Mapping and evaluation of physical activity interventions for school-aged children

J. Arnold, S. Bruce-Low, S. Henderson, J. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: A high degree of de-regulation, organisational fragmentation and funding cuts throughout UK schools in recent years has obscured the definitive structure and effectiveness of physical activity (PA) provision offered to children. This pilot study aimed to map the current structure and context of PA provision offered to school children in Southampton, and its alignment with existing empirical evidence about the likely effectiveness of such interventions.

Study design: Utilising a qualitative approach, the study focused upon school-based PA provision, since this setting was conjectured to show greater diversity when compared to settings outside of school, lending itself to further interventions than non-school PA provision.

Methods: Interventions offered across nine schools (three junior, two primary, four secondary) were investigated and mapped through semi-structured interviews. Findings were benchmarked against other cities similar to Southampton in indices of multiple deprivation status via interviews with city council workers.

Results: Interviews highlighted only three formal PA specific interventions currently operating, and a hand full of informal interventions. Limited PA provision was attributed to a lack of time, money, and priority devoted towards PA within schools. Considerable disparity exists between the high prevalence of sport-oriented provision compared with the low prevalence of PA specific provision. Interviews with Portsmouth and Bristol city councils suggest that such findings may not be unique to Southampton.

Conclusions: In contrast to the extensive literature base detailing numerous PA interventions in school-aged children, our data suggest that a very small amount of such knowledge appears to translate into PA provision offered in Southampton schools. Our data highlight a significant discrepancy between sport and PA provision across schools. It is possible that the inability to successfully differentiate between sport and PA may present a further obstacle to the successful uptake of PA in the future. An extension of the PA mapping carried out, both countywide and nationally, provides a possible avenue for future research to confirm or contrast these initial insights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-79
Number of pages5
JournalPublic Health
Early online date12 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

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