2.5. Active School Flag Intervention
The SLASF feasibility model is co-designed by a SLASF steering group and staff, researchers of the University of Limerick and feedback from the three lead schools. The SLASF process is designed to be peer-led by a TY SLASF class, who will have the support of an SLASF coordinator, SLASF committee members, school staff and school management. The initiative challenges peers to find ways to encourage more students in their school to engage in school-based PA opportunities (year 1—SLASF certificate) and community-based PA opportunities (year 2—SLASF flag). During year 1 (Active School Flag certificate) the focus is on increasing participation in school-based PA opportunities. Year 2 (Active School Flag) is focused on community-based activities.
Previously the SLASF was viewed as a physical education initiative. In order to generate greater whole-school engagement, the SLASF tasks are formatted to draw support for the SLASF TY team from school management and teachers across a variety of different subjects. The new format of the SLASF process complements two current key educational initiatives: The Well-Being Framework by the Irish National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the School Self-Evaluation process by the Department of Education and Skills and a new initiative presently at draft stage: The Parent and Student Charter also by the Department of Education and Skills. Students working towards Gaisce the President’s Award can use their SLASF work to fulfil their Community or Personal Skill challenge requirement. Another benefit of SLASF is that it will link schools with the current national Healthy Ireland PA programmes and national youth charity events including:
The SLASF programme is a whole-school approach to increase PA opportunities and generate opportunities for student voice and youth leadership. Currently, there are two levels. The first level is a certificate. This is open to all secondary level schools. It can serve as a good link from primary schools to continue on the ethos of active schools and allow a school to consider whether to take the next step or not. Moreover, SLASF is a DES (Department of Education and Skills) initiative and it can only be awarded to schools that adhere to physical education timetable recommendations that is, a double timetabled period of physical education for all year groups. This provision is not in place in a large number of secondary level schools, thus heretofore excluding them from the SLASF process. The introduction of the certificate level, without eligibility criteria, opens the SLASF process to all interested post primary schools. If the SLASF certificate proves beneficial it may encourage them to revisit their timetable policy.
Achievement of the flag is a whole school process, meaning that management, staff and students all play a role in the programme. There is a requirement for website updates and an online presence. In order to achieve the SLASF Certificate a number of tasks must be completed during year 1. These include: (1) a staff slideshow, (2) an SLASF team slideshow, (3) class time slideshow (4) SLASF training day, (5) an SLASF awareness week (towards the beginning of the year), (6) website showcase, (7) SLASF whole school questionnaire, (8) SLASF launch event, (9) SLASF action plan, (10) ‘Did You Know?’ campaign, (11) PA module as part of Social, personal and health education (SPHE) subject for junior cycle students, (12) Active School WALKWAY, (13) Community Mapping of extra curriculum activities, (14) Community Event, (15) Active School Week, (16) SLASF accreditation visit and (17) school PA space audits (Figure 1
All 17 activities are scheduled throughout the school year including a combination of staff and students as the main actors in this process. The SLASF TY class should take leadership guided and supported by the SLASF coordinator and committee on the programme. A key part of the process is that the SLASF coordinator has timetable provision allocated to two class periods per week to carry out work with the TY class. The committee includes staff representatives from the school, including one from management, an SLASF coordinator, two other staff who work on the well-being curriculum to include SPHE, Civic, Social, Political Education (CSPE) and Physical Education teachers, as well as four youth leaders. Structure of different actors in the process can be viewed in Figure 2
Schools wishing to work towards the second level of the SLASF process, the Active School Flag, must have completed the certificate level and be able to confirm that they timetable physical education in accordance with DES recommendations.
At the student level, there are three levels of involvement. There is the SLASF team, which is comprised of the SLASF TY programme group. There are four SLASF youth leaders who represent the team at the school committee level. To be a youth leader, the SLASF team member needs to apply for the position through an application process that is evaluated by the staff members of the SLASF committee. The youth leaders end up representing the student voice at the SLASF committee and have the responsibility of presenting the SLASF action plan and the SLASF end of year review to the school Principal. The third student level is the SLASF class representatives. There are two in every class in the school and students can also apply for this position through an application form. The selection will be made by the class tutor in consultation with the SLASF coordinator.
2.5.1. TY Leader Role
The TY leader role is responsible for planning, promoting and implementing the SLASF initiatives and events throughout the school year. Based on self-efficacy theory [29
], TY leaders are a closer connection to the students in the schools than teachers, thus strengthen vicarious experiences. Moreover, social support and leadership from the TYs can reinforce the basic premise of proactive behaviour change [43
]. The SLASF team can be identified by being given pins to wear on their uniform. Moreover, part of the time spent on SLASF activities can be used as part of a time bank for other volunteering programmes, such as, Gaisce the President’s Award. The selected SLASF youth leaders will receive their own distinct pins to wear on the uniform.
2.5.2. Activities for Certification
For schools to be successful in achieving the activities needed for certification, there is a yearly planner with guideline dates for task completion that the schools will use to keep on track. This also includes the accreditation visit. For example, the SLASF slideshows for the staff, team and youth leaders need to have been completed before the 2nd week of the school year. A designated training day takes place a week later. The purpose of this training day is to introduce the pilot schools to each other and the research team. The research team describes the whole year process evaluation and measurements taken throughout the year. There are co-design opportunities between the TY leaders and researchers to formulate the surveys used to collect data. The training day is not expected to run every year once feasibility is over. At this training day, two members of staff, the SLASF coordinator and another on the SLASF team take four student leaders to a training venue to learn about how to run the activities throughout the year. The website should also go live at the outset of the process. The website should encompass an easy to find link to the SLASF section of the site and there are the four core parts of the SLASF process; Physical Education; PA; Partnerships; and Active School Week.
Another activity that the school needs to complete is the SLASF Awareness Week. This should be completed two weeks after the training day.
School census questionnaire is deployed a week after the awareness week and this precedes the official launch of the SLASF process.
During the launch, there would be a school wide tug of war (TOW) competition that is planned, promoted and organised by the SLASF committee.
For the launch day the overall winning TOW team will compete against a staff team at a whole school event to launch the SLASF initiative.
A school census questionnaire was developed to help the SLASF team to identify their action plan. Core questions about PA opportunities, physical education, involvement in extra-curriculum activities and barriers to PA were included in an online survey. For a week after the awareness week, the survey is available for completion. All responses are anonymous and completed confidentially. Class teachers supervise and help answer any technical questions related to the completion of the survey. The data is stored on a secure server that is only accessible to the researchers. However, the overall results for each variable would be computed and provided for the school to carry out their own descriptive analyses with the TY group. The TY class can then produce meaningful findings from the survey to show the school through the notice board and used for one of the planned actions.
For the TOW event a free rope and a 2 ½ h workshop will be provided for each school. This will enable TYs to coach and officiate TOW competitions and SLASF committee members that complete the course will receive a TOW Community Coach certificate upon completion. Each class in the school will be involved in this event with each having 3 TOW teams that compete against each other during tutor time or physical education class to decide what team will represent the class. Each class TOW team competes against the other classes in their year group during lunchtime to find the best TOW team for their year. Local role models can be invited to help launch the event by taking part in one of the TOW teams. This event should take place before the mid-autumn break.
After the mid-autumn break, the schools would have access to their school’s results from the school questionnaire. The SLASF teams are given a month to review the results and start to design an SLASF action plan. At least three action points need to be agreed upon by the SLASF team. The proposed SLASF actions should be presented to the Principal for agreement. The agreed actions are then implemented in the second half of the school year. Towards the end of the year, the three agreed actions will be reviewed by the SLASF team members and presented to the school Principal during the last two weeks of the school year.
In addition, all students in the selected year group in the school will take part in a four weeks PA module delivered by the Social and Personal Health Education (SPHE) teachers. There would have to be a ‘Did You Know?’ campaign around the school that helps raise awareness about the benefits of PA for teenagers, in particular the positive impact that PA has upon focus, concentration and academic achievement. Another practical task for the SLASF team is to signpost an Active School WALKWAY. The walkway is a route that can be used by the students in the school during recess time or under teacher supervision for active learning activities, before/after tests or during free classes. SLASF, in partnership with Get Ireland Walking, designed Active School WALKWAY packs consisting of colourful outdoor all-weather sign post plaques which include orienteering symbols. One of the tasks that the SLASF TY class have to undertake is to map, measure and erect the walkway signposts to create a school walking route. A school WALKWAY Day where all classes get the opportunity to complete the walkway route with their teachers on a nominated school day needs to be agreed by school management. Then it is organised and promoted by the SLASF TY team. The organised walkway can be used as part of orienteering activities during timetabled physical education, as well as other school-based initiatives.
As the year ends, the school prepares for the accreditation visit for the certificate. A follow up visit takes place during the acquisition of the flag year. Prior to this, the school needs to organise a community mapping exercise and community events which should help with the design of the Active School Week (ASW) programme. The main aims of the ASW are to promote PA in a fun and inclusive way, as well as raising awareness about the availability and variety of PA opportunities for teenagers and their families in their local community. Throughout this week the school provides many and varied opportunities for staff and students to become more physically active throughout the school day.
2.5.3. Expected Outcomes Tables and Measures
According to their training resources, the programme aims to impact on a number of areas. However, to measure them all, multiple sources are required. A collection of survey instruments can be used to measure some of the outcomes, whereas some interviews can be used to evaluate other outcomes. In addition, the programme is year-long and a whole-school approach, hence site visits and checking on progress through logbook entries would be used to determine the processes carried out during the study. In Table 2
, there is a list of the areas that SLASF aims to promote and some measures that can be used to test these outcomes.
There are two types of online surveys carried out throughout the year. The basic survey is completed by the entire school. This survey is anonymous and the focus is on PA participation and barriers to school related physical activities. This survey is a compulsory part of the SLASF process. Administration of the survey is decided by the school, with the intention to cover the entire school. Ideally, a census sweep of the school takes place at the same time. However, there may be some technical issues that may prevent this from happening. For example, schools may have a limited number of computers accessing the internet at any one time (bandwidth limits), may have a limited number of units to complete the survey (lack of tablets or computers) or could not get all the school to take part at the same time (timetabling issues). The results of the survey will be given back to the school for the purpose to plan specific school-based interventions. Therefore, it is important that the mode of data collection, analysis and reporting can be completed quickly and easily. Failing all technical capabilities to collect from an online platform, extra resources would be dedicated to ensure double coding from pen and paper surveys.
The second type of survey is a comprehensive survey, used for evaluating the feasibility of the study. The participants in this study input their user-ID so that the data can be linked from the beginning and end of the year long programme. Completion of the online survey takes place as one of the testing stations during the data collection visits. All the students have tablets or allocated to a school computer to complete the online survey. Details of the instruments are reported in Table 3
2.8. Data Analyses
2.8.1. Quantitative Data
The data from the surveys are analysed through relevant statistical methods for the follow up data in this feasibility study. Compatible data between comprehensive and basic surveys can be used to determine the test-retest reliability of the items given that a smaller subsample of the entire school. As reliability is an important psychometric property for question items, this is carried out during the first phase of data collection.
Students take part in the comprehensive study have their measures taken two times during the academic year. The first time takes place in autumn 2018 and the second takes place six months later during the spring 2019. Accelerometer data are transferred through the ActivPal software based on 15sec epoch. The standardised cut-offs for different types of motion; sleep, standing, light, moderate and vigorous PA are then compared at an individual level from pre- and post-test time points. Similarly, the height, weight and grip strength data is compared between the time points and used to control the differences in accelerometer data. Comprehensive survey data is also analysed with differences in PA and school related factors.
Exploratory approaches include cross-sectional multivariate analyses of PA and school-related factors as independent variables and device-based PA and perceptions of PA opportunities as the dependent variables. Mixed models and multi-level regression analyses can be used on the data that has sufficient follow up data from the first time point. The multi-level approach takes into account between- and within- individual processes that explain variances in the outcome measures. Through this approach, it is possible to test the extent of PA (psychosocial variables) and school-related factors in relation to changes in PA levels and opportunities, at the same time to examine the individual versus the school factors that contribute to the outcome variables.
The follow-up data adds another level of analysis that can test the changes through the intervention. It makes it possible to examine, for example, the changes in PA levels across the schools from the beginning and the end of the study, while also taking into account changes in the psychosocial variables included in this study. The interactions between the contexts can confirm behavioural change theories by examining the mediating and moderation mechanisms in PA levels. The majority of the statistical analysis would be carried out using IBM SPSS.
2.8.2. Qualitative Data
The majority of the qualitative data comprises of focus group data. The way data is captured is a summary of individuals who collectively agree and discuss on the content [54
]. Therefore, the first phase of analysis is to provide quantitative analysis of the subjects and the group types [55
]. Focus groups can be useful to find a consensus on a phenomenon, as well as to engage with participants to discuss and share ideas that would otherwise be difficult to gather from one to one interviews [56
]. In particular, the structural approach to children’s group research can be used and transferred across to adolescents so that the students’ voice to be heard [57
]. Because the way a person in the focus group may consider a way to respond to the moderators’ questions could differ from what other individuals may be thinking at the time, it is important to consider the way individuals respond, with whom and in what ways [55
]. Transcriptions are matched with assistant moderator notes of verbal and non-verbal behaviours.
The data from one-to-one interviews is more straightforward. A semi-structure interview guide is used to direct the respondent to focus on the research questions and is used for further probing into these questions if the respondent needs to explain something further. Interviewees data are also merged with intonation coding to help reinforce the importance of non-verbal behaviour. The double coding from the transcription across the different qualitative approaches creates a rich source of data.
The combination of data is inserted into NVivo software for qualitative analysis. The metadata and types of data are used to create a rich data set. The data undergoes a thematic analysis as suggested by Lederman [58
] by (1) identifying the big ideas, (2) creating units of data, (3) categorizing the units, (4) negotiating categories and (5) identifying themes and use of theory. The theories surrounding social-cognitive theories, including self-efficacy theory [29
], self-determination theory [31
] and competence motivation theory [50
] are lens used in the final steps of the content analyses.
The data are collected through follow up measures throughout the year. The researchers incorporate verification checking at the beginning of each session to place a point where the respondents can focus on. In particular, we are interested in the processes of the intervention, as well as the potential transformation in beliefs, thoughts and actions over the course of the year. These steps are useful for designing the results in a way that allows for multi-method approach to the overall research questions.
2.8.3. Mixed Methods Analyses
Both quantitative and qualitative data can complement each other. We hope that the data that derives from both methods of inquiry can be partly explained through the literature to date and other types of data that is collected. To return to the points of evaluation of the feasibility study, there are various numbers of expected outcomes that the school is expected to achieve and they are measured directed through particular sources (Table 2
). For example, the expected outcome of a broad physical education curriculum is measured through the whole school survey on participation of various physical education activities. The data taken from the beginning of the year gives insight to the types of activities that the students reported to have attended in the past 12 months. Through data collection across all year groups, the survey data can be used to determine how broad the physical education programme actually is. The post-test survey would give an indication of the extent of the physical education programme. However, reliance solely on this measure may be limited to the actual item that is included in the survey [59
]. Therefore, combining the data from focus groups by the students and staff at the school can give more details about what was popular, who experienced the changes and the mechanisms in place to make the broader physical education opportunities. Therefore, the focus on the results are on the processes of creating the change, thus allowing further insight into the behavioural change techniques used to facilitate such changes.
The SLASF log data contains both quantitative and qualitative data and can be analysed for the percent of completion towards the SLASF. Actions in relation to SLASF throughout the year form descriptive feasibility analyses. Differences in the PA audit across the year are analysed through descriptive statistics over time. In combination with the logbook of actions and the results of the PA audit more details about the feasibility of schools’ actions from the TY class can be determined in relation to desired outcomes.