Participation in physical activity (PA) is essential for optimizing children’s physical, social, cognitive and psychological development [1, 2]. Activity of vigorous intensity may have additional benefits for young people, as physical fitness is a better predictor of metabolic health than total PA [3–5]. Unfortunately lack of PA among children and adolescents is a global concern  and current estimates suggest that only 50% of Australian primary school-aged children are meeting the current PA guidelines (i.e., 60 minutes/day of moderate-to-vigorous PA) . In particular, promoting PA among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds is a public health priority because these individuals have reduced access to PA facilities and resources [8, 9] and are often less active than those of middle and high socio-economic position [10–12].
The school setting is an ideal environment for the promotion of PA among youth as schools have the necessary equipment, personnel, facilities and curriculum to promote and provide opportunities for PA [13, 14]. Numerous school-based PA interventions have been evaluated [15, 16], including those specifically targeting youth from low-income backgrounds [17, 18]. Multi-component school-based interventions that involve parents and encourage PA within and beyond the school day, are more efficacious than curriculum only interventions [15, 16]. Although the evidence for effective school-based interventions is strong, studies rarely report their effect on movement skill competency. This is a notable omission because PA levels decline dramatically during adolescence [19, 20] and evidence suggests that failure to attain competency may contribute to this decline, whereas competency may serve as a protective factor against this trend [21, 22].
Proficiency in a range of fundamental movement skills (FMS) is considered to be the foundation for an active lifestyle  and the primary school years represent the “golden years” of motor skill development [23, 24]. FMS include locomotor (e.g., running and hopping), object control (e.g., catching and throwing) and stability (e.g., balancing and twisting) skills . These skills are ideally developed in childhood and subsequently refined into context- and sport-specific skills [24–26]. A recent systematic review of the health benefits associated with FMS competency found strong evidence for a positive association between FMS competency and PA in children and an inverse relationship between skill level and weight status . Teaching movement skills improves both actual and perceived competence [28, 29], both of which are important for future PA [30, 31]. Indeed, lack of confidence in the physical domain is a major barrier to PA among many children and adolescents [32–34]. Alarmingly, many children finish primary school without achieving mastery in a range of FMS and those from disadvantaged backgrounds often demonstrate the lowest competency levels [11, 35].
The low PA and poor FMS competency observed among children living in low-income communities can be explained by socio-environmental factors (e.g., working parents, lack of PA opportunities and unsafe neighborhoods etc.) [36, 37], but may also reflect a failure of current school-based programs and strategies . Indeed, the recent Crawford report highlighted both the central role that schools play in the promotion of PA and the dire state of PE and school sport in Australian primary schools . Formative research conducted by Morgan and colleagues indicated that the crowded school curriculum along with inadequate teacher training programs contributes to teachers’ reluctance to teach PE and the poor quality of existing PE programs [39, 40]. Combined, these findings illustrate the importance of designing and evaluating school-based approaches to PA promotion among the most vulnerable individuals (i.e., those living in low-income communities). This paper provides the rationale and methods for the Supporting Children’s Outcomes Using Rewards Exercise and Skills (SCORES) intervention. SCORES is a multi-component school-based intervention that combines a range of evidence-based behavior change strategies to promote PA and FMS competency among primary school aged children from low-income communities.