The Fitzroy High School and Community Demonstration Pilot Project used an action research model to commit, design, begin and undertake critical reflection on the school’s community partnership demonstration pilot to improve practices.
The Fitzroy High School and Community Demonstration Pilot Project was developed as a response to the recommendations of the Yarra Primary Secondary School Transition Project (YPSSTP) Report ‘Joining the Dots’. The Project was undertaken at Fitzroy High School from May 2013-June 2014 and was given the working title Fitzroy Engagement And Transition (FEAT) Project. Fitzroy High School is a secondary government school with over 500 students.
A Project Brief was developed by the FEAT to define the scope of the Project and to focus attention on four key areas:
- Primary Secondary Transition (Years 6-9)
Support Fitzroy High School to further develop and implement a primary to secondary school transition plan, which incorporates transition from primary as well as from team to team within Fitzroy High School. Develop better tracking systems and improve the understanding of various stages of transition and the processes of transition from Years 6-9.
- Research and Capacity Building
Work with Fitzroy High School to collect and report on data about risk indicators and factors for students who disengage in the early years of secondary schools. Make recommendations about strategies to build the school’s capacity and take next steps, working within a partnership model.
- Advocacy Case Management
Develop a partnership approach to improve educational engagement of up to 20 Fitzroy High School students focusing on early intervention (Years 7-9) who are presenting signs of disengagement or are absent from school on average 2 days or more per week.
- Parent and Family Engagement
Develop a parent and family engagement strategy using a community approach to engage students in their learning. Actively engage parents in all young person’s learning and school community and build parental and family capacity to nurture and encourage successful learning practices.
A Terms of Reference was developed as the first stage of the project by the FEAT to ensure the partners were in agreement about how the project would be implemented. An Action Plan was also developed and regularly updated with members of the FEAT and the Project Officer.
A Project Officer was employed for two days per week to undertake the advocacy case management; work with the FEAT on the other project areas; and help to write the final project report. The role of the Project Officer involved several stages. The first six months focused predominately on the Advocacy Case Management area of the project while the second six months focused on the Parent and Family Engagement area and the writing of the report.
A School Community Action Team (SCAT) model was used to support and enhance the project. The SCAT is a whole of community approach that is informed by the School, Family and Community Partnerships Handbook. The Fitzroy Engagement and Transition Action Team (FEAT) was comprised of 5 Schools and 5 agencies.
A key finding was that students who experienced difficulty in transition from primary to secondary often had similar issues at primary school, such as few friends, bullying, poor achievement or low self-esteem. For some students, literacy and numeracy issues that presented at primacy school were exacerbated when they came to secondary school, especially as they moved from Year 7 into Year 8 and beyond.
The Project has highlighted the significant impact positive parenting strategies can have on education for young people and their experience at school. Of particular priority are the students whose families are more difficult to contact or engage. Utilising a variety of strategies to engage these parents has been useful.
The Project has shown the merits of working in a collaborative, multidisciplinary partnership model with external providers whose expertise in wellbeing and community engagement can be brought to bear on the important subject of transition. There are many excellent transition resources available to schools and the process of reviewing our practice, identifying the gaps and committing to improvement was empowering.
The key recommendations for this project were:
Primary Secondary Transition (Years 6-9)
- Develop closer bonds with key primary schools to encourage further and timely student transition information
- Continue to review and implement findings/actions from the Transition Review Audit process
- Continue to map the transition processes across the whole school and identify areas for improvement
- Year 7 and 8 Team Leader to work closely with the Wellbeing Leader to flag identified ‘high at risk’ students at the beginning of the year and develop partnerships with appropriate external agencies to provide support
- Wellbeing Leader or SSSO to provide advocacy case management support for ‘at risk’ students and complete a ‘soft referral’ to an appropriate external agency if required
- Wellbeing workshops for parents about challenges and successes of transition years
- Youth service agencies to attend transition evenings to inform both parents and students of available services and pathways to support if required
- Continue to work on the development of “learner profiles”, teacher visits between primary and secondary schools if possible
Research and Capacity Building
- Continue to identify ‘at risk’ factors and share issues identified by students and families with staff
- Track attendance as one indicator of risk
- Continue to develop the role of Wellbeing Leader to provide student and family support
- Continue to develop the role of Pathways and Community Leader especially with regard to forming closer relationships with feeder primary schools
- Continue to develop the Peer Support program
- Continue to develop the Hands on Learning program and look towards sharing the program with at least one primary school as a transition strategy
- Develop already established partnerships with community agencies to provide appropriate programs to support the engagement of students during school hours and connection with services available outside of school hours
- Professional development for school staff
- Strengthen relationships with community agencies
- Provide a defined point of contact for young people and parents to support their engagement at the school during transition Years 7-9
Advocacy Case Management
- Employ a suitably qualified person to provide immediate youth counselling to students in distress during school hours and to provide support and advice to school staff to support such students in the class room
- School to adopt youth participation principles
- Develop further bonds with feeder primary schools
Parent and Family Engagement
- Through the school’s advisory model with a focus on relationships, work with identified students to be a conduit for their families to engage with the school and support their child’s education
- Pathways and Community role to continue to be developed and embedded in school and local community primary schools
- Parenting workshops to strengthen family engagement with the school and with other parents
- Fitzroy High School Leadership team and FEAT to continue to review and implement findings/actions as identified from the Parent and Family Engagement consultation process
- Use information gained from primary schools to target families identified as at risk of not engaging with the school, and provide additional resources to reach out to those families
Partnership Broker – Yarra Youth Commitment