Introduction: Considering the limited evidence of the benefits of school-led Physical Activity (PA) policies on overall children’s academic achievement, including literacy, this study aimed at examining the effect in students’ literacy of a multi-dimensional PA policy as an intervention study in an Irish primary school setting.
Methods: The study cohort included a 4th (n=20; mean age 9.95±.39 years) and 6th year class (n=23; mean age 12.00±.30 years) with 22 boys / 21 girls in total. The intervention started in the second term and provided PA during all weekdays through Physical Education, Structured Play and Unstructured Play. Children’s literacy was pre-tested in late 1st term and post-tested late 2nd term with the respective year versions of the Word Wise Vocabulary Development Test marked at 100%.
The PA intervention effect on literacy was analysed with repeated measures ANOVA [2 times (pre- and post-intervention)], controlling gender and class as between-subject factors.
Results: For literacy, the repeated measures ANOVA tests revealed that the main effect of Time was large and statistically significant [F(1,39)=16.23, p<.001, η2=.294]. A statistically significant interaction with large effect was found for Time x Class [F(1,39)=19.48, p<.001, η2=.333] and for Time x Gender [F1,39)=5.36, p=.026, η2=.121]. The multi-dimensional PA intervention was more beneficial for 4th than 6th class students (respectively: 18.06%; -0.94%; p<.001), and for boys compared to girls (respectively: 12.69%; 1.95%; p<.001). Yet, non-significant interaction effect was found for Time x Gender x Class [F(1,39)=.019, p=.664, η2=.005].
Conclusion: While, overall, increasing literacy results, with differences considering gender and class, children also availed the opportunity to meet international PA recommendations that contribute to overall health and wellbeing indicators. Appropriate implementation of PA interventions can significantly improve children’s literacy and health indicators, while preparing for the Junior Cycle Wellbeing framework.