A new publication on the impact and implementation of Creating Active Schools (CAS) has just been released. A summary is below and you can read the full publication here.
What’s the current situation?
Children’s physical activity levels remain consistently low, with six out of ten children not meeting global recommendations of 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (World Health Organization, 2020; Aubert et al., 2022; Sport England, 2022). While schools are seen as favourable places to intervene, previous physical activity initiatives have only achieved small and unsustainable improvements (Love et al., 2019).
As a result, whole-school, system-based approaches are considered the “best investment.” However, many previous approaches have failed because they did not: 1) recognize schools as complex adaptive systems, 2) take a context-specific approach, and 3) incorporate behavioural and implementation science from the beginning.
The Creating Active School (CAS) programme was co-designed with multiple stakeholders to provide schools with a comprehensive approach to promoting physical activity. CAS addresses many of the concerns mentioned above and is grounded in both behaviour change and implementation science. Currently, CAS is being adopted in 50 schools in Bradford, with over 200 schools participating nationwide.
What did we do?
With numerous schools implementing the CAS programme, our aim was to understand what the first year of implementation looks like in schools in Bradford. To achieve this, we conducted group interviews with CAS champions and school staff, including in-school CAS leads. We also interviewed the CAS strategic lead. Our questions focused on programme adoption and attrition, programme effectiveness, and implementation.
What we found!
Schools were willing to adopt and implement whole-school approaches when they perceived them as high quality and aligned with their current values. The programme implementation processes were seen as supportive, and schools recognised and valued the long-term approach to implementing CAS. Formal and informal communities of practice provided “safe spaces” for cross-school support. However, challenges remained in reaching a broader range of staff within schools, improving staff self-competence, and shifting the school culture regarding physical activity. As a result, the uptake of CAS varied between and within schools.
What does this mean?
Regarding CAS specifically, we need to continue understanding the implementation beyond the first year. Additional research is required to replicate methods in similar whole-school physical activity approaches, bridging the gap between successful efficacy trials and ineffective scale-up studies.