Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Education

First Supervisor

Dr Andrew Taggart


Children are not as active as they may appear and they do not voluntarily engage in moderate to high intensity activity as commonly perceived by the general public. With coronary heart disease risk factors now found to have origins in childhood there is a real need for children to adopt lifestyles that will produce healthier adults. In Perth the Western Australian Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition project (WASPAN) has been implemented, as a Year 6 intervention, addressing the problems of poor nutritional habits and low activity levels. The focus of this case-study was to describe the physical activity component of the WASPAN project and to monitor the process of its implementation. The physical activity programme is founded on the concept of systematically increasing children's activity and fitness levels at school in a secure and enjoyable environment, then planning for this and associated activity to generalise into the children's own settings. Two schools were chosen for the study. One Year 6 class of children at each school was intensively monitored for levels of fitness and physical activity. Their attitudes towards fitness, sports and activity were recorded. At both schools the class teachers and their implementation of the fitness programme became an important area of the study. In addition the influence of the school principal and the children's parents in the promotion of physical activity and their contribution to the behaviour modification of the children's lifestyles was described. Multiple data methods were utilised, centering on participant observation and combining field notes, document analysis, interviewing, questionnaires, fitness testing, heart-rate monitoring, interval recording and surveys. Within both classes low and high fitness children were targeted for additional indepth investigation. The study was directed by the data, which revealed that the two teachers implemented the physical education programme in two vastly different ways. This difference in the implementation process impacted on the influence the programme had on the children at the different schools. Results showed the children were enthusiastic towards the programme and fitness and activity levels increased. Closer analysis revealed that the low fitness/low activity children did not make significant activity increases. These children tended to get little support from home compared with high fitness children. Analysis of the parent interviews indicated that the parents of the low fitness children also tended to live in lower socioeconomic areas than the high fitness children's families. A second 'at risk' group also emerged in the course of the study. These were the 'average' children whose level of fitness caused the teachers little concern. At the end of the study several of these children were antagonistic towards the fitness programme. They had received little praise or encouragement from their teachers and as a result their motivation and attitude towards the programme had declined. Some had been overtaken by several of the low fitness children in the fitness levels measured. The attitude of the principal towards physical fitness proved to have a significant effect on the teacher and the children. The two school principals studied also provided a good contrast in levels of enthusiasm and support for the implementation.