• Co-production of two whole-school sexual health interventions for English secondary schools: positive choices and project respect

      Ponsford, Ruth; Meiksin, Rebecca; Bragg, Sara; Crichton, Joanna; Emmerson, Lucy; Tancred, Tara; Tilouche, Nerissa; Morgan, Gemma; Gee, Pete; Young, Honor; et al. (BioMed Central Ltd, 2021-02-17)
      Background: Whole-school interventions represent promising approaches to promoting adolescent sexual health, but they have not been rigorously trialled in the UK and it is unclear if such interventions are feasible for delivery in English secondary schools. The importance of involving intended beneficiaries, implementers and other key stakeholders in the co-production of such complex interventions prior to costly implementation and evaluation studies is widely recognised. However, practical accounts of such processes remain scarce. We report on co-production with specialist providers, students, school staff, and other practice and policy professionals of two new whole-school sexual heath interventions for implementation in English secondary schools. Methods: Formative qualitative inquiry involving 75 students aged 13–15 and 23 school staff. A group of young people trained to advise on public health research were consulted on three occasions. Twenty-three practitioners and policy-makers shared their views at a stakeholder event. Detailed written summaries of workshops and events were prepared and key themes identified to inform the design of each intervention. Results: Data confirmed acceptability of addressing unintended teenage pregnancy, sexual health and dating and relationships violence via multi-component whole-school interventions and of curriculum delivery by teachers (providing appropriate teacher selection). The need to enable flexibility for the timetabling of lessons and mode of parent communication; ensure content reflected the reality of young people’s lives; and develop prescriptive teaching materials and robust school engagement strategies to reflect shrinking capacity for schools to implement public-health interventions were also highlighted and informed intervention refinements. Our research further points to some of the challenges and tensions involved in co-production where stakeholder capacity may be limited or their input may conflict with the logic of interventions or what is practicable within the constraints of a trial. Conclusions: Multi-component, whole-school approaches to addressing sexual health that involve teacher delivered curriculum may be feasible for implementation in English secondary schools. They must be adaptable to individual school settings; involve careful teacher selection; limit additional burden on staff; and accurately reflect the realities of young people’s lives. Co-production can reduce research waste and may be particularly useful for developing complex interventions, like whole-school sexual health interventions, that must be adaptable to varying institutional contexts and address needs that change rapidly. When co-producing, potential limitations in relation to the representativeness of participants, the ‘depth’ of engagement necessary as well as the burden on participants and how they will be recompensed must be carefully considered. Having well-defined, transparent procedures for incorporating stakeholder input from the outset are also essential. Formal feasibility testing of both co-produced interventions in English secondary schools via cluster RCT is warranted. Trial registration: Project Respect: ISRCTN12524938. Positive Choices: ISRCTN65324176
    • Implementing the United Kingdom's ten-year teenage pregnancy strategy for England (1999-2010): how was this done and what did it achieve?

      Hadley, Alison; Ingham, Roger; Chandra-Mouli, Venkatraman; University of Bedfordshire; University of Southampton; World Health Organisation (2016-11-22)
      In 1999, the UK Labour Government launched a 10-year Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England to address the country's historically high rates and reduce social exclusion. The goal was to halve the under-18 conception rate. This study explores how the strategy was designed and implemented, and the features that contributed to its success. This study was informed by examination of the detailed documentation of the strategy, published throughout its 10-year implementation. The strategy involved a comprehensive programme of action across four themes: joined up action at national and local level; better prevention through improved sex and relationships education and access to effective contraception; a communications campaign to reach young people and parents; and coordinated support for young parents (The support programme for young parents was an important contribution to the strategy. In the short term by helping young parents prevent further unplanned pregnancies and, in the long term, by breaking intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and lowering the risk of teenage pregnancy.). It was implemented through national, regional and local structures with dedicated funding for the 10-year duration. The under-18 conception rate reduced steadily over the strategy's lifespan. The 2014 under-18 conception rate was 51% lower than the 1998 baseline and there have been significant reductions in areas of high deprivation. One leading social commentator described the strategy as 'The success story of our time' (Toynbee, The drop in teenage pregnancies is the success story of our time, 2013). As rates of teenage pregnancy are influenced by a web of inter-connected factors, the strategy was necessarily multi-faceted in its approach. As such, it is not possible to identify causative pathways or estimate the relative contributions of each constituent part. However, we conclude that six key features contributed to the success: creating an opportunity for action; developing an evidence based strategy; effective implementation; regularly reviewing progress; embedding the strategy in wider government programmes; and providing leadership throughout the programme. The learning remains relevant for the UK as England's teenage birth rate remains higher than in other Western European countries. It also provides important lessons for governments and policy makers in other countries seeking to reduce teenage pregnancy rates. BACKGROUND METHODS RESULTS CONCLUSIONS
    • The need to improve fertility awareness

      Harper, Joyce; Boivin, Jacky; O'Neill, Helen C.; Brian, Kate; Dhingra, Jennifer; Dugdale, Grace; Edwards, Genevieve; Emmerson, Lucy; Grace, Bola; Hadley, Alison; et al. (Elsevier, 2017-04-08)
      Women and men globally are delaying the birth of their first child. In the UK, the average age of first conception in women is 29 years. Women experience age-related fertility decline so it is important that men and women are well-informed about this, and other aspects of fertility. A group of UK stakeholders have established the Fertility Education Initiative to develop tools and information for children, adults, teachers, parents and healthcare professionals dedicated to improving knowledge of fertility and reproductive health.
    • A school-based social-marketing intervention to promote sexual health in English secondary schools: the Positive Choices pilot cluster RCT

      Ponsford, Ruth; Bragg, Sara; Allen, Elizabeth; Tilouche, Nerissa; Meiksin, Rebecca; Emmerson, Lucy; Van Dyck, Laura; Opondo, Charles; Morris, Steve; Sturgess, Joanna; et al. (NIHR Journals Library, 2021-01-31)
      The UK still has the highest rate of teenage births in western Europe. Teenagers are also the age group most likely to experience unplanned pregnancy, with around half of conceptions in those aged < 18 years ending in abortion. After controlling for prior disadvantage, teenage parenthood is associated with adverse medical and social outcomes for mothers and children, and increases health inequalities. This study evaluates Positive Choices (a new intervention for secondary schools in England) and study methods to assess the value of a Phase III trial. To optimise and feasibility-test Positive Choices and then conduct a pilot trial in the south of England assessing whether or not progression to Phase III would be justified in terms of prespecified criteria. Intervention optimisation and feasibility testing; pilot randomised controlled trial. The south of England: optimisation and feasibility-testing in one secondary school; pilot cluster trial in six other secondary schools (four intervention, two control) varying by local deprivation and educational attainment. School students in year 8 at baseline, and school staff. Schools were randomised (1 : 2) to control or intervention. The intervention comprised staff training, needs survey, school health promotion council, year 9 curriculum, student-led social marketing, parent information and review of school/local sexual health services. The prespecified criteria for progression to Phase III concerned intervention fidelity of delivery and acceptability; successful randomisation and school retention; survey response rates; and feasible linkage to routine administrative data on pregnancies. The primary health outcome of births was assessed using routine data on births and abortions, and various self-reported secondary sexual health outcomes. The data sources were routine data on births and abortions, baseline and follow-up student surveys, interviews, audio-recordings, observations and logbooks. The intervention was optimised and feasible in the first secondary school, meeting the fidelity targets other than those for curriculum delivery and criteria for progress to the pilot trial. In the pilot trial, randomisation and school retention were successful. Student response rates in the intervention group and control group were 868 (89.4%) and 298 (84.2%), respectively, at baseline, and 863 (89.0%) and 296 (82.0%), respectively, at follow-up. The target of achieving ≥ 70% fidelity of implementation of essential elements in three schools was achieved. Coverage of relationships and sex education topics was much higher in intervention schools than in control schools. The intervention was acceptable to 80% of students. Interviews with staff indicated strong acceptability. Data linkage was feasible, but there were no exact matches for births or abortions in our cohort. Measures performed well. Poor test–retest reliability on some sexual behaviour measures reflected that this was a cohort of developing adolescents. Qualitative research confirmed the appropriateness of the intervention and theory of change, but suggested some refinements. The optimisation school underwent repeated changes in leadership, which undermined its participation. Moderator analyses were not conducted as these would be very underpowered. Our findings suggest that this intervention has met prespecified criteria for progression to a Phase III trial. Declining prevalence of teenage pregnancy suggests that the primary outcome in a full trial could be replaced by a more comprehensive measure of sexual health. Any future Phase III trial should have a longer lead-in from randomisation to intervention commencement. Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN12524938. ; Vol. 9, No. 1. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.
    • Study protocol for the optimisation, feasibility testing and pilot cluster randomised trial of Positive Choices: a school-based social marketing intervention to promote sexual health, prevent unintended teenage pregnancies and address health inequalities in England

      Ponsford, Ruth; Allen, Elizabeth; Campbell, Rona; Elbourne, Diana; Hadley, Alison; Lohan, Maria; Melendez-Torres, G. J.; Mercer, Catherine H.; Morris, Steve; Young, Honor; et al. (BMC (part of Springer Nature), 2018-05-23)
      Background: Since the introduction of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS), England's under-18 conception rate has fallen by 55%, but a continued focus on prevention is needed to maintain and accelerate progress. The teenage birth rate remains higher in the UK than comparable Western European countries. Previous trials indicate that schoolbased social marketing interventions are a promising approach to addressing teenage pregnancy and improving sexual health. Such interventions are yet to be trialled in the UK. This study aims to optimise and establish the feasibility and acceptability of one such intervention: Positive Choices. Methods: Design: Optimisation, feasibility testing and pilot cluster randomised trial. Interventions: The Positive Choices intervention comprises a student needs survey, a student/staff led School Health Promotion Council (SHPC), a classroom curriculum for year nine students covering social and emotional skills and sex education, student-led social marketing activities, parent information and a review of school sexual health services. Systematic optimisation of Positive Choices will be carried out with the National Children's Bureau Sex Education Forum (NCB SEF), one state secondary school in England and other youth and policy stakeholders. Feasibility testing will involve the same state secondary school and will assess progression criteria to advance to the pilot cluster RCT. Pilot cluster RCT with integral process evaluation will involve six different state secondary schools (four interventions and two controls) and will assess the feasibility and utility of progressing to a full effectiveness trial. The following outcome measures will be trialled as part of the pilot: 1. Self-reported pregnancy and unintended pregnancy (initiation of pregnancy for boys) and sexually transmitted infections, 2. Age of sexual debut, number of sexual partners, use of contraception at first and last sex and non-volitional sex 3. Educational attainment The feasibility of linking administrative data on births and termination to self-report survey data to measure our primary outcome (unintended teenage pregnancy) will also be tested. Discussion: This will be the first UK-based pilot trial of a school-wide social marketing intervention to reduce unintended teenage pregnancy and improve sexual health. If this study indicates feasibility and acceptability of the optimised Positive Choices intervention in English secondary schools, plans will be initiated for a phase III trial and economic evaluation of the intervention. Trial registration: ISRCTN registry (ISCTN12524938. Registered 03/07/2017).
    • Teenage pregnancy: strategies for prevention

      Hadley, Alison; University of Bedfordshire (Elsevier, 2020-11-16)
      Teenage pregnancy is a cause and consequence of inequality, limiting the life chances of young parents and their children. It is an issue of global concern, with many countries developing programmes of prevention. This review focuses on the experience of the England strategy, launched in 1999 to address the historically high rates. It is one of the few examples of a successful long term, multi-agency programme, led by national government and locally delivered which, between 1998 and 2018, reduced the under-18 conception rate by 64%. It sets out the case for helping young people delay early pregnancy, the international evidence for prevention, how evidence is translated into a ‘whole system’ approach and the priorities for further reducing inequalities. Questions are included to encourage both investigation into local programmes on teenage pregnancy prevention, and reflection on individual practice. The review concludes with summarizing the next steps for England and the lessons that can be shared more widely.
    • What and how: doing good research with young people, digital intimacies, and relationships and sex education

      Scott, Rachel H.; Smith, Clarissa; Formby, Eleanor; Hadley, Alison; Hallgarten, Lisa; Hoyle, Alice; Marston, Cicely; McKee, Alan; Tourountsis, Dimitrios (Taylor & Francis, 2020-03-17)
      As part of a project funded by the Wellcome Trust, we held a one-day symposium, bringing together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, to discuss priorities for research on relationships and sex education (RSE) in a world where young people increasingly live, experience, and augment their relationships (whether sexual or not) within digital spaces. The introduction of statutory RSE in schools in England highlights the need to focus on improving understandings of young people and digital intimacies for its own sake, and to inform the development of learning resources. We call for more research that puts young people at its centre; foregrounds inclusivity; and allows a nuanced discussion of pleasures, harms, risks, and rewards, which can be used by those working with young people and those developing policy. Generating such research is likely to be facilitated by participation, collaboration, and communication with beneficiaries, between disciplines and across sectors. Taking such an approach, academic researchers, practitioners, and policymakers agree that we need a better understanding of RSE’s place in lifelong learning, which seeks to understand the needs of particular groups, is concerned with non-sexual relationships, and does not see digital intimacies as disconnected from offline everyday ‘reality’.