Active School Flag-Keep Calm and Keep Collecting Data (Joanna Clifford)

As I begin to write this blog, I find myself drowning amidst an ocean of student emails, fearful for the uncertainty of their future, anxious parents staring blindly into the dark, an online classroom filled with weary bodies and my PHD, all illustrating a time of pandemonium and uncertainty, and here I am reminiscing a time when all things seemed easy! But I guess at one point or another in life, we are all faced with adversity.

And when adversity knocks at our door, it is imperative to let go of any expectations we had and know that certain plans may not be viable anymore. If the arrival of COVID-19 has taught me anything as a researcher, it has taught me that sometimes things just don’t work out the way we had planned!!! But, maybe from the complexities of life, we evolve, we learn new things, we challenge ourselves and we accomplish great things with a little teamwork, creativity and ‘outside the box’ thinking! As the old saying goes ‘creativity is born from our limitations’!

It is without a doubt a challenging time for researchers with COVID-19, affecting the execution of regular focus groups and data collection. Researchers are faced with either abandoning their data collection with intent to start over post-pandemic or finding alternative ways to ensure their projects objectives are completed on time. As part of the Active School Flag team, we are determined to ensure we continue with our data collection, despite the fact we are sailing in uncharted waters. When there is a will, there is always a way!

For those of you who may not be familiar with ASF (Active School Flag), it is an initiative by the Department of Education and Skills and supported by Healthy Ireland. It adopts a whole–school approach and encourages the school community to work together. The aim is to promote physical activity in an inclusive and fun manner and furthermore strengthen Physical Education programmes. It is a two- year process with year 1, the ‘Certificate stage’ focusing on increasing student and staff participation in school-based physical activity and year 2, the ‘Flag stage’, focusing on increasing student and staff participation in community-based physical activities. The Active School Flag is a well -established initiative in Irish primary schools, however, our goal, as the ASF post-primary team is on the feasibility of a post-primary ASF programme. We are aiming to investigate whether this programme would be suitable in Irish post-primary schools and if so, how best to implement the programme going forward to ensure successful implementation.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Active School Flag , we are delighted to be presenting and discussing the intervention, implementation, the theoretical underpinning of Active School Flag and our contingency plan for data collection during COVID-19, on Thursday 30th at the  PAfH lunchtime meeting via zoom. For more information on how to register email .  We will be sharing your journey and discussing how we are managing to keep the project alive given the current climate of uncertainty. Hopefully, we can shed some light on our successes and challenges to date.

Looking forward to seeing you all online. Until then, stay safe, stay active and stay connected!

Joanna Clifford is a full time P.E teacher in Greystones, Wicklow and graduated from the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (PESS) with a BSc. Physical Education in 2018.  Joanna is currently undertaking a PhD with Professor Catherine Woods in the PESS department at the University of Limerick.  You can contact Joanna at


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