Working with parents in the EYFS

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All parents are unique, and sometimes, what they want from their child’s early years provider is very different to what the practitioner feels is appropriate. In light of the increased emphasis in the updated EYFS on developing strong parent partnerships, Vanessa Linehan considers how to strike a balance.

Encouraging educators and parents to work together in partnership can greatly improve a child’s life chances. This may be obvious but it’s not always straightforward – targeting ‘hard-to-reach’ parents from deprived backgrounds who are sometimes difficult to engage in their children’s education can be challenging. But additionally, there are parents who choose not to engage because they view parent partnership as another example of the over-formalisation of a child’s early years.

Perhaps it’s time for practitioners to see not only children as unique, but their parents as well.

What the government says
The updated Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) seeks to provide ‘partnership’ working between practitioners and parents. It states that key workers should build ‘relationships’ with parents, keep them up-to-date with their child’s progress, respond to observations that they share, involve them in assessments and support them to guide their child’s development at home.

The word ’relationship’ signifies the value and status of the connection between the two parties, but a true partnership is more than this. A connection can simply express the fact that both parent and practitioner care for the same child. However, a partnership describes the way in which people behave towards or regard one another. It requires mutual respect, a recognition of the importance of the role of each partner and an understanding that it is only by working together that children’s learning and development opportunities are maximised.

It’s unfortunate that the updated EYFS does not explore in more detail the type of relationship that is needed to develop the partnership that it is advocating. Elaboration would help build a picture of the sort of relationship that practitioners should be seeking to build. Instead, it is left to settings to decide what they mean by ‘partnership’ and how it should underpin practice. This inevitably means...


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