Back in September, the revised Development Matters was published, and with it, came a new concept – the seven key features of effective practice. Early Childhood Consultant, Sue Asquith, takes a detailed look at number 7 on the list – Partnerships with Parents.
The amount of information we get in the Early Years can be overwhelming, especially when new guidelines are introduced. With that in mind, Sue’s broken down this first key feature into digestible chunks that’ll help you understand what the points are really trying to say.
Starting with each of the five bullet points from the new Development Matters, Sue is going to explain each of them in depth, before offering concrete examples on how they might apply to your setting.
‘It is important for parents and early years settings to have a strong and respectful partnership. This sets the scene for children to thrive in the early years.’
‘Positive relationships’ is one of the underpinning principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Developing positive and respectful partnerships with parents or main carers, right from the start, is essential to support children’s physical and emotional well-being. Consider how you communicate with parents and how often, by asking yourself:
‘This includes listening regularly to parents and giving parents clear information about their children’s progress.’
Communication between early years settings and parents has always been a vital part of effective practice.
It’s fair to say that effective two-way communication can be a challenge, and sharing information can be time consuming. Communication therefore needs to be as effective as it can possibly be in order to work.
Here are a few tips for you to evaluate your current communication, and some resources to better it:
Whilst COVID has brought lots of extra challenges, it has also brought some amazing examples of how early years settings and schools have adjusted. Doorstep drop offs, online communication and virtual parents’ evenings are just some examples of how effective communication is in helping overcome difficulties together!
‘The help that parents give their children at home has a very significant impact on their learning.’
Stressing to parents that pregnancy to age five is the most pivotal period for health and happiness in adulthood is therefore extremely important. The EYFS places a duty on early years settings to work with parents to help them extend their child’s learning at home.
My colleague is a great example of how to give parents this helping hand. She created an ‘Under 5s’ group for parents pre-pandemic, where parents were able to connect and interact with their children and other adults simultaneously.
This group became a real lifeline during lockdown, as it helped parents with feelings of loneliness and isolation, all the while connecting them to their own children and encouraging interaction. All sessions are recorded to give parents activities to do with their child at a later date, and the group organiser drops off craft-packs for parents to use too!
If that kind of group is not feasible, here are some alternatives:
‘Some children get much less support for their learning at home than others. By knowing and understanding all the children and their families, settings can offer extra help to those who need it most.’
The recent Royal Foundation research findings about the Early Years included how ‘feeling judged can make a bad situation worse, with seven out of every 10 parents feeling judged by others, and almost half (48%) saying this negatively affected their mental health’. Loneliness was also highlighted.
During my partnership with children’s centres, parents were encouraged to engage with sessions such as ‘Stay and Play’ and ‘Babies into Books’. Parents and staff built respectful and trusting relationships, and families met and formed friendships with other families. We modelled ways to support attachment, play, communication, language and physical development throughout early childhood. Their confidence and knowledge grew immensely.
We need to be mindful of a few things here:
It’s important for Early Years practitioners to acknowledge these points, and identify which families may need a helping hand. Some parents just need reassurance, and the chance to ask questions without external judgement.
Many of the children’s centres have closed and access to ante and postnatal classes and other support is patchy, but there is a lot that Early Years practitioners can do to help. For example, discussing their child’s development and planning together how their next steps can be achieved. An ‘open door policy’ for parents to contact their key person with any questions, this may mean adjusting and offering parents the options to ask questions via a messaging app or a video call.
‘It is important to encourage all parents to chat, play and read with their children.’
One of the biggest indicators of children’s future attainment is their levels of communication and vocabulary in early childhood.
In 2003, Hart and Risley wrote about the ‘word gap’. ‘The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3’, reported that children in different socio-economic groups display dramatic differences in their vocabularies at just 18 months. By 3 years old, this could result in as many as 30 million words! On average, this could mean that some children are 18 months behind their peers.
There was a post on social media recently stating “there’s no app to replace your lap” and I cannot put it any better! Modern life, TV, screens, expensive equipment and toys have sadly taken over some of the more traditional ways of interacting and learning opportunities.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.