World-first program expands interstate to transform primary and secondary school classrooms

Research news

02 December 2021

After a decade of research, a revolutionary school program is set to expand into interstate and secondary schools to improve the mental and physical health of more children and teens by keeping them active throughout all levels of education.

TransformUs, a groundbreaking initiative to get kids and teenagers moving more and sitting less during the school day, is set to roll out across primary and secondary schools interstate and for children with additional needs thanks to a team of Deakin researchers.

Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) have spent more than a decade developing TransformUs, which just recently launched a new website to herald the new interstate & secondary school rollouts.

The program was designed to address concerns that Australian children spend up to 70% of their waking hours sitting in the classroom, putting them at risk of developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease later in life. These anxieties were only exacerbated by the pandemic and accompanying lockdowns.

Rather than focusing on sport or physical education, TransformUs creates a supportive school environment that integrates movement into everyday lessons in the classroom. The program is designed to work across all curricula, including mathematics and humanities, and all year levels – right up until year 12.

Led by Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon, TransformUs offers an evidence-based, whole-school approach designed to re-frame the way children and teenagers learn – through initiatives such as active breaks from sitting during classtime, active lessons, movement-based homework and supportive environments promoting physical activity during recess and lunch breaks.

TransformUs is currently available to all Victorian primary schools and has already shown positive results. By including generic active breaks into lessons, one study reported an increase in physical activity of 47 minutes a week, after which teachers were 88% more likely to report an improvement in the quality of the student’s work.

Due to its success, the program is being extended nationally, as well as into secondary schools and to children with additional needs. The next generation of teachers will also be trained in the program, with Deakin integrating the principles of TransformUs into its Bachelor of Education (Primary).

TransformUs has been shown to:

  • Improve student mental health and wellbeing
  • Increase student attention and focus during class lessons
  • Improve student academic outcomes
  • Help manage classroom behaviour
  • Help schools meet Government policy targets
  • Improve physical literacy.

TransformUs has been developed in alignment with Australian and Victorian primary and secondary school curriculums, and provides online professional development, full lesson plans, short videos and other supporting resources to all Victorian (and soon other States and Territories) teachers and school leaders who register.

Professor Salmon said TransformUs provides teachers with new ways to engage their students and improve classroom behaviour, student wellbeing and moving while learning.

“We’ve already seen such great results by incorporating a whole school approach including classroom learning and school environments” she said.

“The rollout to primary and secondary schools interstate as well as providing training and resources for teachers who have students with additional needs means more children can access the benefits.”

TransformUs is delivered in partnership with 16 stakeholder organisations, including the Department of Education and Training, VicHealth, the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation Victoria, Peak Phys Ed, the Victorian Principals Association and Victorian Independent Schools.

‘TransformUs is an investment in future generations, informing health policy and practice programs, with the potential to impact kids’, teachers’ and parents’ day-to-day lives, health and understanding of physical activity,’ Professor Salmon said.

‘We’ve engineered the need to move out of our daily lives and the current generation of children are the least active in the history of humankind. While we can’t go back in time, finding ways to get kids moving when their world is designed to help them conserve energy is a major global research challenge.’

Interested in registering your school for TransformUs? Check out our brand new website here

TransformUs is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator Grant Level 2 (APP 1176885), five years (2019-2024). The expansion of TransformUs into national primary schools, secondary schools and for children with additional needs is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Grant (APP1115708) five years (2017-2022).

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TransformUs program expands interstate to get more students moving.

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