The relationship between education and health services in schools

Researcher: Sarah Williams, Nurse Consultant, Starship Community
Programme: Doctor of Health Science, AUT

Research Focus

The relationship between education and health services in schools

Research Question

What is the relationship between education and health services in the context of New Zealand primary schools and how is this influenced?


Health and education are inextricably linked. To learn, a child or young person must be able to partake fully in the education opportunities that lie before them. Health issues play a major role in limiting or preventing learning opportunities for children and are a significant contributor to poor educational outcomes.

Whilst the interdependence between education and health is well described, less evident is what successful interagency collaboration looks like. There is no national framework for provision of health services in New Zealand schools nor is there a mandate for formal collaboration between education and health. The New Zealand Child Wellbeing Strategy has highlighted collaboration across agencies as an important facilitator to child wellbeing, however, this has not been formalised nor operationalised. The nature of the existing relationships as well as the barriers and facilitators to education and health working together, need to be understood in order to facilitate change.

Study Outline

This qualitative study uses case-study methodology to examine the relationship between primary schools and health services from the perspective of school staff. Data has been gathered across three schools situated in different socio-economic communities in the greater Auckland region. Data collection methods have included questionnaires, individual interviews, observation of special educational needs meetings and review of school staff professional learning development programmes. These methods were used to draw out the perspectives and experiences of school staff on working with health services and the barriers and facilitators to this relationship.

Data has been analysed using qualitative thematic and content analysis approaches which enabled the drawing out of themes essential to the research topic. Simple quantitative analysis was used to analyse data arising from the school profile and professional development records. Data from the individual cases were analysed first before undertaking a cross-case analysis of the collective data from the three schools.

Preliminary findings have revealed a unique key stakeholder perspective of the relationship between education staff and health services including the barriers and facilitators to successful and sustainable interagency collaboration. This new and important information will help inform future development of health services in primary schools in New Zealand.

Confirmed findings of this study will be distributed later this year.

Supported by the Wilson Sweet Fellowship and A+ Trust