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Co-production of two whole-school sexual health interventions for English secondary schools: positive choices and project respectPonsford, 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
A school-based social-marketing intervention to promote sexual health in English secondary schools: the Positive Choices pilot cluster RCTPonsford, 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.