Parents as partners

img_20180222_204854.jpgRecently we were chatting with a local early years practitioner, who was thinking about how he could encourage parents to become more involved in his setting. He quoted one of the EYFS’s (2017, p.6) four overarching principles to us, which is that “children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which… there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers”. Those working in early years settings before the introduction of the EYFS may be reminded of the similar ethos in the Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage (DfEE, 2000, p.9) that “parents are children’s first and most enduring educators”. This statement is echoed by Whalley (2017, p.14) of the wonderful Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families who argues that children’s achievement will be greater and wellbeing higher when practitioners work effectively with the parents of children in their care.

The word “parent” features 61 times in Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Early Education, 2012) which illustrates the importance that England’s current early years curriculum places on parents as partners. It gives examples of what enabling environments might look like in practice. One suggestion is (with training) to introduce baby massage sessions into the setting to promote babies’ wellbeing and then involve parents so they can do it at home. Another recommendation from is to make story sacks for parents to take home to support children’s interest in books and rhymes.

In addition to the ideas from Early Education (2012), lots of organisations have published useful information for how early years practitioners can work with parents. For instance, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) gives ideas on how to communicate with parents, build relationships with them and provide resources that parents can take home. The Fatherhood Institute (2007) gives a list of suggestions for building partnerships with fathers in particular, including the tip that practitioners should avoid the word “parent” in favour of saying “mums and dads” or “mothers and fathers” because fathers don’t feel included when communication from settings uses “parent”. The DfCSF (2007) also provides some brilliant advice for considering fostering relationships with fathers in particular, such as evaluating whether they “actively seek to recruit male staff” and whether they feedback to fathers about their child’s day in the same way as they would with mothers. Meanwhile, organisations like the Pre-school Learning Alliance have provided written guidance for how parents can seek to be more involved with their child’s early years setting, including suggesting that parents offer to volunteer at their child’s nursery (although we recognise that this might not be feasible for a large number of parents).

If you work with children, what kind of things do you do to involve parents in their children’s learning and development? Or if you are a parent, in what kind of ways would you like to take part? Let us know your comments below.

2 thoughts on “Parents as partners

  1. We have recently been asked to provide nominations for the staff member we wish to be person of the month… this is good as our opinion as parents is valued. We are often asked about any family occasions, so that the children can talk about what has been happening at home. Through this I feel that I’ve developed a good relationship with my children’s key person because they often are the first to ask about people or events. Activities are generally based on interests of the children so when my son was asking me various questions about space and planets, (some questions I didn’t know how to answer to be honest!) I mentioned them to his key person and she continued his learning throughout the day. This is a good way for busy parents to be involved. It would be nice to have a teddy bears picnic or a coffee afternoon etc just a few hours where it’s more of a bonding experience between parents and staff. It truly depends on how ‘open’ the nursery is 🙂 my children’s nusery is lovely.

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    • It’s really interesting to hear how you feel your child’s setting helps you be involved in what’s going on. It’s also really good to hear how your child’s key person builds on the learning and thinking that your child is doing at home. Your idea of a “bonding” activity like a coffee afternoon has given us food for thought – it’s common to think about the importance of children bonding with their practitioners, but often the bond between parents and practitioners is overlooked. Thanks for your comment, Carina.

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