The early years are when parents are central figures in their children’s lives. When the children start attending nursery school or child care centre, the teacher becomes another dominant figure in the child’s learning and development. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) advocates positive relationships and encourages partnerships between early childhood practitioners and parents. They should work together to support young children’s growth, learning and development. Both are experts in their ways when it comes to the child. Parents are experts on their children, while teachers are experts on how they can best learn concepts and skills. Hence, it is essential to foster healthy working partnerships so parents and teachers can supplement each other’s contribution to the child’s positive outcomes. This literature inquiry explores the role of partnerships in the early years setting. Aside from parent-practitioner partnerships, it will also explore community and multi-agency partnerships and statutory sector-voluntary sector partnerships. These partnerships work together to comply with government policies of delivering high quality services to children and their families. It may be services for health and wellbeing, education, addressing special education needs or provision of instruction for English as additional language learners, among others. This study also analyses two relevant articles about partnerships and then compares them to see their benefits and challenges.
Key words: parent-practitioner partnerships; community partnerships, statutory sector- voluntary sector partnerships; EYLF; early years setting
Young children in the early years need care and protection by the adults around them and help guide them to the right path of growth and development. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) ensures that they are provided with the best opportunities to fulfil their potential. This entails that their parents raise them properly and they are provided with high-quality learning experiences. The EYFS ensures the provision of the following:
- quality and consistency in all early years settings, so that every child makes good progress and no child gets left behind
- a secure foundation through planning for the learning and development of each individual child, and assessing and reviewing what they have learned regularly
- partnership working between practitioners and with parents and/or carers
- equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that every child is included and supported
(Department of Education, 2021, p. 5)
Although all four provisions are essential for young children’s growth and development, this paper will dwell on the third provision, which is partnership working. Children need all the support they can get as they grow and develop in the most crucial years. Their experiences in this early stage of life may have a substantial impact on them for the rest of their lives. Parents can opt to give their children much of their time and resources. However, they need the time to work, do chores, and also grow and develop themselves. When children go to school, their teachers care for them and educate them with lessons they need to know to navigate their lives well later on. In order to achieve consistency in what is learned in the home and the school, a partnership needs to be fostered between parents and school practitioners.
Aside from the partnership of schools and families, there are other partnerships that are established with the welfare of young children in mind. For one, the government has created mandates to meet the five key outcomes set out in Every Child Matters: being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and economic well-being (HM Government, 2004). These outcomes have shifted the focus for practitioners providing services and support to children, often partnering with different agencies that are also service providers for children and their families (Baxter & Frederickson, 2005). “Multi-agency working is essentially about bringing together practitioners with a range of skills to work across their traditional service boundaries.” (HM Government, 2007). Examples of these are government agencies and non-government and volunteer organizations that offer support and services for children. Children with special education needs or other developmental disabilities can also be supported by professionals from various disciplines. They may be special education teachers, social workers, developmental paediatricians, school psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists, among others. Creating partnerships among the people concerned will help addressing children’s specific needs.
Partnership has been known by different terms such as “integrated working; holistic governance, joined-up working, multi- and cross-agency working” (Percy-Smith, 2006, cited in Barlow & Coe, 2011, p. 37). It is relevant to understand how partnerships impact the children who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the collaboration. This research is interested in exploring the following questions:
- How is partnership discussed and supported in the EYFS?
- What are the benefits and challenges of partnership in the early years?
- What strategies are put into place to support parents and practitioners’ partnership?
To find answers to these research questions, a thorough literature review shall be conducted using various sources from library databases and online searches. The researcher will also explore some cases wherein partnerships have provided supports and services to different children and their families.
The most basic understanding of school partnership is the one that exists between the school and the student’s family. This home-school partnership is made possible when both parents and teachers reach out to each other to share their concerns about the children.
One of the guiding principles in EYFS is the importance of positive relationships. Since young children’s first relationships usually begin in the home setting, they develop strong and impactful relationships with their parents. Hence, early childhood practitioners should realize their importance in the children’s lives and they can provide the necessary information about their children. It has been found that the quality of home learning environment is the most important predictor of children’s future outcomes (Birth to 5 Matters, 2021). Therefore, teachers should involve parents in their children’s learning so that they can both support the children in school and at home. As they work together, they can understand the children’s needs better so they can address these appropriately.
Parents As Partners
Joyce Epstein (1992) aptly termed parent involvement in their children’s school as ‘partnership’. She conceptualized a parent involvement model that collaborates with their children’s teachers and other school personnel. This model guides educators in promoting and establishing comprehensive partnership programs. Epstein developed six types of involvement, namely: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community (Epstein et al., 2002).
Parenting activities are meant to strengthen knowledge of skills of parents on child development and create conducive learning environments for their children at home. Schools derive information from families which help teachers understand their students better. Examples of parenting activities are inviting resource speakers for parenting seminars, home visits, coordination of services with other agencies, formation of family support groups, etc. (Epstein et al., 2002).
Communicating activities involve two-way communication: from school-to-home and from home-to-school communication. These include newsletters, notice letters, memorandums, report cards, Parent-Teacher conferences, and any other form of communication that is relayed from the school to the home and vice versa (Epstein et al., 2002). Some schools have online bulletins and newsletters for parents to view their children’s activities and works.
Volunteering activities involve parents being in school to lend a helping hand to support the teachers in serving their children. Parents can be invited as resource speakers in their children’s class, serve as chaperones on field trips, tutors, translators, school crossing guards, mentors, club moderators, etc. (Epstein et al., 2002).
Learning-at-home activities are activities that are done at home but were organized in school. These are integrated with the students’ class work. Parents and even including siblings help out in the activities, such as interactive homework like interviews or video projects, book reports, science projects, literacy activities, etc. Initially, parents may be invited to school first during Family Fun Nights to orient them on the activities and promote conversations about academic subjects (Epstein et al., 2002).
Decision-making activities involve parents in class-wide or even school-wide policies or activities. They may bring in a different perspective on specific school improvements, fund-raising activities, field trips, etc. This can help raise awareness on certain issues affecting the school and the students and improve schools (Epstein et al., 2002).
Collaborating with the community activities can strengthen existing school activities, programs, student learning and family practices by eliciting resources of community businesses, like having a field trip to the neighbourhood flower shop or grocery; cultural, civic and religious organizations, colleges and universities, governmental agencies and other groups. These activities encourage the students and their families to give back to their community (Epstein et al., 2002).
It has been found that when parents are supportive of their children’s schooling, it correlates with student achievement (Scharton, 2019). According to Jeynes (2007), “When families, community groups, and schools work together to support learning, children tend to stay in school longer, do better in school, and like school more” (p. 85). Generally, they fare better with parent support. However, many families are challenged in making more time for their children’s school activities and other responsibilities. Their absence results in gaps in communication between the teacher and the parents (Newman et al., 2019). It is also worth considering what the parent perceptions may be in their share of the partnership. These may be influenced by contextual factors such as limited skill sets or knowledge in helping out their children. They may also have less access to some resources or activities, do not have enough time, and what they perceive when they are invited to participate in their child’s schooling (Epstein, 2005; Ferlazzo & Hammond, 2009). Noel et al. (2013) revealed that parents with higher educational levels attained were more likely to be involved in their children’s schooling. Newman et al. (2019) found that parents with high socioeconomic level perceived that the school applied Epstein’s six typologies more than parents with middle or low socio-economic backgrounds. However, Noel et al. (2013) indicated that parents with incomes above the poverty level were more likely to create a positive home-school connection than parents of children below poverty level. Those from lower socio-economic classes may perceive school as a place that can provide their children with a safe space so they can be ‘fixed’ to learn what is expected of them as well as achieve the academic qualifications that will enable them to be contributing members of society (Bernard, 2008). These parents may feel that they do not have the right skills or knowledge to do it themselves for their children and any attempt on their part to do so will not be helpful. Thus, there is decreased interest and limited participation in their child’s schooling (Mapp & Henderson, 2012).
Another model of school partnership was conceptualized by Swap (1993). For this model, teachers are considered the experts on education while parents are considered the experts on their own children. The partnership formed involves sharing of this expert knowledge with each other so they can plan a better program for children. Both contribute much to the partnership, with the parents advocating for their children’s welfare while the teachers bring objectivity to which educational programs will suit them best (Hornsby, 2011).
Effective school partnership models are characterized by mutual respect and support, good two-way communication, consideration of each other’s perspectives, sharing of decision-making responsibilities and planning and enhancement of learning in both the school and the home (Swap, 1993).
The Children Act 1989 covers the following: “reforms the law relating to children; makes provision for local authority services for children in need and others; amends the law with respect to children’s homes, community home, voluntary homes and voluntary organizations; make provision concerning fostering, child minding and day care for young children and adoption and for connected purposes.” (DfEs Children Act and Reports, 1989; 2004). This act is further polished with Children Act 2004 and provides a wider strategy for improving children’s lives. “The overall aim is to encourage integrated planning, commissioning and delivery of services as well as improve multi-disciplinary working, remove duplication, increase accountability and improve the coordination of individual and joint inspections in local authorities.: (DfES Children Act and Reports, 1989; 2004). This implies that there are government mandates that authorize localized communities to provide services for children as they deem fit, and such services support the five key outcomes of Every Child Matters mentioned earlier. Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 assigns responsibility to each children’s service authority to promote cooperation between itself and relevant partner agencies to work towards the improvement of the wellbeing of children within their area.
“The duty to make arrangements to safeguard and promote children’s welfare supports effective inter-agency work. Local Authorities, therefore, should: make staff aware of the arrangements being made by other agencies under section 11 of the Children Act 2004. This will help to ensure children and families have prompt access to the services (universal, targeted and specialist) they require, recognizing the range and diversity of their needs and strengths in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for children; ensure other agencies to whom the duty to make arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare applies are aware of the LA’s responsibilities including how those staff undertaking social services functions will respond to referrals regarding a child’s safety and welfare.” (HM Government, 2004, p. 37)
Broadhead & Armistead (2007) reported about community partnerships merging early education with childcare. Their study tracked the partnerships between providers of early education and childcare centres responding to the national policy, the National Childcare Strategy, which required local authorities to collaborate with local providers in developing expanded preschool and childcare provision. This initiative brought together the “maintained, the community-voluntary and private sectors as equal partners, under the auspices of the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCP)” (Department for Education and Employment (DfEE)). The partnership was called Shared Foundation Community Partnerships. It aimed to develop a ‘wraparound’ provision for childcare, early education for three- and four- year olds, as well as provide jobs for childminders and teachers. This community partnership was guided by five underpinning themes, namely: quality experiences for children; parental expectations and needs; building bridges across local providers; leading and managing local partnerships; and support and structure from the Local Authority (Broadhead and Armistead, 2007).
In the provision of quality experiences for children, the community partnership was challenged in combining care, education and play. Thorough training and development were. necessary to enable practitioners coming from a variety of backgrounds to implement a sustainable, high quality program (Anning, 2001; Anning and Edwards, 1999).
Part of the commitment of Shared Foundation Community Partnerships is the inclusion of adult education, training and employment of parents of the children they serve. Most of the parents work part-time while their children are young (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2001), Still, they want high-quality childcare services that are full-time, accessible, and community-based (Skinner, 2003). Because the number of very young children is increasing, there is a demand for the services Shared Foundation Community Partnerships offer (Broadhead and Armistead, 2007).
The community partnership further networks with local providers making the scope of their work and responsibilities broader. They need to consider additional requirements for new management structures, working conditions, varying roles, status, history and professional identity of the people behind the partnership (Easen et al., 2000). Such challenges also affect economic concerns, as some childminders claim funding grants for their three- and four-year-old wards whom they are for in their homes, if they work within a registered Childcare Network and allow Ofsted to inspect their homes. For most people, they opt for their children to be cared for by childminders within the family (Meadows & Gabers, 2004).
In terms of leading and managing local partnerships, Shared Foundation Community Partnerships had to set up one or two local primary schools which would serve as the convening place for the stakeholders of the partnership. Since the partners provide statutory and non-statutory services, new partnerships must be formed to bridge gaps that may develop (Cornwall et al., 2003).
Finally, having a clear vision of what the community partnership is working for, which is serving the children and their families, there is integrated and coordinated support from the Local Authority.
Partnerships are not without challenges and conflicts. There were times when ideas clashed because the members of the partnership came from different backgrounds and orientations. However, there were several common learnings that the partnership had, as follows:
- understand how diversity promoted choice by learning what other local settings provided and how they achieved quality whilst looking different;
- address sustainability for all partners through discussion and planning;
- identify and plan to fill gaps in provision within the community and
- inform parents about combined partnership provision so that they could plan to have theirs’ and their child’s need met in appropriate ways.
(Broadhead & Armistead, 2007, p. 53).
Overall, the community partnership which was integrated and holistic, succeeded in meeting their objectives. The participation of the members allowed diverse thinking to be merged while generating new kinds of relationships between professionals and regular community members.
Still another kind of partnership is the collaboration of statutory and voluntary sectors in helping out children and families improve their outcomes. One example is the Peers Early Education Partnership (PEEP) Early Explorers project (Barlow & Coe, 2011). This initiative was established upon review of Children’s Services (Kennedy, 2010) which revealed the need for local partnerships to collaborate with a variety of agencies responsible for the care and welfare of children and young people. Due to the overwhelming need for services, it is not enough for statutory sector organizations such as the health and social services to carry out the services, but volunteer sectors are also needed. Volunteers do not only serve to fill in gaps of the statutory sector and supplement their provision of services but also contribute by innovating new solutions and making connections between the state and the people (Spratt et al., 2007).
The PEEP Learning Together programme assigns some trained volunteers to interact with parents and children in healthcare centres. They engage parents in supporting their children in their learning and development through non-directed exploratory play. The intervention follows the ORIM framework (Hannon, 1995), which acknowledges that parents and young children need “Opportunities to learn, Recognition and valuing of early efforts and achievements, Interaction with adults to talk about what they do and how they feel, and Modelling by adults of behaviour, attitudes and activities” (Barlow & Coe, 2011, p. 37). This service for parents and young children is provided in Early Explorer clinics while they wait for their turn with their doctors and other health practitioners. The result is educating parents and stimulating young children, entertaining them while being informed of appropriate parenting and learning activities.
The different kinds of partnerships discussed in this literature review show that more people are working together towards the fulfilment of the outcomes set for children in Every Child Matters, especially for children in the early years, as explained by EYLF. Partnerships become more potent and more effective if the members of the partnership are one in their mission and vision in supporting children and their development towards positive outcomes.
The methodology used for this study was purely desk-based research. A comprehensive review of the literature was done as it yielded a vast body of information already reported by researchers who have studied the phenomenon being investigated.
Desk-Based Extended Literature Research
Desk-based studies are valuable because the information derived may be organized to make sense and answer the research questions posed for the study, saving time and effort for the researcher, as most of the work is done in their workstation rather than on the field. It becomes advantageousl because the research was done during the Covid-19 pandemic, so movement and access to primary sources (e.g. interviewees) were limited.
The process of the extended review of literature commenced by typing some key words on the search bar of library databases. Some key words used were: “school partnerships”; “parent involvement”; “home-school collaboration”; “early years learning”; “EYFS”; “parent-teacher partnerships”; “community partnerships”. The limits were also set to available online, peer-reviewed articles and open access. No particular lower end in the year range was included as long as the source was not too old. The researcher was aware that school partnerships were in existence from way back in time. Hence, a wide range of publication dates was included in the search.
The titles of the possible sources were clicked to open and review, and if the article was relevant to the topic on school partnership in the early years setting, then it was downloaded. After reading all the downloaded articles and digesting the information provided, the researcher organized the notes according to the topic headings and began the process of writing the literature review.
Inclusion criteria were used in selecting the articles that were used in the current study. First, the studies included were those with English as the publishing language in order. Secondly, the review included the most relevant articles on school partnerships, parent-involvement, EYFS and early years setting.
Articles that were excluded from the study were those that were published in a different language other than English.
Aside from studying the relevant articles selected for this study, some documents were also reviewed and analysed such as the Department for Education’s Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, which sets the standards for learning, development and cares for children from birth to age five. Supplementing this document is the Birth to 5 Matters: Non-statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is specific to the early years setting that this research is focused on. Still another vital document that was used for this study is Every Child Matters. Two articles were also analysed for this research. One is entitled “Making Partnerships Work: Proposing A Model To Support Parent-Practitioner Partnerships In The Early Years” by Kambouri et al. (2022) and the other one is “Integrating partner professionals. The Early Explorers project: Peers Early Education Partnership and the health visiting service” by Barlow & Coe (2011). From these documents, the researcher picked out the most relevant information to add to this research.
Document analysis refers to the evaluation of documents that have information about the research topic and questions (Dimitrova, 2011). The method is a combination of techniques employed in the investigation, identification, interpretation, categorisation of constraints of physical sources, most commonly written documents in public or private circles. Documents to be analysed for research projects need to be authentic. This means that the sources are reliable and original. The researcher has a responsibility to ensure that whatever document consulted is original and has integrity. This is in the same manner that an interviewer must ascertain the identity of the interviewee or the observer must verify the location and that phenomena being observed really happened as they reported Hennink and Hutter, 2011). There are many cases in which documents may not be what they are supposed to be, and this places a huge responsibility on the researcher to confirm their authenticity.
Another important feature of the document to be analysed is its credibility. The element of credibility should be about the degree to which the document is honest in the choice of a perspective and in the effort to record a correct depiction from that perspective (McBurney and White, 2010). The researcher should be able to confirm that documents are free from distortion and that they were prepared independently and at an earlier time (McBurney and White, 2010). No document should be produced for the researcher’s benefit. If people’s testimonies are to be analysed, their expressed views should be honest irrespective of whether they could have been altered in the judgment of circumstances or in fact. This also applies to opinions expressed at all levels in private and public sectors. There should be no shadow of doubt that any misleading information was provided (Mc Burney and White, 2010).
Meaning is the clarity and comprehensibility of the evidence. The main goal of analysing documents is to gain an understanding of the meaning and importance of their content. However, content can be superficial or interpretive (Richards and Morse, 2013). On the other hand, an interpretive understanding relates the superficial meaning to the conditions in which the documents were produced so as to evaluate their meaning in totality. Another vital point to consider in document analysis is deciding on which conclusion to make from a document concerning issues other than the facts (May, 2011).
No ethical breaches were committed during this research since there were no participants involved, so ethical considerations in the use of human subjects were not sought. It was pure desk-based research, with the bulk of information taken from online sources. The only thing that needed to comply with ethical standards is the avoidance of acts of plagiarism. The authors of the sources used were given credit to both in in-text citations and in the reference list.
Analysis of Two Key Sources
Kambouri, M., Wilson, T., Pleridou, M., Quinn, S.F., Llu, Jle (2022). Making Partnerships Work: Proposing A Model To Support Parent-Practitioner Partnerships In The Early Years, Early Childhood Education Journal, 50: 639-661, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01181-6
This article explained the perspectives of parents and practitioners in their partnership for the sake of young children in the early years setting. It draws from Froebelian principles highlighting the value of family and community and translates this to the need for collaboration and communication in parent-practitioner partnerships. It described a proposed model that supports parent-practitioner partnerships specifically in the early years.
The introduction section of this article was already very elaborate, discussing how parents are integral in the lives of children. Their roles should not be minimized when their children go to preschool or child care centres, and taken over by the child’s teacher. Sometimes, parents feel inadequate in the presence of a wise and knowledgeable teacher/ practitioner who has spent much time studying child development. The parent may know how to manage her child but she may feel that there must be a better way that the teacher knows because the child seems to behave better as well as learn more when she is in school. It must be emphasized that parents know their children best and that they should not feel inferior to the teacher who may be more sophisticated in the knowledge she possesses about children. Once the relationship of the parent and practitioner equalizes, then, they can work together in partnership for the best interests of the children. This is echoed in the article as it explains the partnership model needs to overcome barriers and develop relationships of trust, empowering parents to know how significant their role is.
The theoretical framework is based on the Froebelian philosophy of child-centredness and approaching the partnership from the viewpoint of children to serve their best interests. It also parallels EYFS’ recognition of the importance of making decisions based on the interest of the child. The study identified some principles that should guide parent-practitioner partnerships as follows:
- Neutrality of power- The partnership sessions were delivered outside the school settings,
- Respecting voices Participants (both practitioners and parents) shared their understanding of partnerships and identified their own goals using their experiences and the unique nature of their settings and lifestyles,
- Reflection Participants reflected on their pre-conceptions of partnerships and through sharing experiences and taking part in activities that re-examined how they could further develop their collaboration,
- Praxis During and after the implementation of the partnership sessions, participants were encouraged to apply their experiences, knowledge and understanding of partnership in their settings.
- Voice Participants shared their views and opinions in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
(Kambouri et al., 2022, p. 645)
The methodology used for this study was mixed methods, employing both quantitative and qualitative methods. It is something like an experimental approach that involves pre-test, intervention and post-test, but for this study, it’s a pre-session questionnaire for both parents and practitioners, a partnership session delivered to both parents and practitioners and a post-session questionnaire, again for both parents and questions.
The study gave the parents and practitioners an opportunity to identify what will make their partnership effective and robust. It was found that the characteristics of an effective parent-practitioner partnership model, as determined by the participants of this study are: being collaborative/ communicative, active, friendly, and in a good environment. It is also known as the CAFÉ model:
C – collaborative/ communicative
A – active
F – friendly
E – environment
Although there may be other characteristics that can further improve the quality of parent-practitioner partnership, this CAFÉ model seems to encapsulate what they need. Open communication is key, as well as the initiative to connect and collaborate. Both partners should contribute actively and not let one dominate and the other just become subjugated. Friendly relationships will help the partnership be more pleasant even when the work becomes more challenging. Finally, both partners should be able to create an environment that is conducive to learning for their young children.
The CAFÉ model may also be viewed in the context of Epstein’s model of parental involvement, as their similarity lies in parenting, communicating and learning at home. However, the most salient similarity is the importance of communication. Not being able to communicate clearly is likely to create misunderstandings and conflicts that may hinder the harmonious flow of the partnership.
In following the principles set beforehand, both parties became aware of their equal state, giving enough confidence to parents who may feel inferior to the teachers in terms of their knowledge of child development even if they were considered the experts when it came to their own children. Hence, with the final model of CAFÉ, they were further empowered to contribute to the discussions, as they have been empowered that what they bring in to the partnership is their parenting experience with their children. For example, no one else can manage their children’s temper tantrums but them. With skills learned from their own children, they can also use with other children.
Overall, this article is very relevant to readers especially if they are intending to establish strong parent-practitioner partnerships in their schools, childcare centres, clinics, and any other environment catering to young children. It provides a lot of insights on barriers to effective partnerships as well as the CAFÉ model that they can follow for more substantial and better partnerships.
Barlow, J. and Coe, C. (2011). Integrating partner professionals. The Early Explorers project: Peers Early Education Partnership and the health visitng service. Child: care, health and development, 39, 1, 36-43.
This study is about multi-agency partnership which includes statutory sectors and volunteer sectors to serve parents and their children in health centers. PEEP volunteers interact with parents and educate them on appropriate ways to stimulate their young children as well as provide information on achieving good health and well-being. The children are also provided with toys, and given enough attention to entertain them while waiting for their turn at the doctor’s clinic.
The name of the project is Peers Early Education Partnership (PEEP) Early Explorers. The intervention was conducted in two Early Explorer clinics in high-deprived areas. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with stakeholders regarding their insights on the presence of PEEP volunteers, and it was agreed that the service was well-appreciated, greatly improving the quality of the clinic environment.
This partnership was in response to the mandate of the Children Act (2004) requiring local public agencies to work together through Children’s Trusts to provide services and supports to children and their families so they can achieve positive outcomes. Statutory sectors needed the help of volunteer practitioners to support parents with less access to resources and information on childcare and education of their young. The PEEP volunteers were trained on methods underpinned by the ORIM framework (Hannon, 1995) which is an acronym for
Opportunities to learn,
Recognition and valuing of early efforts and achievements,
Interaction with adults to talk about what they do and how they feel, and Modelling by adults of behavior, attitudes and activities.
The volunteers need to be able to enjoy learning new things to share with the people they serve. It implies that they openly seek knowledge through trainings, reading and conversations with people. They will work with ethnic minorities and to be able to know more about their culture, they should remove any prejudice and connect with their audience well. Being able to recognize and value early efforts and achievements helps boost confidence and motivation to continue doing better. Interactions with their stakeholders should be positive so they can generate trust, that they eventually open up about their true thoughts and feelings. Finally, they should be good role-models and not exhibit rude and negative behaviors. They should always keep in mind that they come into the clinic settings and all eyes are on them, so they should avoid a negative image.
This humane intervention understands that the stakeholders are in need of care and concern and one way to provide it is through friendly interactions and generous sharing of advice. The PEEP volunteers try to reach as many families within their time at the health clinic. This gives them an opportunity to identify vulnerable families in need of more in-depth information, so they may be offered the PEEP Learning Together programme delivered in groups, one-on-one or in home visit or outreach work (Barlow & Coe, 2011). The children are also observed of their health status and if they can be part of the Healthy Child Programme as a health intervention.
The study interviewed 25 stakeholders including PEEP staff, managers, practitioners, health visitors, healthcare team members (nursery nurses and children’s centre managers; service users. The interview was about the Early Explorers project. The PEEP practitioners felt it was a great opportunity to reach out to health visitors in a clinic setting, as these are the hard-to-reach families who need to learn proper parent-child interactions. They need to see good modeling of play, songs, book reading, etc. Aside from the fact that they made use of the waiting time productively, they were also in the clinic because they were open to discussing health and well-being issues that the PEEP volunteers can do with them.
On the part of the health visitors, most of them appreciated the presence of PEEPs because it made their visit more pleasant and worth coming to the clinic. They learned many things from their visit not only about their own health diagnosis but also their parenting skills and child development knowledge. However, due to the free movement of the PEEP staff in the clinic, they need to be wary of their tendency to be intrusive to the management, like for example, setting up materials without the permission of the clinic manager. Their cheery personalities may also be compared to the usually serious demeanor of the clinic staff, as it is a traditional clinic.
The Early Explorers clinics is an example of multi-agency partnerships because practitioners from various disciplines congregate there with the goal of serving children and families. According to the authors, true partnership may be achieved if there is “development of shared aims and objectives, and more extensive and regular joint training to develop shared agendas, goals and philosophies” (Barlow & Coe, 2011, p. 42).
This article presents an interesting innovation in service delivery. It is an example of a dynamic way to connect with stakeholders in a way that directly benefits them. I also provides rich information on the perceptions of stakeholders which can help guide those intending to come up with a similar intervention.
Discussion of Comparative Analysis
It is heartening to know that people care enough to come up with programs to serve children and their families. They not only do this to comply with statutory mandates and policies, but because they are genuinely concerned about the welfare of young children. The two articles discussed are examples of good programs that involve partnerships. Kambouri et al. (2022) began their study with the child in mind, and used Froebelian principles to paint a picture of what parent-practitioner partnerships must consider. Services should adjust to the child’s needs and interests instead of vice versa. For example, schools may have policies, but these policies may be relaxed when children are stifled and not allowed to be their natural selves. It is the school that should welcome and accommodate children’s interests, and be flexible with all children, as they come from different backgrounds. The same can be said about their parents. School practitioners deal with parents all the time and may know too well that some can be unreasonable but others can be very cooperative. The article opens one’s eyes to the reality of parent-practitioner partnerships, and that it is not as easy as it may seem.
It is also interesting how the term ‘practitioner’ has been used for both articles, pertaining to individuals who specialize in their careers, but not limited to stereotypical roles, like teacher or nurse. This implies that anyone who has the heart and the skill to help may take part in the partnership.
Barlow & Coe’s (2011) article was also conscientiously done, beginning from how partnerships may adhere to government mandates to the introduction of a community partnership that can turn out to be a multi-agency working partnership. The service provided was very simple but very impactful because it goes direct to the beneficiary. PEEP practitioners directly communicate with parents and their children, and in these face-to-face interactions, they get immediate feedback if the service works or not. It is also easier to implement because it involves the statutory sector practitioners who have direct contacts with authorities.
Kambouri et al’s (2022) parent-practitioner partnership is on a smaller scale than Barlow & Coe’s (2011) statutory sector- volunteer sector partnership. Kambouri et al.’s partnership may be easier to form and put to action because the members are more manageable. Training workshops may be developed with their framework as a basis for creating more parent-practitioner partnerships and these can be for specific school projects or for a more general and regular home-school collaboration. It would have more direction and structure if Epstein’s parent involvement model will be included in the training and implementation of the parent-practitioner partnership program.
Barlow & Coe’s (2011) partnership is more challenging to form because of the numerous considerations and processes that needs to take place because of statutory requirements. However, over time, it gets easier to manage because of its ties to statutory personnel who can provide power and justification for the partnership to get to work. Such community/ multi-agency partnership may be expanded to reach more places, set up more Early Explorer clinics to serve more people. The PEEPs can add to the attraction of clinics. However, more than just an attraction, it serves its purpose.
More ambitious partnerships serving young children’s needs may attempt to combine both parent-practitioner partnership with statutory-volunteer sector partnership and eventually, be engaged in multi-agency partnership. This can be a pattern of growth for people who would like to serve more children and families and partner with like-minded individuals and organizations.
This research project explored partnerships that serve children in the early years setting. It aimed to answer the following research questions:
- How is partnership discussed and supported in the EYFS?
- What are benefits and challenges of partnership in early years?
- What strategies are put into place to support parents and practitioners’ partnership?
For the first question, EYFS values positive relationships and recognizes the significant role of parents in the lives of children from birth to five and beyond. It is essential that early years practitioners acknowledge the parents’ position in the growth and development of their children and forge a healthy working relationship with them for the benefit of the children under their care. Open, honest and respectful communication between parents and practitioners is important in such a partnership because both camps can bring relevant information about the child. The parents can share their own observations about their child with regards to their behaviours, attitudes, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and other pertinent details about their children that can affect their learning. The teacher or practitioner, on the other hand, can provide information on the child’s learning potentials and preferences as well as social behaviours manifested in the nursery or childcare centre. Both parent and practitioner can make important decisions about the child’s learning program to promote his or her development and learning.
The second question asks about the benefits and challenges of partnership in the early years. Both the parent in the home and the teacher in the childcare centre should be consistent in dealing with the child. For example, young children can both be dependent and independent. If in the centre, the teacher encourages children to be self-reliant but at home, the parent does everything for them, then the inconsistency can confuse children and the independent behaviours taught in school will not be retained. When parents work with their child’s teacher, they can be informed of what strategies were used in teaching their child to be more independent and it can be followed through at home. The same goes for new concepts and skills learned. Both the parent and teacher can share new learnings of the child so that a more customized plan can be created to reinforce the new concepts and skills learned.
Parents being involved in their child’s educational journey contribute to the child’s successful academic performance more than children whose parents are not involved. Epstein et al. (2002) have come up with various ways for parents to be involved such as parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community (Epstein et al., 2002). This is especially helpful during the early years as children learn that they can count on their parents to be there for them.
Challenges to the parent-practitioner partnership can include parent’s feeling of inferiority to the teacher because she may be intimidated with the fact that the teacher is more knowledgeable about child development. Teachers may also get frustrated with some parents’ non-appearance especially during parent-teacher conferences. Such conflicts may cause breakdowns in communication, or even the dissolution of the partnership. This is why communication is essential in such partnerships. As seen in Kambouri et al’s (2022) study, the characteristics of an effective parent-practitioner partnership model, as determined by the participants of this study are: being collaborative/ communicative, active, friendly, and in a good environment. It is also known as the CAFÉ model.
With regards to the third and final research question on strategies put into place to support parents and practitioners’ partnership, Epstein’s model can again be applied here. Training workshops may help strengthen such collaborations and encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s schooling. Parenting classes to educate young and new parents on proper child-rearing or Mommy-and-Me classes (e.g. Gymboree) are also available.
School partnerships can help promote positive outcomes not only for the children that parents and teachers work together for. It also cements positive and healthy interpersonal relationships between families and school personnel. Strengthening partnerships is an essential key to the fulfilment of one’s goals. All these adhere to Every Child Matters key outcomes as well as EYFS standards.
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This essay is written by the student of the Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.