Early School Leavers and Nutrition - A needs assessment from a nutrition perspective

Date: 16 December, 2013

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Backgroundearly school leavers report cover

This research was undertaken by the Children’s Research Centre (CRC), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at the University of Ulster (UU) in response to safefood’s call for proposals to carry out an all-Ireland needs assessment of food and physical activity related health issues in alternative education and training settings. Nutrition and physical activity research with young people who are early school leavers (ESLs) is limited. This study aimed to inform the development of a meaningful and socially inclusive response to the nutrition education needs of young people and other stakeholders in alternative education and training settings. The project results will inform safefood’s and other agencies’ future food and nutrition work in ESL settings. 

Research objectives

  1. Provide an overview of the key structures/networks for accessing ESLs in NI and ROI.
  2. Identify relevant key existing health promotion activities and gaps in health promoting activities that focus on healthy eating and active lifestyles that target ESLs.
  3. Identify potential healthy eating and physical activity related programmes that are appropriate and acceptable to ESLs in NI and ROI that could be implemented by safefood in the out-of-school setting.
The study used a mixed-methods approach that addressed the three research objectives outlined above. 

Key findings

  • In NI service, provision crosses a range of government departments but responsibility lies
    primarily with the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL). 
  • In ROI, the Youthreach programme is the main formal, statutory response to ESL and is delivered through Youthreach Centres of Education, Community Training Centres (CTCs) and Justice Workshops (JW). 
  • Formal provision is more structured in terms of: availability of educational and vocational
    programmes; resources and standards. 
  • Informal provision is widespread throughout ROI and NI but tends to be ad-hoc and to some extent overlaps with other ESL service provision. 

Workshop report

Further to the needs assessment report findings, safefood facilitated two workshops in Dublin and Belfast respectively, the results of which have been compiled in the 'Early School Leavers and Nutrition - A needs assessment from a nutrition perspective - Report of workshops 9th and 10th of October 2012'. This research showed that there was a need for a targeted and relevant resource to support Early School Leaver trainers in the delivery of life skills training around food.