Guest Post: Parents and School Partnerships

Maureen Hunt, a programme leader of Achievement for All’s Early Years’ programme, discusses parents ands school partnerships in this guest post…

I was delighted to read the recent evaluation findings of the Parental Education Network (PEN), Engaging Parents Effectively Project published on the 22nd November. This report clearly outlines the benefits of working in partnership with parents to support their child’s education. It also highlights the need for staff training in this respect as partnership work with parents is complex and requires a breadth of skills and a systematic approach, in order to be effective.

There is already a significant body of evidence that points to how important it is for parents to be involved in their child’s education and every practitioner knows this to be true; yet everywhere I go I ask practitioners if they have had any training in how to develop learning partnerships with parents and so far, I have never met any who have. Considering how important it is and how it affects the long-term educational outcomes for children, isn’t it time we supported those involved in Early Years education in how to do this? After all, it is a golden opportunity when their child is young, to develop the skills and confidence to support them throughout the whole of their education, helping them to achieve their full potential.

It is for this reason that Achievement for All’s Early Years’ programme Achieving Early has a strong focus on developing learning partnerships with parents. The training we give to practitioners helps them to build respectful and effective partnerships based on working together to meet the learning needs of their child. The practitioners use an evidence based technique called Taking Time for Talk, which results in a joined-up approach between home and school centred on the development needs of the child. Having a clear understanding of the challenges some parents face and the tools to be able to confidently engage with families from all walks of life, have led to the development of successful partnerships and improved outcomes in all our Achieving Early Settings. During the pilot two key areas were measured: Communication and Language (CL), and Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED), with both showing remarkable improvements in children’s outcomes. CL assessments showed a baseline of 23% at age-related expectations. This rose to 69% by the end of the two years. PSED at age-expected levels rose from 23% to 73%.

For this to happen in all settings you need two things: trained staff who are both confident and competent in developing parent partnerships and parents who understand their role and are confident to support their child. In our Achieving Early settings 100% of practitioners reported higher levels of confidence in working with parents and 100% of parents indicated that Taking Time for Talk had been helpful in supporting their child’s learning.

As the recent winner of the Children and Young People Now Award for Early Years, I have been considering what it is that makes our Achieving Early Programme so special. The framework, the coaching, the tracking system and the training all contribute to a highly effective support package, but it is the Achieving Early approach to working with parents that really makes the difference in improving outcomes for all children, particularly those who are vulnerable to disadvantage. Knowing that working in partnership with parents is the key to better outcomes for children and investing in the right training and support to develop this, is helping Achieving Early settings to close the gap and give all children a better start.

‘There are many courses and training programmes which boast how they support settings to engage with parents of vulnerable children, this course actually does’ — Early Years Setting Manager, Coventry

‘[The Achieving Early programme] helped me to support my child’s learning. It’s given me ideas of things to do at home.’ — Parent


Maureen Hunt — Early Years Lead, Achievement for All


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