Institute for Positive Psychology & Education

IPPE awarded $1.3m NHMRC grant

The Institute for Positive Psychology & Education (IPPE) has been awarded an NHMRC partnership grant entitled Evidence-Based Physical Activity in Primary Schools: Improving Children’s Health Through Sustainable Partnerships.

This NHMRC grant includes partnership funding from the NSW Department of Education to deliver a multi-component professional learning intervention targeting primary school teachers in NSW. The project, known as iPLAY, aims to promote children’s physical activity in up to 200 schools across NSW over the next five years.

The iPLAY intervention combines evidence from two recent studies to maximise program effectiveness and scalability. It is based on the successful SCORES program, which was a physical activity and movement skills intervention developed by Professor David Lubans and his team at the University of Newcastle (funding from the Newcastle Jets and the Gastronic Lunch through the Hunter Medical Research Institute). The SCORES program was evaluated in 8 primary schools in the Newcastle region and was shown to increase children’s physical activity, enhance their sports skills, and improve their fitness. In order to implement this intervention on a larger scale, iPLAY will be delivered using online teacher professional learning system developed and tested by Associate Professor Chris Lonsdale and his team in 20 Western Sydney schools (funding from the Australian Research Council).

Working with key stakeholders, including NSW Sport and Recreation and the NSW branch of the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, the iPLAY project will examine the capacity of this program to be scaled-up at a population level.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Minister Sussan Ley were at Australian Catholic University’s Canberra Campus on Thursday to announce 96 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants for new research worth $129 million.

NHMRC Chief Executive Officer Professor Anne Kelso AO, ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Wayne McKenna, Director of Governance, Policy and Strategy Mr Julian Leeser, Campus Dean Associate Professor Patrick McArdle, and students from Rosary Primary School were among those attending the announcement.

Minister Ley said the grants focused on a range of topics that were critical to Australian health. “This promise supports Australia’s commitment to fostering the best and brightest in health and medical research. Associate Professor Lonsdale is one of the extremely talented researchers who have been awarded funding today.”

Associate Professor Chris Lonsdale, Principal Investigator, who shares the leadership of the iPLAY project with Professor David Lubans, said IPPE is excited to continue its strong relationship with the School Sport Unit of the NSW Department of Education, the NSW branch of the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and NSW Sport and Recreation.

“All three of these organisations provide critical services that influence the health and well-being of children. They have embraced the importance of evidence-based practice and we are committed to providing the highest quality data that can inform policy and practice,” he said.

Project partner Mr Ross Morrison, Leader, School Sport Unit, Department of Education said the evidence derived from research studies is used by the Department of Education to inform strategic direction, ensure fair and equitable resource allocation, and to promote quality teaching practice in schools and other learning environments.

“This study will provide the Department with data regarding the effectiveness of targeted professional learning on students’ cardiorespiratory fitness, as a result of increases in moderate to vigorous physical activity. The study will also examine changes in teacher practice and confidence when leading school sport and physical activity programs, which is a key issue for primary teachers who typically have little specialist training in this area.

“Importantly, the project will also provide evidence regarding the potential for this intervention to be disseminated effectively at a population level. Our hope is that, following the project, this intervention will be disseminated to all NSW Department of Education primary schools,” Mr Morrison said.

The project is a collaboration between IPPE, the University of Newcastle, Deakin University, and the University of British Columbia, Canada.

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