School of Population and Global Health

Active Schools Project

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The ACTIVE Schools Project explored the relationship between primary school environments and children’s physical activity participation while at school.

Aims:

The four main aims of the project were to:

  1. Identify school environmental characteristics related to children’s physical activity during recess (morning and lunch breaks) and class-time using interviews with children and school staff, and a review of previous research in this field
  2. Measure and estimate children’s average physical activity participation at different schools
  3. Examine school, classroom and child-level characteristics using a school physical environment audit and staff and child questionnaires
  4. Identify school, classroom and child-level characteristics associated with class-time and recess physical activity

Methods

The project incorporated 3 stages including instrument development, instrument testing and data collection and analysis.

Data collection was undertaken at 27 government-funded primary schools in Perth, Western Australia, which were randomly selected from 9 groups incorporating an equal number of: low, middle and high socio-economic status schools; and old, middle, and newly built schools. Children’s physical activity was measured using accelerometers (a device similar to a pedometer, except that it records movement rather than steps).

Results

On average children participated in 37 minutes of moderate - to - vigorous physical activity during class-time daily. However, this ranged from 3 minutes at one school, to 88 minutes at another. Principals, teachers and children identified numerous features such as good amounts of space and grass; the availability of sports apparatus; the availability of good quality sports equipment, as supporting or encouraging physical activity during class-time. They also reported barriers to class-time physical activity, such as poor storage of sport equipment; insufficient time for PE/sport; and fear of children being injured.

On average children participated in 27 minutes of moderate - to - vigorous physical activity during school recess daily (equivalent to 41.2% of recess time). This ranged from an average of 2 minutes at one school, to 37 minutes at another. Principals, teachers and children identified features such as good variation in playground equipment; access to natural play areas; and adult/teacher assistance, as supporting or encouraging physical activity during recess. Conversely, features such as poor or lack of weather protection; play areas too close to car parks/roads; no hat, no play policy were reported as barriers.

Results of the analysis indicated key features of the school and individual children were associated with higher physical activity during the school day (see Tables 1 and 2).

Funding

For more information on the Active Schools project please contact Karen Martin

 

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