Increasing the implementation of mandatory physical activity policy in NSW primary schools across three NSW jurisdictions

What is the problem?

The implementation of school physical activity policy has been recommended as a strategy to prevent chronic disease. A number of jurisdictions in Australia and internationally have policies requiring minimum time weekly for the provision of planned physical activity for students at school.

Despite this, internationally, schools have failed to implement practices consistent with such policies. It is estimated that less than 20% of Australian schools are meeting jurisdiction-wide physical activity policy guidelines. If the benefits of such initiatives are to be realised, population-wide implementation of such evidence-based policies is needed.

It has also been identified that research measuring the effectiveness of interventions to facilitate widespread implementation of health promoting policies and practices in schools is limited.

About the research translation project

In 2015 the NSW Department of Education amended its Sport and Physical Activity Policy requiring students from Kindergarten to Year 10 to participate in a minimum of 150 minutes (increased from 120 minutes) of planned moderate to vigorous physical activity across the school week. Planned physical activity includes time spent in PE, sport and other structured activities that is inclusive of all children. To support primary school teachers to meet the policy requirements, this project will provide teachers with access to a support officer (a PE teacher and health promotion practitioner) who will also gain executive support and assist with identifying and preparing school champions. Schools will receive an “intervention manual” which will include policy and timetable templates, exemplar physical activity timetables and physical education curriculum schedules. The project will employ a non-controlled before and after study, with approximately 100 primary schools across Hunter New England, Mid-North Coast and Central Coast LHDs receiving a multi-component strategy to support policy implementation.

What will be the impact?

Success in this project will be demonstrable by an increase in the number of schools who adopt and implement the Sport and Physical Activity Policy, thereby increasing the amount of exercise performed by primary school students from 100 schools.

It is well established that being physically active keeps the body healthy and prevents a wide range of health problems. Links have also been made between physical activity and mental health with reduced rates of depression, anxiety and stress amongst those who exercise regularly. Notably for this context, research also indicates a link between physical activity and academic performance. Students who exercise have better levels of concentration, memory and attention.

By working to increase the exercise levels of primary school children, this project has the potential to impact upon children’s health, mental health and wellbeing, now and into the future.

 

For more information, contact Nicole Nathan – Nicole.Nathan@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au