Joining The Dots
1. What was the problem?
In 2010 educators and community partners came together in Yarra to gain a better understanding of the challenges facing young people. One of the key concerns was the number of students getting lost in transition between primary and secondary school, resulting in early disengagement from education. This big conversation was the precursor to the development of the Yarra Youth Commitment (YYC) in 2012 – a strategic partnership of schools, education providers, government agencies, community organisations and industry who worked together to design, deliver and align local approaches that improved outcomes for young people in the City of Yarra.
Primary to Secondary School transition became one of three key areas for action by the YYC. This period of time in a young person’s life coincides with rapid physical, emotional, social and cognitive developments impacting on their connection to school and learning as a whole. A successful transition to secondary school is a key factor in determining whether young people remain engaged in education, complete secondary school and transition into positive career pathways.
With the support of funding from the City of Yarra (2012-2014), the Yarra Primary Secondary School Transition Project (Year 5- Year 9) was initiated to identify, implement and evaluate a transition model for young people, their families, the community sector and schools, to ensure young people remain engaged in education. A further three years of funding from the City of Yarra (2015-2017) enabled the now more snappily titled Joining the Dots Project to implement and evaluate the new Transition Model across Yarra.
The Project defines ‘transition’ as a broad period of time beginning from the young person’s preparation to transfer from primary school until their successful settlement at secondary school (approximately Year 5 – Year 9).
As the Project progressed it became clear that primary to secondary school transition was not recognised as a priority for primary schools, with considerably more resources dedicated to transition from kinder to prep. Secondary schools seemed to lack strong relationships with a large number of their feeder primary schools. They also had little or no transition support for students beyond one or two induction days in Year 7. There was also poor parent an family engagement which contributes to the increasing student disengagement from Year 7 to Year 9. On a positive note there were also pockets of good practise identified.
These findings were echoed in the 2015 Victorian Auditor General Office report entitled Education Transitions. This report spoke positively of kinder to prep transition but reflected that “DET does not have a similar strategy or framework for managing middle-years transitions and despite some pockets of improvement, engagement and academic outcomes continue to decline as children move into secondary school.”
What was the partnership?
The Yarra Youth Commitment provided the overarching support and connection with local educators, community agencies and council for this project from 2012-2016.
However, a cross sector steering group established in 2012, and working in partnership with the INLLEN, continues to provide the governance, direction and direct support for the Project. This was especially important with the Yarra Youth Commitment ending in 2016.
Who was in the partnership?
Steering Group membership has evolved over time reflecting the changing needs of this action research Project. The strength of this partnership comes from the strong engagement and belief in the Project by members who are dedicated to its success and give freely of their time and other resources.
Current membership includes senior representatives from:
- Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM)
- City of Yarra – Youth Services
- Department of Education and Training DET)
- Fitzroy High School
- Foundation House
- Murdoch Childrens Research Institute/CATS
- Seven Ways Consultancy
- School Focused Youth Service (Berry Street Childhood Institute)
- The Smith Family
- Trinity Catholic School (Richmond)
- Yarra Primary School / Collingwood English Language School
How was it successful – what was the evaluation evidence?
Steering Group members meet a minimum of six times per year and meeting participation rates are high.
Several members remaining in the Group since its inception, and others returning / replacing as appropriate, it is clearly evident that members believe that this early intervention approach is critical for influencing and implementing change in education settings and the wider community.
Steering Group members regularly offer their time, venues and other resources to support the successful implementation of the Project.
The highly valued project outputs include:
- a range of professional development workshops, forums and bus tours for educators and agencies,
- a transition guide for parents,
- development of a comprehensive set of indicators,
- a pilot project at Fitzroy High School incorporating a school-community action team,
- a facilitated transition review process for schools,
- followed by the development of a Shared Learning Community
Perhaps, the greatest evidence of the success of this highly regarded project is the more recent funding received for three additional projects in Moreland and Darebin (2016/2017) that build upon the Yarra learnings and explore some elements in greater depth.
What was the value add of the LLEN?
The Inner Northern LLEN has auspiced the Project on behalf of the YYC and acted as project coordinator and provide secretariat support since its inception in 2012.The INLLEN has also provided in-kind and other supports to augment the City of Yarra grants ($15,000 per year 2012-2014 and $28,000 per year 2015-2017).
INLLEN’s Partnership Broker facilitated both the YYC and the Joining the Dots Project and built close relationships with the City of Yarra, local educators and community agencies. These enduring relationships, together with the support of a strong and authorised Steering Group who are committed to working collaboratively has ensured that the Project maintains its strategic direction.
In 2017 the INLLEN added an extra dimension to the project with resourcing to develop the JTD logo and branding and update of the parent resource and website.
The ongoing backbone support provided by the INLLEN has been instrumental in the success of this partnership.
For more information on the project, please see www.inllen.org.au/joining-the-dots