SPP - The school dinners debate

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The Schome Park Programme - The school dinners debate


The ‘School Dinners Debate’ study is an example of an external project intersecting with the Schome Park Programme, aiming for mutual benefit. One staff member was a co-investigator on a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK (ESRC); the Discourse of the School Dinners Debate (RES-000-22-1947). This project sought evidence from all kinds of stakeholders concerned with school dinners (at the time an area of much debate and media attention) including providers, schools, policy-makers, food lobbyists, parents and children. Traditional research methods were involved including surveys, interviews and focus groups. The Schome Park Programme staff member, a co-investigator of the project, decided to carry out an element of the project with Schome Park participants (with prior agreement from the Schommunity). An asynchronous discussion on the forum was followed by a series of in-world interviews, involving discussions around a table and consideration of a poster, featuring a school dinners menu (see image).

SPP school dinners debate.jpg

Evidence of learning/benefits

8 students contributed views to the discussion showing awareness of the genuine context for it and a willingness to share considered opinions with some detailed justification.
The external project benefited from the discussions, including results in the final report to the ESRC and subsequent dissemination.
Some interest was expressed by participants in the investigative process itself, with one student additionally asking questions about academic research as a career.


Only long-established student members of the project participated.
Indirect evidence suggested that there may have been some unease about the Schome Park Programme being used to further an external research agenda.

Key lessons learned

The external project, which aimed to involve a broad range of methods of data collection in an innovative combination, succeeded in trying out a new and unique context for investigating students’ views on a topic, under conditions of anonymity. Some students willingly and thoughtfully contributed their views, feeding in to an authentic research project. Such externally-motivated exercises need to be planned and monitored carefully, but can demonstrate some mutual benefit.

NB. Contrary to what the history might indicate, the original version of this was written by Rowan. PeterT just cut and pasted it in here from the original wordprocessed version.

The Schome Park Programme - The school dinners debate