Partnering with Parents: Building quality relationships that benefit children
Partnering with Parents is an innovative practice support system designed to assist early childhood educators in their work with parents using essential and practical skills, tools and strategies.
Developed by the Parenting Research Centre (PRC) with the support of the Victorian Government, Partnering with Parents embeds evidence-based approaches to working in partnership with parents in an early childhood education and care (ECEC) service. The aim is to create an environment welcoming of and responsive to parents, and to strengthen educators’ skills and confidence to interact with parents in a way that supports their parenting.
The importance of partnerships with families
Educators are often the first port of call for a parent seeking information about their child, and can also be the first to raise a concern with a family about a child’s behaviour or development.
The relationship between parents and educators is unique, and the importance of partnering with families is reflected in international, national and state policies and standards, including the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.
However, while working with parents is a critical part of an early childhood educator’s role, research suggests many educators find this challenging. In a 2016 Parenting Research Centre survey, 98% of participating educators said they wanted training in partnering with families, specifically in how to conduct conversations with parents about the children in their care. To meet this need, Partnering with Parents has been developed as a ‘practice support system’ designed to help increase the skills and confidence of early childhood educators in their work with parents.
How training can help
Part of our PracticeWorks method, Partnering with Parents provides practical training and ‘how tos’ that are easy to incorporate into the daily rhythm of a busy early childhood educator’s activities. We can help centres determine their needs, and identify what elements of the Partnering with Parents practice support system should be implemented in the day-to-day operation of the service.
To ensure ongoing support and continuity, Partnering with Parents has been designed so that each centre nominates staff to be trained as ‘practice coaches’, who can then support other educators at their centre to implement key skills and strategies.
These key skills and strategies are embedded into three components which make up the Partnering with Parents support system, outlined in the graphic below.
How was Partnering with Parents developed?
A multi-year initiative, the development of Partnering with Parents incorporated an extensive needs analysis, program creation and a randomised control trial to test effectiveness. Throughout 2019 we evaluated Partnering with Parents by conducting a cluster randomised controlled trial with 19 Victorian services, covering a mix of metro and rural services offering long-daycare and kindergarten, or kindergarten only.
After an intervention group completed their implementation of Partnering with Parents, but before the control group had begun, we asked educators in both the intervention group and the control group questions about:
- changes in the way they interact with parents
- changes in their own skills
- changes in the skills of others at their service.
We asked parents about their relationship with educators and the communication at the service.
While the results of the multi-level modelling conducted as a part of the cRCT suggested positive improvements in both skills and confidence of educators and parent reports on relationship and communication, no significant differences were found. We interpret that this was due largely to educators and parents providing high ratings at baseline. Given reports from parents and educators do suggest high acceptability and intention to use, further investigation is required to assess whether scientifically significant change is achieved as a result of Partnering with Parents.
There is strong consensus in the sector that, while some educators are skilled in working with families, many lack confidence, particularly in the context of high and complex child and family needs, and are therefore open to, and are seeking, further training.
The ECEC sector has made significant gains in improving quality of services in recent years, and is well placed to focus efforts on supporting educators to more effectively partner with families. We suggest many ECEC services would benefit from Partnering with Parents to convert knowledge into application and thus improve partnerships with families.
For more information on the exploratory study, see Partnership with families in early childhood education. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. The final authenticated version is available online at https://bit.ly/3adSWK8.
For more information on how the cRCT was conducted, see Study Protocol, Petrovic et al. (2019).
For a full report on the results of the cRCT, see the 2019 cluster randomised controlled trial report.
A paper elucidating the experiences of educators in the cRCT when raising and responding to child-related concerns can be found in Early Childhood Education Journal.
How can services sign up?
If your service is interested in finding out more about Partnering with Parents, please contact project lead Vincent Lagioia.
Vincent Lagioia, Senior Implementation Specialist