In relation to health promotion and education, the use of post-positivist and constructivist approaches has been gathering strength in recent years. Despite this emerging tradition, little has been done to explore what this sort of approach actually represents, particularly in terms of health promotion in schools, professional organizations and wider society. Acknowledging this, it is suggested that more researchers in this area should be adopting qualitative approaches-including semi-structured interviews, focus groups, story/dialogue workshops and developmental schemes of health education-in order to uncover the hidden meaning of 'health promotion', particularly in the school context. This paper therefore attempts to challenge the idea that traditionalist paradigms of positivist research are capable of appropriately representing the nature and complexity of the health promotion issues. In this paper, methodological and theoretical frameworks that can enable researchers to understand health promotion from the perspective of students, teachers and school 'stakeholders' are suggested. Particular attention is given to a discussion of the potential value of designing and implementing programmes of health education or promotion using a critical pedagogical approach within schools in the UK. It is argued that programmes using a critical pedagogical and reflective approach, and which are aimed at social transformation, would be of enormous benefit to both researchers and educational/health professionals who are seeking to understand the complexity of health promotion issues from the perspective of children and adolescents.