Mind the gap: Danish school heads' ability to implement a national physical activity school requirement

Jonas Vestergaard Nielsen*, Sofie Koch, Thomas Skovgaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In 2014, the Danish government introduced a wide-ranging reform of primary and lower secondary education that applied to all public schools. A distinctive feature was that it became mandatory for schools to provide an average of 45 min of daily physical activity (PA). The capacity for change of local school heads and the schools overall are considered key to fulfilling such a policy-driven requirement. The aim of this study is therefore to explore local school heads' ability to implement the stated requirement of 45 min of daily PA within their local organizational capacity for change. Eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted across 11 schools. Respondents were school staff with management responsibilities (leading teachers with school management responsibilities, deputy heads and school heads). Results indicate that local school heads are central agents in converting the Danish school requirement of 45 min of daily PA into local action. This includes their ability to advance broad aims into concrete goals, secure supportive structures and organize the implementation strategy. Heads also need to support the staff in building sufficient knowledge capacity on how to arrange and incorporate PA into their daily practice, support the widespread dissemination of this knowledge across the school and reserve work hours for such activities. Assigning local PA ambassadors was particularly highlighted as important implementation support, as they can help build and disseminate knowledge while also broadcasting the school head's strategy and focus on integrating and upholding students' PA levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdaac193
JournalHealth promotion international
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • implementation
  • leadership
  • physical activity
  • qualitative methods
  • school


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