Information Bulletin Number 17
Western Australian Child Health Survey - Education Health and Competence - February 1997.
This report, the third in the series, focused on education and discussed many findings of interest to educators, a sample of which is listed below.
Competence at School
• 1 in 5 below age level in academic competence.
• Number of schools attended not correlated to academic performance
• Students with birth dates in last 1/4 of calendar year had lower rates of overall academic competence (up to year 4)
• "overall demand for services to students at educational risk far exceeds the supply of these educational services" p26
• Educational level of parents affects the level of academic risk of their children "future generations stand to benefit through the setting of policies aimed at increasing school retention rates".
• The education and employment status of the caregiver is of more significance to the academic competence of the student than
I) the structure of the family
ii) the level of family income
Mental health and academic competence
• two mental health problems were particularly associated with low academic competence i) social problems
ii) attentional problems
• almost 21 °% of students had a mental health problem
• negative school experiences comprise critical paths or turning points for later adult outcomes
• affects about 5-8% of students
• best approach to treat children is multi-modal and collaborative case management • research on use of medication indicates good short term results
• non-drug approaches include parent training in child management, teacher counselling about ADHD, teacher training in classroom management, parent support groups
• schools potentially have a role in assessing individual levels of student risk in the areas of 1) mental health
2) speech and language
3) cognitive abilities
and should be supported with funding to carry these out.
• where academic outcomes are studied teacher effects are a major influence on these outcomes and the effect of the school and its context on academic outcome is negligible.
Self esteem and self efficacy
• Girls tended to have lower self esteem than boys
• Little evidence that improvements in self esteem resulted in better educational outcomes. Instead these studies generally support the achievement model of self esteem i.e. self esteem is more an outcome than a cause of academic success.
• One in five adolescents disliked school
• School alienation was associated with both academic competence and mental health problems.
• 8% of adolescents report feeling extreme stress. One in five males reported feeling no stress at all.
• High parental expectations did not appear to be related to higher levels of academic stress. High parental expectations usually operated to encourage and facilitate academic competence
• Adolescents need to learn adaptive ways of dealing with stress
• Violent behaviour among students often has its influences outside the school and solutions to it are unlikely to be found in isolation from those causes
Teacher/parent reports indicate 11 % of students were victims of bullying during the previous 6 months. Boys were bullied more than girls. The incidence of bullying was highest among 10-14 year olds.
• Exposure to bullying was associated with a high incidence of adverse academic and psychological outcomes
• About 5% of students displayed characteristics of bullies
• Bullies had a higher incidence of mental health problems.
Adolescent suicidal behaviour
• About 8% of adolescents reported suicide or self harm attempts. Best approach is to develop skills and competences of people to whom troubled youth turn rather than direct curriculum-based approaches.
Students at Educational Risk
• Risk of low academic competence is increased when there exists: I) low verbal and non verbal ability
ii) Difficulties with speech and language iii) mental health problems
• School are faced with the responsibility of managing these children
• Two mental health syndromes were associated with low academic competence - attention problems
- Social problems
• School retention and school attendance lower the risk of low academic competence
• Less than 1% of all students attending WA schools are absent without explanation
Health and well being in schools
• Schools' primary focus is education but this is being affected by the health and emotional well-being of students. There is a perception that these problems are increasing in frequency.
Two possible reasons are suspected of underpinning this trend:
I) the context in which families are raising children has changed
ii) The normal processes of adolescent development have been complicated by the emergence of new stresses and challenges.
• A major report recently identified youth suicide, health-damaging behaviors, and alienation of young people as public health problems confronting Australia.
• mental health education needs to have a greater focus on prevention
• It is not dealt with widely in schools because most teachers are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the issues and there is resistance to the addition to an already crowded curriculum.
Improving Prospects for Health and Well Being in Schools
• Several prerequisite conditions enable schools to consider the uptake of intervention and prevention initiatives
- Leadership support in the school
- Participation of teaching staff in PD activities
- Extent to which a teacher's personal goals agree with the goal of the school is among the key influences on the quality of teaching within the school.
• There remain significant barriers to the development of more comprehensive and integrated educational support for students - particularly those at risk
I) Government department boundaries
ii) Industrial agreements - more flexibility for use of personnel and skills within schools.
Future direction to assist at risk students
I) more flexible delivery of needed skills and services within schools.
ii) Greater financial support for this educational enterprise through other government sectors.
iii) Proposed interventions within schools must be able to demonstrate benefits to the school's mission in addition to benefits to students.
iv) Professional development of school's leadership teams in health promotion and practice.
v) Set targets to increase education support staff in proportion to the population
vi) Devolution needs to be accompanied by leadership at all levels to
i) develop data systems for collaborative needs analysis
ii) establish cross agency contact and service agreements.
iii) create joint funding strategies.
A copy of the survey is available at your school
Zuhrick S R, Silburn S R, Gurrin L, Tech H, Shepherd C, Carlton, Lawrence D.
Western Australian Child Health Survey. Education Health and Competence. Perth, Western Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics and the TVW Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 1997. (ISBN 0 642 17239 0)