The Creating Active Schools Framework Explained

The Creating Active Schools Framework provides schools with a structure to embed physical activity at the heart of their culture and ethos.

It was developed by an independent group of experts to promote a whole systems approach to embedding physical activity at the heart of primary school policy and behaviours.

The Creating Active Schools Framework Explained

The overriding principle at the heart of Creating Active Schools (CAS) is behaviour change. In this respect, it is underpinned by the world renowned and commonly acknowledged principles of Michie’s COM-B model of behaviour change. The model identifies three factors that need to be present for any behaviour to occur. These factors are capability, opportunity and motivation, and they can interact over time. Behaviour can then be seen as part of a dynamic system with positive and negative feedback loops.

Click on the image below for the Creating Active Schools Framework diagram. Here’s also a link to The Creating Active Schools Framework Diagram PDF.

The Creating Active Schools framework from top to bottom. At the top in a purple box, it reads: effects of physical activity. From the purple box is an arrow pointing down to a sentence: national organisations and policies: education, health and sport. Underneath this sentence are the words capability, motivation and opportunity. There are arrows between these words pointing both left and right. There are arrows linking from these words to another purple box, which reads: whole school practice and ethos. To the left side is a purple circle: in service training CPD. To the right side is a purple circle: initial teacher training. Both purple circles have arrows pointing to the purple box: whole school practice and ethos. Underneath this purple box is another purple box that reads: policy and vision. In this section is an orange line with social environment to the left end and physical environment to the right end. Over the top of the line are five green boxes that read from left to right: school leaders, teachers and other staff, children and young people, parents or guardians, wider stakeholders. Underneath this section is another section made up of seven yellow boxes. From left to right the yellow boxes, which read: events or visits, break, lunch or recess, physical education, curricular lesson non-PE, before and after school clubs, active travel, family and, or community. Underneath this section is a big black arrow pointing to the words: children and young people physical activity behaviour. Arrows lead to these words from the first purple box at the top of the page: evidence of the effects of physical activity. along these arrow lines are the words how and why?

Including Physical Activity into Policies

The school’s vision, mission and policies are central to embedding physical activity at the heart of the school culture and day-to-day behaviours. Therefore, the framework draws attention to the importance of school leaders embedding physical activity effectively and systemically in these strategic areas. Specifically, it highlights the importance of leaders driving the change, using physical activity as a tool to drive improvements across the school.

Stakeholders Play a Central Role

Multiple stakeholders play a central role in creating a whole school physical activity approach. It is essential that all stakeholders are involved in the design and delivery of this. Together, these stakeholders come together to form the social environment. To positively influence the work of the stakeholders, it is essential we undertake a behaviour change approach. This is to enhance the capability and motivation to enable them to engage in and provide high-quality opportunities for physical activity.

Physical and Social Environments

Environments change behaviours. The spaces in which we move (physical environment) and the behaviours which are promoted (social environment) are significant factors in creating impactful and sustainable change.

Seven Specific Opportunities

Seven specific opportunities for physical activity exist within and beyond the timetabled school day. Evidence supports that those opportunities that are closer to the central line within the framework are more impactful for increasing physical activity. To the left of the centre line, are in-school opportunities. To the right of the centre line, are opportunities that schools can influence beyond the core timetable. The framework demonstrates that schools need to embrace all seven approaches to effectively support all pupils. This, however, is a long-term objective. Those schools starting their journey should focus on those opportunities closest to the central line to get the greatest return on investment.

Why Should Schools Embed Physical Activity Across the School Day?

Embedding physical activity across the school day has many benefits for pupils, staff, and the wider school community.

  1. Health and wellbeing: Regular physical activity has been linked to health benefits. Such as, reducing the risk of chronic diseases – obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Physical activity also has a positive impact on mental health, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
  2. Academic achievement: Research has shown that regular physical activity can have a positive impact on academic achievement. In particular, the areas of cognitive function and academic performance.
  3. Improved behaviour: Physical activity has been shown to improve behaviour in the classroom. Such as, reducing disruptive behaviour and improving concentration and focus.
  4. Improved school culture: Embedding physical activity across the school day can help to create a positive school culture that values health and wellbeing.
  5. Increased engagement: Providing opportunities for physical activity can help to engage pupils who may struggle in traditional academic settings. This helps to reduce absenteeism and improve overall engagement in learning.
  6. Improved social skills: Physical activity provides opportunities for pupils to interact with their peers and develop social skills. This includes teamwork, communication, and leadership.

How to Get Involved

When aiming to change physical activity behaviours, any school can use the framework to guide their practice. By following the framework and mapping areas of strength and challenge, gaps can be identified and addressed via the programme.

If schools would like to undertake a comprehensive review, visit the Creating Active Schools website. The website has been built to service schools with a range of support to increase physical activity levels. An interactive profiling process links to a bespoke school action plan and subsequent relevant online CPD modules.

We are supporting schools with their CAS journey, and this begins with funding schools’ annual CAS license. If you’d like to get involved, please contact the Early Life team by emailing

What Are the Benefits of Signing Up to Creating Active Schools?

Schools should consider signing up to CAS for several reasons:

  1. Framework for action: CAS provides a comprehensive framework for schools to develop and implement a whole-school approach to physical activity and sport. The framework is based on research and best practice. It provides schools with a clear roadmap for creating an active school environment.
  2. Tailored support: CAS provides tailored support to schools based on their individual needs and circumstances. Active Devon work with schools to develop a bespoke action plan that is tailored to the needs of their pupils, staff, and wider community.
  3. Improved outcomes: Embedding physical activity across the school day has been shown to have numerous benefits for pupils and the wider school community. CAS can help schools to achieve these benefits by providing support and guidance on how to embed physical activity and sport.
  4. Networking opportunities: Schools that sign up to CAS will have the opportunity to network with other schools in Devon and across the country that are also committed to embedding physical activity and sport. This can provide opportunities for collaboration, sharing best practice, and learning from others.
  5. Recognition: Schools that successfully implement the CAS framework can achieve recognition for their efforts. This can help to raise the profile of physical activity and sport within the school. Plus, demonstrate a commitment to creating a healthy, active school environment.

For more guidance and resources to help you embed physical activity into your setting, go to our Active Schools page.