How can schools support the education of children and young people experiencing chronic pain: Perspectives of teachers and other school staff.

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Lauren Baggley
Submitted: June 2021


Chronic pain (CP) is a prevalent health problem in school aged children and young people (CYP). A body of evidence suggests CP has a profound impact on many aspects of CYP’s lives including in an academic context. CP is associated with poor school attendance, poor academic performance and overall impairment in school functioning. Research commonly uses attendance to measure this impact however, school functioning is a multi-dimensional concept including social, cognitive and emotional aspects. There is also disparity in the measures used to determine school functioning. Given the wide ranging impact of CP, it is important that CYP experiencing CP are well supported in school by adults who feel competent supporting their needs. However, to date there has been limited research eliciting school staff’s perspectives on managing CP in school. In this thesis, I sought to address the gaps in the literature through two studies. In a systematic literature review I explored the assessment and measurement of the impact of CP on the school functioning of school aged CYP. Overall, CP was found to negatively impact numerous aspects of school functioning including attendance, performance, academic self-efficacy, limiting physical activities, emotional and social functioning and overall school functioning. Wide and varied outcome measures were used to determine the impact of CP. In an empirical study, I conducted semi structured interviews with 12 members of school staff in various roles about their experiences supporting children and young people with CP at school. Through thematic analysis, four themes were developed concerning staff’s perceived misunderstanding of chronic pain as a biopsychosocial phenomenon, the wide ranging impact of chronic pain, lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and managing chronic pain in a school setting. Promising implications were identified for supporting students with CP with greater flexibility and a blended learning approach in future.

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