Fit to Study

Fit to Study aimed to boost academic attainment by increasing the amount of physical activity undertaken by Year 8 children in PE lessons. The intervention required teachers to include two key activities in every PE lesson:

1. Four minutes of vigorous physical activity during the warm-up at the start of each lesson

2. Three ‘fitness infusions’ throughout the lesson which consist of two minutes of intense physical activity

accessibility

Key Stage 3

Key stage

exposure

Maths

Subject

EEF Summary

There has been increasing interest in increasing pupils’ participation in physical activity and previous studies have suggested this could lead to improved cognition and academic attainment. The EEF and Wellcome funded this study to find out whether this result could be repeated in English schools. 

Our trial involved 104 schools and 8,707 pupils. The independent evaluation found no evidence that Fit to Study had an impact on the measure of attainment chosen for the trial, Year 8 pupils’ maths outcomes. 

This result is rated as low security: 1 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. This because almost half the pupils that started the trial were not included in the final analysis. The evaluation reports that schools struggled to implement Fit to Study and attendance at the training was poor. 

It is important to note this result does not disprove the link between physical activity and academic attainment. This project was designed to test one particular programme which aimed to enable PE teachers to consistently provide intensive physical activity within lesson time. 

The EEF has no plans for a further trial of Fit to Study.

Research Results

Maths

0
Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Maths (FSM pupils)

0
Months' Progress

N/A

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

  • 34% of the pupils in trial were eligible for FSM
  • 19% of schools were single sex
  • On average, schools in the trial had 6.8 year 8 classes
  • 90% of the schools were in urban settings
  • 10% of the schools were in rural settings
  • 59% of schools were academies or free schools

Could I implement this in my school?

  • The programme is not available to buy
  • Teachers agreed that the intervention was better suited to particular PE activities, including team sports such as hockey, football and basketball
  • It was reported to be more difficult to implement the activities in lessons where they would ‘stand out’ more, such as gymnastics and badminton, and in those where skill development was a priority, such as athletics
  • Teachers reported the difficulties they faced delivering the intervention in lessons where space was limited, such as when focusing on sports like gymnastics or trampolining where large amounts of equipment were in use
  • Teachers described the benefits and problems associated with delivering the intervention during indoor and outdoor lessons. Indoor spaces were found to be useful for focusing pupils however, lack of space could be a challenge. Indoor delivery was reported to be easier if teaching a smaller class. Outdoors, there was more space but practical issues such as bad weather made outside delivery more challenging.
account_circle

Teachers

Delivered by

group_add

Whole Class

Participant group

date_range

1 Year

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The average cost of Fit to Study for one school was around £6,600, or £4.80 per pupil per year when averaged over 3 years.

£

£5

Cost per pupil

people_outline

Variable

No. of Teachers/TAs

today

1 Day

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info

Schools

104

Pupils

8707

Key Stage

Key Stage 3

Start date

January 2015

End date

September 2019

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. There is no evidence that Fit to Study had an impact on Year 8 pupils’ maths outcomes. This result has a low security rating.

  2. There is no evidence that Fit to Study had an impact on the maths outcomes of pupils eligible for free school meals.

  3. Generally, PE teachers struggled to implement Fit to Study as intended in each PE lesson as required.Implementation was difficult in lessons where skill development was a priority or large amounts of equipment were in use.

  4. Attendance at the initial face-to-face training was poor. Furthermore, training participants felt that the content of the training should focus less on theoretical aspects and more on how the intervention should be delivered in PE lessons and how delivery challenges can be addressed. Teachers reported that there were instances where Fit to Study disrupted lesson flow.

  5. Despite the implementation issues experienced by teachers, the majority of schools said they would recommend Fit to Study as a way to promote physical exercise.


  1. Updated: 26th September, 2019

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-fit-to-study.pdf

  2. Updated: 26th September, 2019

    Evaluation Report

    2 MB pdf - FitToStudy.pdf

  3. Updated: 12th June, 2017

    Evaluation Protocol

    467 KB pdf - Neuroscience_-_Fit_to_Study_Trial_Protocol.pdf

  4. Updated: 11th May, 2018

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    483 KB pdf - Fit_to_Study_SAP_2018.03.15_FINAL.pdf

Full project description

Fit to Study aimed to increase the amount of physical activity undertaken by Year 8 children in PE lessons. Previous studies had suggested that increasing students’ physical activity could lead to improved cognition and academic attainment. However, these studies had not tested interventions that could work at scale. This projectwas designed to test whether Fit to Study could support a large number of schools to increase physical activity in order to benefit academic attainment. It was developed and delivered by a team of academics based at the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University. The intervention required teachers to include two key activities in every PE lesson:

1. Four minutes of vigorous physical activity during the warm-up at the start of each lesson

2. Three ‘fitness infusions’ throughout the lesson which consist of two minutes of intense physical activity

The delivery team provided a two-hour, face-to-face training session for teachers on how to deliver the intervention. Teachers who were unable to attend were invited to a live webinar covering the same content. Teachers who attended a training session were expected to pass on what they had learned to other PE teachers at their school. The delivery team provided ongoing support throughout the school year through email and phone communications, and school visits. 

Fit to Study was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial involving 104 schools and 8,707 pupils. The primary outcome of interest for the trial was maths attainment, measured using the Progress Test in Mathematics. Alongside the impact evaluation, a mixed-methods process study explored implementation and teachers’ responses to the programme. The process study included observations of the initial training delivered to PE teachers, observations of PE lessons, interviews with staff, and a teacher survey. The intervention was delivered throughout the academic year 2017/2018, with teacher training beginning in July 2017 and the post-test in June and July 2018. 

Fit to Study was funded as part of the Education and Neuroscience scheme, a collaboration between the EEF and Wellcome Trust to provide funding for collaborative projects between educators and neuroscientists.