08 SES 04, Schools, Physical Activity and Health: Does Age Matter?
Parallel Paper Session
This paper reports on the first phase of a three year project commissioned by the British Heart Foundation focusing on the role of secondary schools in effectively promoting physical activity, particularly to the least active. The rationale for the study emerged from the ‘accepted’ role of schools and Physical Education (PE) in promoting physical activity (Green, 2008; Shephard & Trudeau, 2000), the challenges associated with this (Cale & Harris, 2005; Trost, 2006), and evidence that some young people are particularly inactive and may even be disadvantaged by the physical activity opportunities and experiences available to them in schools (Kirk, 2010; Nazroo, 2003; Penney & Harris, 1997; O’Brien et al., 2007). The aim of the first phase of the study was to establish the needs of secondary schools with respect to the promotion of physical activity. The second phase which is currently ongoing aims to develop, implement and evaluate support for secondary schools to effectively promote physical activity, and the third phase will evaluate the impact of this support on schools, teachers and young people. Effective promotion of physical activity within schools is clearly a global issue with the World Health Organisation (2010, pp. 37-38) recommending that: ‘school policies support the provision of opportunities and programmes for physical activity; schools are provided with safe and appropriate spaces and facilities so that students can spend their time actively; and that social networks are created that encourage physical activity’. It is anticipated that the recommendations that will emanate from this particular study will be relevant to countries beyond England. The theoretical framework for the study is based on a critical ecological approach to health promotion which focuses attention on both individual factors and the social environment as targets for health promotion interventions (McLeroy et al., 1998). It addresses the importance of interventions directed at interpersonal, organisational, community, and public policy factors which support and maintain healthy behaviours. The model assumes that appropriate changes in the social environment will produce changes in individuals, and that the support of individuals in the population is essential for implementing environmental changes. Within the education sector, there has been growing interest and support for ecological, environmental or ‘whole school’ approaches to physical activity promotion, and the need to move beyond the curriculum (including the PE curriculum) has been recognised (Sallis, Bauman & Pratt, 1998; Spence & Lee, 2003). Yet, despite growing support for an ecological approach, environmental and policy interventions seem to be an under-researched component of school health promotion (French, Story & Jeffrey, 2001). The third phase of this study, in particular, is intended to contribute to the knowledge base associated with the impact of ‘whole school’ approaches to the promotion of physical activity as a health behaviour.
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