The effect of an enhanced quality physical education programme on physical activity and fitness among grade 7-learners in Potchefstroom
The low physical activity (PA) levels of children have become a national public health concern in South Africa. Moreover, the quality of Physical Education (PE) in South African schools has been compromised by challenges resulting from the subject’s reintroduction after a long absence from the school curriculum. Up to date no study has investigated the effects of a quality PE programme, within the prescriptions of the South African Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), on the PA and fitness levels of twelve to thirteen years old South African children. Furthermore, no PA measuring instrument exists that has been validated specifically for South African children of this age group, with which to conduct such a study. The objectives of this study were therefore, firstly, to validate a standardised PA questionnaire for Grade 7 learners in a South African context; secondly, to evaluate the effects of an enhanced quality PE programme presented by well-trained teachers, on the PA levels, and thirdly on the physical and motor fitness of Grade 7 learners in Potchefstroom, South Africa. For the first objective, 108 schoolchildren aged twelve to thirteen years (boys, n=45; girls, n=63) from two primary schools in Potchefstroom participated in this study to validate the Children’s Leisure Activities Study Survey (CLASS) for children in a South African context. Test-retest reliability of the questionnaire was examined with an interval of 3 weeks, while validity was assessed by comparing measurements of the reported minutes in PAs from questionnaire responses with ten physical fitness parameters using the Eurofit test battery. Data analysis included Cronbach’s alpha coefficients, paired t-test and intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC), and Spearman correlation coefficients (r). The results showed substantial internal consistency and significant intra-class correlations estimates for all intensities of PA and sedentary time (ST). Non-significant differences were found in the means of test and retest measurements. Aerobic fitness was significantly correlated with all intensities of PA and ST, and the results of several of the other fitness tests had significant associations with vigorous PA. For the fulfillment of the second and the third objectives, 110 Grade 7 learners (experimental school, n = 40; control schools, n = 70) were studied. The twelve-week PE intervention programme was presented according to the prescriptions of the CAPS which allocates one hour per week to PE, but included 5 quality-enhancing components namely well-trained teachers, homework activities, a reward system, improvised apparatus and the monitoring of activity intensity. Data was collected by means of the validated CLASS questionnaire, anthropometric measurements as well as physical and motor fitness tests, by means of the Eurofit test battery. Data analysis included Kruskal-Wallis and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, a series of analyses of covariance (ANCOVA), Tukey’s post hoc analysis, and interpreting effect sizes for practical significance. The results showed practically and statistically significant increases in moderate PA, vigorous PA, and total PA as well as decreases in sedentary behaviours. Furthermore, the learners’ data on physical and motor fitness levels showed statistically significant improvements among most of the experimental groups with regard to six of the ten fitness parameters. Based on these results, it can be concluded that the enhanced quality PE programme is effective in improving the PA, physical and motor fitness levels of South African primary school children. Therefore it is recommended that PE programmes in South Africa include the quality-enhancing components used in this intervention programme. Moreover, the modified CLASS questionnaire is a valid and reliable measure of PA among South African Grade 7 schoolchildren.
- Health Sciences 
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