In this article I discuss the findings from a case study focusing on processes involving pupils to bring about health promotion changes. The case study is related to a large EU intervention project aiming to promote health and wellbeing among children (4-16 years), ‘Shape Up: a school-community approach to influencing determinants of healthy and balanced growing up’. Qualitative case study research was carried out in a school in the Netherlands. Data sources included project documents, interviews and observations. Thematic analysis was carried out combining the different data sources. The case study showed that, if given sufficient guidance, children can act as agents of health promoting changes. The main arena for pupils’ influence was the pupils’ council. Pupils were meaningfully involved in two actions, which targeted road safety around the school and a playground for a disadvantaged community near the school. A clear framework was provided by the adults, which delineated the participation room for pupils at every stage. The main goal of participation was construed as the development of pupils’ capacities to act and actualise their own ideas. The pupils themselves were positive about their involvement and experienced ownership of the actions taken in the project. Their experience with active participation seems to have empowered them through the feeling of efficacy and achievement in working with ‘real-life’ problems and bringing about real-life changes.
Democracy and Education, 2012, Vol 20, Issue 1
Health educaion; Health Promotion; Participation; democracy; Empowerment; School; pupils