Joining the Dots Forum 2015 ...

Successful Transitions for Full Engagement in Learning

A Professional Development Forum that demonstrated the importance of a comprehensive primary to secondary transition and engagement program (Year 5 – Year 9) to support all young people to remain connected to learning and school.

Last held in 2013, this forum is a key component of the Yarra Primary Secondary School Transition Project (Year 5 – Year 9), an initiative of the Yarra Youth Commitment. For more information on the first three phases of the Project (2012-2014), please also see the Joining the Dots Reports 1& 2 available for download below.

Held on the 9th September at the Treacy Centre, Parkville, some 99 educators, agency workers and interested others from across Melbourne came together to gain inspiration and insight from Keynote speaker, Tom Brunzell, and participate in some of the 15 interactive workshops on offer showcasing good practice in transition and engagement.

The translated versions of Preparing for Secondary School: A Resource for Parents were also launched and can be found below to download and/or add the link to your website for use with parents and families. Thank you to Fitzroy Primary School and School Focused Youth Services for their support of this work.

Special thanks to Cr Amanda Stone, City of Yarra, for sharing an insight into Council’s continued support of this Project to 2017, for which we are very grateful. Also to Zita Pinda, Seven Ways Consultancy, for her continued support in providing an overview of the Project and some clarification of language. To the wonderful workshop presenters who shared their journeys and resources; the three Year 7 students from Fitzroy High School who took some footage on the day and conducted some Vox Pops during the lunch break; and finally, thank you to Sandra Dickins, Fitzroy High School, for doing such a wonderful job as MC.

The feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive and will help to inform the direction for the fifth phase of the Project in 2016 as we continue to implement and evaluate the Yarra Transition Model.


Short film clip (2mins)


Presentations and supporting documents relating to the Forum and Workshops can be downloaded by clicking on the links below.

Preparing for Secondary School: A Guide for Parents 2017
Download a high res file for printing PDF (11.6MB)
Download a low res file for viewing online (2.5 MB)

The Yarra Primary Secondary School Transition Project

Joining the Dots 2012 – Report One PDF (1.4MB)
Joining the Dots 2014 – Report Two PDF (1.3MB)


Forum Information

Joining the Dots Plenary Presentation (PDF)
Delegate Forum Information Pack (PDF) – Includes Program Outline, Keynote Speaker Biography, Workshop Abstracts, Useful Resources.

Keynote Presentation

TB_small_image100Tom Brunzell, Senior Advisor, Education

Tom Brunzell (MS, EdM, PhD candidate) has over a decade of experience as a teacher, school leader, and education advisor in New York City and Melbourne. Tom presents internationally on topics of transforming school cultures, high expectations for differentiated instruction, trauma-informed practice, wellbeing and the application of positive psychology, and effective school leadership. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Graduate School of Education studying trauma-informed pedagogy, positive psychology, and their impacts on workplace meaning.

Successful school transitions through the middle years (years 5 – 9) are made more complex by changes in a child’s physical, psychological and cognitive development. In addition, the impacts of stress or trauma can have further implications for transitioning students. Current themes from positive psychology and wellbeing research can be embedded within our practice to form a holistic lens when engaging our students to education. Learn strengths-based approaches, relationship building strategies, and wellbeing tools to fortify transitioning student cohorts. These student-centred strategies provide teachers, leaders and allied education professionals with the knowledge of how to foster student capacity and willingness for school achievement.


Keynote Presentation PDF version

Berry Street Childhood Institute – Education Model: overview PDF

Berry Street Childhood Institute – Education Model: 5 domains and strategy list PDF




Tom Brunzell

Resiliency in the Middle Years

This Workshop shared research and practical strategies to teach, reinforce, and embed resiliency into learning opportunities.After participating in the Resiliency Workshop, participants should be able to:

  • Practice evidenced-based resiliency strategies in their own lives
  • Relate these strategies to their personal and family spheres of influence
  • Embed these strategies to their professional contexts
  • Relate the research and strategies to their transitions work with young people
  • May receive further training and connection to the Berry Street Childhood Institute and our continuing work to support vulnerable learners through our whole-school approach
  • May connect to Berry Street for further support to help all members of the school community

No downloads available


Madeleine Jenkins, Peter Cole & Dahle Sugget

Transition: improved Literacy and Numeracy outcomes through addressing professional barriers

The workshop began with the context for this project which has been commissioned by DET, and its link to the recommendations and actions arising from the recent VAGO audit on Education Transitions
The workshop then moved to the focus of the professional barriers project – an exploration of the nature and scope of barriers to ensuring successful transition Years 6-7. It will include an overview of the design of the Project which has been structured as a facilitated audit/investigation by 5 clusters of schools across the state, and the outcomes and findings from the project to date.
Participants took away from this session project contacts, presentation handouts, and some insights about an emerging framework of investigation and findings arising to date.

Participants were encouraged to:

  • Use the frameworks generated in this project to examine literacy and numeracy transitions in local clusters
  • Consider the key aspects of a strategic plan for improving transitions

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)


Angela Pollock

Avoiding the ‘Academic Attainment Drop’; evident in primary to secondary transition

This Workshop was based around an analysis of the literature and research done in this area in Australia and overseas: successful strategies implemented at Elwood College to grow learning confidence, connections between primary and secondary, and tackle the learning ‘gap’ that exists between primary and secondary.
Participants took away presentation handouts (including the templates and presentations used to share this information with parents or staff): a shared opportunity to use this research within a cluster of a schools.
Participants were encouraged to implement a similar approach in their school/organisation, review and adapt their current strategy/strategic plan and consider using shared resources available between local schools for the purpose of ‘continued’ learning.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)


Dianne Giblin & Donna Sirmais

Family–School Partnerships Framework: A resource for enhancing educational partnerships from birth to career

The Family-School Partnerships Framework is an effective resource in assisting schools and communities to engage families in education and build partnerships. Attendees took away a better understanding of the Family-School Partnerships Framework and the research it was based on; the difference between family involvement and family engagement in education and knowledge of how to access the Framework
Engaging families in education is a key factor in improving student learning and wellbeing.
Following the workshop, participants have access to and be able to action:

  • Contacts
  • Resources
  • Professional Development opportunities
  • Implement a similar approach in their school/organisation
  • Review and adapt their current strategy/strategic plan

Downloads available
Presentation information (jpeg)


Sandra Dickins & Students

Fitzroy High School and Community Demonstration Pilot Project
This Workshop was based around Fitzroy High School’s experience of participating in a Transition Demonstration Pilot, incorporating a school-community action team.Sandra focused on how the school partnered with community agencies to improve the transition experience and educational outcomes for primary school students transitioning to Year 7 at Fitzroy High School.Participants had an opportunity to identify potential partnership opportunities between school communities and community agencies.Participants took away an understanding of the benefits and challengers of a school-community partnership and a possible framework to use for implementing in their own setting.Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)
Report (PDF)

Maureen O’Keefe

Engaging Families from Refugee background in their children’s learning
This Workshop shared strategies for schools to support engagement  of families from refugee backgrounds and utilised the new desktop guide..School personnel were invited to reflect on their approaches to supporting families from refugee backgrounds to be engaged with their children’s learning.Participants took away Foundation House resources, including recently launched Schools and Families in Partnership: A desktop guide to Engaging Families from Refugee Backgrounds in their Children’s Learning.Downloads available
PowerPoint presentation PDF version
Web link: Desktop Guide

Susan Maury

Uplift: An Empowerment Approach to Parent Engagement
This Workshop was based around sharing the outcomes of an action research process with a group of parents from a school servicing a low-socio-economic neighbourhood.Three short weekly workshops facilitated the development of a shared vision for their children’s school years, an action plan for parents, the school(s) and the community to support this vision, and an advocacy session to share their plan with selected stakeholders.The outcome from this simple intervention has been a long-term community renewal plan that is supported by a range of community stakeholders.  The goal of increasing parent engagement in the school was realized, and so much more.At the conclusion of the workshop, participants took away a copy of the research report which provides a detailed plan for taking a similar approach.  Additionally, the interactive workshop can mirror some of the processes used in the action research.Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)
Report (PDF)

Dr Tracy Garvin & Ruth Christiansen

Mindfulness in Education
This Workshop explored how mindfulness teaches us how to pay attention.Regular mindfulness in school settings can help with improved concentration, attention and memory, reduce and manage stress and procrastination and help students manage personal challenges and emotions.This workshop covered the science of mindfulness, research into mindfulness, dealing with unmindful/automatic pilot mode, experiential practice of mindfulness and how mindfulness can be applied to educational settings.Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)

Kathryn Fraser

Ready for Roxy

This Workshop shared with delegates an outline of a transition program that has been run between Meadow Heights Primary School and Roxburgh College. The Program focused on 2 main aspects of transition from Primary to Secondary- students with attendance concerns and students with additional needs (encompassing disability, learning difficulties, speech language issues and behavioural issues).

The presentation outlined what was involved in the transition program from a planning and logistics perspective to results of the program from a data perspective and case studies from parents and children involved in the program that allowed participants to explore the resulting themes of student and parent engagement and the unexpected personal development outcomes and improvements in behaviours that the secondary school has seen.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)


Wendy Pitt

Questions of Engagement – Improving the Learning Experience of Students in Years 5-8
Using the Motivational and Engagement Scale (Andrew Martin, 2009) to inform student-based teaching practice and school planning.This Workshop was based around:

  • Identifying and addressing the skills for effective learning that prepare young people for independent learning in the rapidly changing future
  • A Case study based on Action Research in 5 schools in the Inner Western Metropolitan area. The Project is a collaboration between Victoria University, Maribyrnong and Moonee Valley LLEN and five school principals. The focus is on an in depth investigation of cognitive, emotional and behavioural engagement in learning.
  • Compliance in the classroom does not necessarily indicate that students are engaged in the process of learning or are developing the skills needed to make a successful primary to secondary transition and to subsequent levels of education particularly in the context of the exponential pace of change in the nature of work in their futures.

Access to contacts, information on resources, reflection on current practices, support from Q of E team to implement a similar approach in their school/organisation.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)
Web link: Motivation and Engagement Scale MES-HS) Interim Report
Web link: Motivation and Engagement – Sample Questions


Kate Kantor, Lis Blake & Jonathan Cartwright

How can an arts residency support middle years students’ engagement and learning in schools?  How can I make one happen in my school, even with a minimal budget?

This workshop was based around a visual presentation with photos and film and a discussion of the benefits of arts residencies in schools focusing on 2 projects – filmmaking with grades 5/6 at St Joseph’s School Collingwood and multi-media art form residencies at Mahogony Rise, Frankston North. Participants will explore what we did , how it engaged students, the benefits  and the links to curriculum learning.The workshop gave some examples of successful and practical approaches to working with the arts and the middle years and provide participants with ideas of how to plan and fund such programs.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)
Video: Grit
Video: Jump!


Zita Pinda

Primary Secondary School Transition Policy Development

This Workshop provided participants with a template for developing their own school transition policy.

Participants took away a template and the knowledge and enthusiasm on how to development their own school policy.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF version)
Transition Policy Template (Word doc)


Kim Stadtmiller & Russell Dyer

Strengthening our Understanding of Middle Years through the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI)

This Workshop provided an outline of the MDI survey and process involved.Benefits were discussed of using the MDI as a useful tool within primary and secondary school settings to gain a better understanding of the health, well-being and connectedness of their students.A school representative provided an overview of how they have utilised the results of the survey(s).An outline of how the municipal/aggregated reports are being used within the broader community to strengthen school community partnerships and used to develop a City of Whittlesea Middle Years Strategy.Participants took away copies of an aggregated MDI report, sample survey, key contacts for registering interest in participating in future MDI surveys.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)
Whittlesea MDI Year 5 Report – Oct 2013 (PDF)
Whittlesea MDI Year 8 Report – 2014 (PDF)
Web link: MDI: Australian 2013 Research Trial
Web link: What is the MDI?


Craig Bradley, Bron Hutchinson & Dean Robinson

Working together and the Online Student Information Form

This Workshop provided participants with an understanding of the Yarra Shared Learning Community, how these 12 schools came together and what they have already achieved together, including a common online student information form.Participants took away a copy of the Online Student Information Form as well as an understanding of some of the benefits in working together in a cluster/network.

Downloads available
PowerPoint Presentation  (PDF)
Sample Online Transition Information Form (PDF)



For more information, please contact:

Rochelle Darby – INLLEN Partnership Broker

M 0408 036 602   T 03 9384 2325    E