Introducing physically active lessons in UK secondary schools: feasibility study and pilot cluster-randomised controlled trial

Catherine Gammon, Katie Morton, Andrew Atkin, Kirsten Corder, Andy Daly-Smith, Thomas Quarmby, Marc Suhrcke, David Turner, Esther van Sluijs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Assess feasibility, acceptability and costs of delivering a physically active lessons (PAL) training programme to secondary school teachers and explore preliminary effectiveness for reducing pupils’ sedentary time.
Design and setting: Secondary schools in East England; one school participated in a pre-post feasibility study, two in a pilot cluster-randomised controlled trial. In the pilot trial, blinding to group assignment was not possible.
Participants: Across studies, 321 randomly selected students (51% male; mean age: 12.9 years), 78 teachers (35% male) and two assistant head-teachers enrolled; 296(92%) students, 69(88%) teachers and two assistant head teachers completed the studies.
Intervention: PAL training was delivered to teachers over two after-school sessions. Teachers were made aware of how to integrate movement into lessons; strategies included students collecting data from the environment for class activities, and completing activities posted on classroom walls, instead of sitting at desks.
Primary and secondary outcomes: Quantitative and qualitative data were collected to assess feasibility and acceptability of PAL training and delivery. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and ~8 weeks post-training; measures included accelerometer-assessed activity, self-reported well-being, and observations of time-on-task. Process evaluation was conducted at follow-up.
Results: In the feasibility study, teachers reported good acceptability of PAL training and mixed experiences of delivering PAL. In the pilot study, teachers’ acceptability of training was lower and teachers identified aspects of the training in need of review, including the outdoor PAL training and learning challenge of PAL strategies. In both studies, students and assistant head-teachers reported good acceptability of the intervention. Preliminary effectiveness for reducing students’ sedentary time was not demonstrated in either study.
Conclusions: No evidence of preliminary effectiveness on the primary outcome and mixed reports of teachers’ acceptability of PAL training suggest the need to review the training. The results do not support continuation of research with the current intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere025080
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019

Cite this