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Home » Research » Programmes » Healthy Settings and Organisations » Choosing active role models to inspire girls (CHARMING): Cluster randomised feasibility study of a school-based community-linked programme to increase physical activity levels in 9-10 year old girls

Choosing active role models to inspire girls (CHARMING): Cluster randomised feasibility study of a school-based community-linked programme to increase physical activity levels in 9-10 year old girls

Principal Investigator: Doctor Kelly Morgan

Co Investigators: Doctor Jemma Hawkins; Professor Graham Moore; Doctor Esther van Sluijs; Doctor Joanna Charles; Doctor Britt Hallingberg; Joan Roberts; Doctor Rebecca Cannings-John  


There is a need for earlier intervention at primary school age to help increase physical activity (PA), and maintain activity levels among those who are already active, especially during the transition to adolescence. With differing mechanisms underlying PA levels and extracurricular PA playing a central part, there is need to devise different types of intervention approaches for boys and girls aged 8-12 years. Role models are a potential strategy to inspire young people to become involved, or maintain involvement, in PA and sport. Adolescent girls were recently shown as more likely to be active if they had a role model who played sport compared to girls with role models who didn’t play sport. Role models might positively influence behaviour by contributing, along with other factors, to the perception of specific behaviours (e.g. PA and sport participation) as attractive, attainable and rewarding experiences. No one individual role model will satisfy all young girls, but rather choices are made on the basis of exposure to family, peers and sports celebrities. 

Such an intervention strategy has been internationally endorsed by the World Health Organisation with specific recommendations for the use of local community role models to increase PA among females. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also recommends that any practitioner leading PA initiatives, including teachers and volunteers, should provide appropriate role models. Despite limited research and a lack of robust trials, policy recommendations strongly support the use of role models for tackling rising inactivity levels among girls. 

A formative study led by Dr Kelly Morgan adopted a participative community approach involving the target audience and stakeholders to design and pilot a school-based role model intervention. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the intervention was developed and refined over 12 months and included interviews, focus groups and surveys (involving school staff, parents and children across two primary schools) and multiple stakeholder consultations (involving Sport Wales, Youth Sport Trust and Healthy School Coordinators). The resulting intervention involved participants attending one-hour after school taster sessions for six weeks (one per week). Each session entailed: a warm-up activity (delivered by a teacher and involving the delivery of a health message), activity specifications (from design phase) and question and answer time. After each session, girls and parents were signposted to opportunities to continue the activity in their community using leaflets and usual school communication channels. 

Aims and Objectives

The present study seeks to assess the feasibility and acceptability of a school-based community linked role-model program (CHARMING) to increase and promote PA among girls aged 9-10 years old. Results from the initial work and consultations have informed the research design and protocol. The four objectives (and related research questions) of this study are to; 

 1) Identify effective means of recruiting schools, participants and role models; 

 2) Collect the information needed to assess the feasibility of conducting an effectiveness trial, economic evaluation and assess the implementation potential of the intervention; 

 3) Explore through process evaluation the acceptability of the intervention and the influence of school context on intervention implementation; 

 4) Assess whether six progression criteria for conducting a definitive trial are met. 

Study Design

A cluster randomised-controlled feasibility study (allocation at school-level) with embedded mixed-method process evaluation will be carried out.  

 Six primary schools will be purposely recruited to the study to ensure variation in socioeconomic status. Four schools will receive the intervention and 2 will act as the control. Control schools will be asked to continue with usual practice. At each school, all female primary school students in Year 5 (aged 9-10) will be eligible to participate in the study. Eligible schools will be state funded primary schools in South and Mid-Wales.  

Further information and publications

Morgan, al. 2019. Formative research to develop a school-based, community-linked physical activity role model programme for girls: CHoosing Active Role Models to INspire Girls (CHARMING). BMC Public Health 19, article number: 437. (10.1186/s12889-019-6741-1)

Start date

1 Jan 2021

End date

31 August 2022