Phase 1 – Pilot Study
In this phase of the study we worked with Year 8 girls in one Wiltshire school. We held four focus groups with the girls to get feedback on different of elements of the study, so we could make the final intervention, training programme and accompanying resources as relevant as possible for the participants. The girls helped us to develop and refine many elements of the programme, including: the training days, selecting the logo, using appropriate language, telling us what is important to them, and many more things. The information we got from this phase has been essential to the content and design of phase 2.
Phase 2 – Feasibility Study
Phase 2 was the PLAN-A Feasibility study. Six schools agreed to take part in this phase. Four of these schools were randomly chosen to run the PLAN-A programme for ten weeks, these were ”project schools”. The other two schools acted as ”comparison schools”, meaning they carried on as normal and did not receive the programme. This allowed us to work out whether PLAN-A had any effect on the girls taking part.
Year 8 girls in all six schools provided information (“data”) at three different time points; before the schools were chosen to be a project or comparison schools (between September and November 2015), straight after the ten-week project (around Easter 2016), and one year after the first data collection (September – November 2016). We are mainly interested in finding out whether we could recruit girls into the project and whether the data collection, peer nomination and peer-supporter training, and ten-week informal discussion periods were successful.
During the data collection process, we measured the girls’ activity levels using activity monitors (accelerometers) which they wore for seven days and we measured their motivation for being active using questionnaires.
In September 2015 we asked all Year 8 girls taking part in the study to select the most influential girls in their year group – these were the girls who were most trusted, good listeners and good leaders. In the four ”project schools”, we then calculated the top 18% of girls who were nominated and invited them to take part in the PLAN-A training to become a peer-supporter. The training took place in February 2016 and gave the peer-supporters the skills, knowledge and confidence to go back into school and spread messages in their daily conversations amongst their peers about being more active. Half-way through the ten-week period the peer-supporters went on a top-up training day to refresh them on the importance of being active and how to communicate this to their friends.
Following the intervention, we did interviews and focus groups with the trainers, peer-supporters, girls who were not peer-supporters, parents, and teachers at school to find out what was successful and what could be improved for the future. The analysis of this data is complete and is currently being written up alongside other numerical data we collected.
Analysis of these findings showed that there was some evidence that girls in the intervention group obtained more physical activity 1-year after the first measurements but more work with a larger sample is needed. We also talked to the girls, school staff and trainers and identified ways in which the program could be improved.
Phase 3 – Cluster randomised controlled trial
The next phase of the PLAN-A project will begin in July 2018. In this phase we will conduct a randomised controlled trial in 20 secondary schools. In this study we will work with Year 9 girls. Ten schools will receive the PLAN-A intervention and there will be 10 comparison schools. We will assess the physical activity levels of all pupils before the schools are chosen to be project or comparison schools, and 1 year after the first measurements. We will also measure motivation for being active using questionnaires and how much it costs to run the project. We will do interviews and group discussions with the peer-supporters, pupils, and trainers to find out what was successful and what could be changed about the project.