Partnership with parents and families in the early years is at the foundations of all aspects, the philosophy, ethos and curricular approach to name a few. These are all informed by how we develop an inclusive and engaging educational setting for both the children and their parents/guardians.
This year and last year have proved challenging for most, in one way or another, which would have directly affected children turning their world upside down, when early years services came to an abrupt closure in March 2020 and now again in January 2021!
It was because of the reciprocal partnerships with parents/guardians that have been established that early years’ services were able to support parents in the education and well-being of their child, in a time when they had to wear many hats: the parent, the worker, the educator and the friend, for example.
This led early years services to reflect and uphold the importance of the role of the parent/guardian in a child’s life.
This leads us to look back on the beginning of a child’s life. Parents are the key people who will guide them through life and support every step of their life-long learning. When children transition from their home into their first exposure to a “formal” setting this should be a supported time for them and their parents/guardians. During this transitional period and the many triumphs and obstacles, they will encounter along their journey in a setting the partnership with the families should be at the forefront of the practice. As early years teachers, it is essential that we respect and recognise the pivotal role a parent plays as a primary educator to their child. Parental partnership is a fundamental aspect of childrens early years. The Aistear Siolta Practice Guide (2015) suggests that to enable us as educators to develop meaningful, nurturing learning environments we must develop meaningful partnerships with parents/guardians first. The Practice Guide (2015) goes as far as suggesting that “parental partnership” is one of the Pillars in curriculum development, and it is part of the foundation of the curriculum itself.
But why is it so important?
Considering attachment (Bowlby, 1958), a child looks to their parent to help navigate them through situations based on the reaction of the parents/guardian. To support smoother transitions, parents need to feel comfortable in the environment and have trust in the service that it upholds the child’s well-being as much as the home. During this time early years Teachers have had to support parents with their very relevant anxieties from health to job loss and many more. Life for many has seen a dramatic change, in a time when the partnership was really put to the test as to how we can deliver support without being able to see the parents for them to voice their current concerns.
The past year has catapulted our entire day to day practice into a different way of how we engage as early years teachers with children and their families. This year has pushed our thought processes and we have become innovative teachers. So how do we develop inclusive educational environments if parents/guardians cannot step foot within our services?
Homelife pressures are potentially at the highest they have ever been. One method that has been utilised successfully, has been the use of technology. The early years sector has been able to engage with parents, current and new using different methods of technology to ensure they are retaining the highest level of reciprocal communication as would have been pre-COVID.
For parents new to a setting, the daunting time of having to leave their child at the door instead of our usual, more relaxed practices has made the early years educators more creative in their approach. This has made the sector more confident in using technology as a form of communication where it may not have been utilised before as early years services may not have found a need for it (Madden et al, 2007).
Sending images and videos of the environment and videos and photographs of day-to-day activities and communication through interactive means have all supported the partnership with both parents and children. Through this means, transparency has been significantly highlighted.
Another method which may support the development of partnership is informing the parents/guardians of the changes in policies and procedures due to Covid-19. This advanced delivery of information afforded families time to process the information, so they can query any of the information while receiving adequate support if needed.
This past year has delivered to us a sense of understanding the importance of the role the parent and the teacher play in the holistic development of the child. Without the bond, the partnership creates, this pandemic may have seen both parents and children even more overwhelmed by the current situation. This just indicates when a strong partnership is formed, parents and the early years educators can come together and overcome unprecedented challenges.
- Aistear Siolta Practice Guide.(2015). Partnership with Parents. (Accessed on 9/12/20. Accessed at: http://www.ncca.ie/en/Practice-Guide/ )
- Bowlby, J. (1958). The Nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350-371.
- Madden, A., Nunes, J., Mc Pherson, M., Ford, N & Milelr, D. (2007). Mind the gap! New ‘Literacies’ create new divides. In L. Tomei (Ed). Integrating information & communication technologies into the classroom. United States of America: Information Science Publishing.
My name is Racheal Govan, I have worked in the childcare sector since 2012, both in a national and international context. After completing my Degree in Early Ed. In Maynooth University in 2018, I went on open my own Early Years’ service called ‘Footprints Early Years.’ Since then, I have opened another both of which are located in Dublin 8. Parental Partnership has always been a passion of mine and I have just completed a Masters of Education based on parental partnerships within my services, in Maynooth University.