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