Abstract for:Direct Action or Social Nudge: where are the effective policy levers for helping families select secondary (high) schools?

BACKGROUND. Cross sectional studies suggest a prevalence of mental health problems from the age that children change to secondary schools in England but there are fewer longitudinal appraisals of these problems and which policies can help reduce early onset. Model-based multimethodology offers potential insights for this single case study.

METHODS. Using group model building scripts to collect views from a multi-agency group of expert practitioners, the impacts of a competitive urban education were induced to agree a concept model. Parent decision making behaviour was deduced to understand drivers behind school selection. Simulation was employed to abduce system sensitivities predicting long-term socio-emotional impacts before comparing intervention policies.

RESULTS. Where families face similar competition pressures in Plymouth’s state education when selecting secondary schools, some families may pick providers unable to meet needs of adolescent students. Families at-risk adopt autocratic styles of decision making jeapardising full and regular conversations with their child, preceding wellbeing-decline referrals. Directly addressing competition stressors from education or health offers little improvement but exploiting system timing sensitivities, a gamification policy succeeded. 

CONCLUSIONS. The modelling multi-methodology induces group views on the problem structures, deduces parental decision bias and abduces policy improvements. Policy simulation suggests that coordinated, multi-agency, social nudge using gamification improves over alternative, unilateral, directed act initiatives.