The Relationship between Primary Schools and Health Services in New Zealand: A Multicase Study
Education and health are interrelated. Education has a positive association with health behaviours, life expectancy, and morbidity and is an established social determinant of health. However, for learning to take place, children need to be healthy, ready, and able. All too frequently, ill-health compromises learning and school attendance, leading to long-term negative consequences throughout life.
Positioning health services alongside schools, and upholding collaborative inter-sectoral working, has been shown to positively impact both education and health outcomes for children and young people internationally. In New Zealand, however, the education and health sectors work in silo with no formal directive to do otherwise. Achieving and maintaining inter-sectoral collaboration is, therefore, challenging, piecemeal, and time-consuming. It is further complicated by system structure, competing priorities, and differing perspectives of the two sectors and those working within them.
This multicase study of three Auckland urban primary schools explored the relationship between primary schools and health services and the influences on this relationship. The study focused on the experiences and perspectives of participant principals, teachers, teacher aides, administrative staff, and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators of working with health services. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, observations, and reviews of staff professional development and related learning opportunities.
The findings highlight the uncoordinated working relationship between the health and education sectors in New Zealand and the current barriers to achieving workable, inter-sectoral collaboration. This study has confirmed the need for better inter-sector alignment while acknowledging the interdependence of both sectors. Collaborative inter-sectoral work between education and health is critical. The findings from this study recommend the development and implementation of a national policy enabling these sectors to work together to achieve optimal education and health outcomes for children and young people in New Zealand.