils' health behaviours: evidence in support of the health promoting school. Research Papers in Education 2004;19:261-291