Dropout at Danish vocational schools: does the school's health promotion capacity play a role? A survey- and register-based prospective study.

Research paper by Maja M Thøgersen, Mette M Aadahl, Peter P Elsborg, Charlotte Demant CD Klinker

Indexed on: 28 May '20Published on: 28 May '20Published in: BMC Public Health


School dropout rates and risky health behavior is common among students in vocational education and training (VET) schools. Students with poor physical and mental health are more likely to drop out, and as such VET schools may be an important setting for health promotion initiatives, not only to support a healthy lifestyle, but also to assure completion of education. A common feature of successful health promotion at VET schools is a high health promotion capacity at the school level. This study aimed to investigate the association between VET school's health promotion capacity and later student dropout rates. Secondary, we explored other school characteristics associated with student dropout rates. This prospective study comprised 58 Danish VET schools offering basic programs. Health promotion capacity was assessed using questionnaire data from 2017 from school managers and teachers, and this was combined with register-based data on student dropouts the following year. Health promotion capacity was assessed using six scales, representing six underlying domains, and managers and teachers' ratings of these were compared using t-test. Associations between health promotion capacity and student dropout rates as well as associations between school characteristics and student dropout rates were analyzed using multiple linear regression. No associations between VET schools' health promotion capacity and student dropout rates were observed, neither for the schools' overall health promotion capacity or for any of the six underlying domains (p = 0.17-0.84). School managers assessed health promotion capacity significantly higher than teachers overall and within all domains (p < 0.05). Moreover, student dropout rates were significantly lower at schools with a higher proportion of ethnic Danish students, VET-students at higher educational level and schools located in the Western part of Denmark (p < 0.05). No associations between VET schools' health promotion capacity and student dropout rates were observed. This may be due to a relatively short follow-up time in our study and future research may reveal if VET school health promotion capacity may affect dropout rates over a longer time period. Moreover, more work is needed to further develop instruments for measuring health promotion capacity in a VET school context as well as other contexts.