Project PEDHSC33

Adapt-Ed: co-designing adaptations to a whole school intervention to improve the uptake and impact of food provision in special schools

We have been awarded funding from the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) to do some ‘development’ research and activities on improving the heath impacts of food provision in special schools. This will lead to outputs including a bid for a future implementation/evaluation project.


Nutritious school meals can play an important role in meeting children’s right to food, and mitigating the impacts of poverty on children’s diets and lives, but they are not always available or accessible to all children who might benefit from them. This includes children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND), who are more likely than those without SEND to grow up in families living in poverty and low-income, but might also have restricted food preferences or find eating difficult and need help at mealtimes.

Project Aims

We want to find out what ‘good school food’ means for children with SEND, what the opportunities and challenges are for food provision in different types of school and specialist provision, and whether it could be useful and realistic to adapt an existing ‘whole school approach’, called Healthy Zones, that has mainly been used in mainstream schools, to improve the uptake and impact of school food for children with SEND.

Project Activity

To do this, we are working with children with SEND, their families, schools, and people and organisations who work with them, using a mix of public contributor/stakeholder groups, school visits, interviews, survey and desk-based research.

Anticipated or actual outputs

We aim to maximise impact by engaging with stakeholders from the earliest stages.

Outputs will include:

  • A descriptive report for NIHR Journals Library & accessible summary
  • A coproduced logic model and blog for the NIHR East of England Applied Research

Presentations for academics and the school food community

Who is involved? 

Prof Rebecca O'Connell, University of Hertfordhsire (UH) (joint lead applicant, corresponding researcher)
Dr Amanda Ludlow, UH (joint lead applicant)
Dr Angus Holford, University of Essex
Dr Louca-Mai Brady, UH
Dr David Wellsted, UH
Dr Laura Hamilton, UH
Mr Andy Feltham, (Expert by Experience/PhD student/Public Co-applicant)
Research Assistant (TBC)
Eve Blair, School Food Matters