A National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing researcher has won recognition in this year’s Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize. Based in Swansea University, Dr Emily Marchant was a finalist in the category for Outstanding Early Career Impact for her doctoral work developing a national-scale primary school health/attainment research network – HAPPEN Wales.
The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize, now in its ninth year, is an annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from excellent research.
All finalists were invited to an awards ceremony in London on 18 November 2021, where the winners were announced.
Emily said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council Celebrating Impact Prize 2021, and I was delighted to receive the runner up prize for Outstanding Early Career Impact. After the last 18 months, it was extra inspiring to see the impact ESRC funded research is having locally, nationally and internationally.”
Expanding the HAPPEN Network
Through her ESRC-funded PhD, Emily expanded the HAPPEN Network as a collaborative network of health, education and research professionals across Wales. By working with schools to implement a HAPPEN survey and action plan, Emily’s research enabled and empowered schools to make evidence-based changes to their school community and to improve the health and wellbeing of their pupils.
The HAPPEN survey is completed by pupils and shared with schools as a school report. The results can then be used to give schools a better understanding of pupils, psychological, social and emotional health – helping schools make meaningful changes and develop their new curriculum aligned to their pupils’ health and wellbeing needs.
Emily developed HAPPEN to offer a meaningful framework for schools in Wales who have been tasked with designing and developing their curriculum by the Welsh Government.
One of the six areas of learning and experience in Wales’ new curriculum is health and wellbeing. HAPPEN research aimed to capture child health information such as nutrition, physical activity, sleep and wellbeing. This data was linked with administrative, educational attainment data and health records, accessed through the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank, working with Administrative Data Research Wales (ADR Wales).
A platform to evaluate school-based programmes
Emily also developed HAPPEN as a platform to evaluate school-based programmes, including outdoor learning and the Daily Mile.
Dylan Saer, Headteacher, Crwys Primary School, said: “Emily and the team at HAPPEN turned the findings from the survey into a meaningful and tailored action plan to benefit children. Each year, we use the survey to feed into our school development plan and plan our curriculum using our pupils’ health and wellbeing data.
As a school, we also took part in an evaluation of outdoor learning, which helped support the implementation of our outdoor schools’ policy effectively. This resulted in the school gaining an excellent judgement from Estyn, the School Inspectorate, for wellbeing and attitudes to learning.”
Emily added: “Over 20,000 children have now shared perspectives on health and wellbeing through the HAPPEN survey, and over 400 primary schools in Wales now receive a school report tailored to their pupils’ health and wellbeing needs.
The next stage of my work with HAPPEN is to address the challenges during COVID 19 through an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship award. Working on a global level – HAPPEN is now one of over 40 countries taking part in an international study to examine the impacts of the pandemic on school leaders.”
Find out more about the HAPPEN Primary School Network.
The HAPPEN Primary School Network is part of the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research, funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales.