Physically Active Children in Education (PACE) Project: Tailoring programs to increaseimpact and reduce cost

Ensuring children are sufficiently physically active could prevent up to 8,000 deaths each year in Australia.

The good news is that children are already encouraged to spend time at school being physically active. NSW Department of Education policies require that schools provide physical activity programs.

The challenge, however, is that many teachers find it difficult to meet these government recommendations in an already full school curriculum.

The PACE research team set out to respond to this challenge. They worked with teachers and schools to design and establish a physical activity intervention that would help schools increase their delivery of active programs to meet government policy requirements. They tested this intervention in 12 schools in the Hunter New England Local Health District to make sure it worked. And it did. 

NSW Regional Health Partners then supported the PACE research team to increase the scale of the program so more children could benefit. 

The first step was determining the feasibility, acceptability, and cost of implementing the new program in a large number of schools across three regional health districts. 

The second step was determining if different methods of delivering the PACE program could reduce costs without sacrificing its effectiveness. 

The PACE program was a success! 

The PACE program resulted in: 

Improved physical activity scheduling and participation

Teachers were able to schedule over 26 minutes of physical activity in the school week, as well as over 20 minutes of “energisers” (short bouts of physical activity) and 4 minute of integrated lessons 

School children took part in an extra 15 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise. 

“The kids really enjoyed it. We can see improvements in their engagement and … the students that we work with are particularly needy in that sort of area. We’ve got a high Indigenous population in our schools that really need to be doing something while they’re learning, it really connects with them. And so in our specific setting it really works really well for them.” [Teacher]

Greater opportunities to support good health 

PACE has been successfully delivered to more than 200 schools across metropolitan and regional local health districts in NSW.  More than 70,000 students have taken part in the program. 

PACE is highly feasible, acceptable, and an implementable school program that helps children towards recommended physical activity levels while at school. 

Greater physical activity brings direct benefits to children’s health, and helps establish healthy physical activity patterns early in life. This helps to prevent chronic disease. 

Improved compliance with policy

The PACE Program has been adopted as the preferred service delivery model for NSW primary schools to comply with the NSW Department of Health Physical Activity policy. 

A low-cost delivery option with equal effectiveness

The research study found the cost of delivering PACE could be reduced from $386 to $181 per school, without impacting on teacher’s ability to deliver physical activity.

This project was supported by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) as part of the Rapid Applied Research Translation program.