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Involving Parents


Guest Candy
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I'm wondering if anyone out there can help me.

 

Last term I ran a course titled "Invovling Parents in Their Children's Learning" for Early Years practitioners. The course went very well and people went away with lots of ideas on to get parents more involved in their settings, and also with two important messages.

 

First, that by involving parents you are actually being twice as effective because you are enlisting the efforts of their first teachers (and most significant people in their lives). And secondly, that parents are not a homogenous group, and that no one system is going to work with every parent. As practitioners we need to be as flexible with families as we try to be with the children in our care.

 

At the end of the session however, a pre-school supervisor stayed behind and said that although she believed all the messages on the course, she was finding it difficult to make the links with the parents of the children in her setting as most of them saw her as a "cheap child-minding service". After I snapped out of my shock (I suppose being someone who has always been involved teaching young children, I never really imagined people seeing pre-schools in that way--niave or what?) we discussed ways she might try to raise her pre-school's status in the eyes of her parents (e.g. Inviting the Headteachers from the local schools to give a talk about the importance of the first year of the Foundation Stage, asking the local librarian to give a talk on pre-reading skills etc.)

 

I was wondering are there any pre-school practitioners out there in similar situations? If there are, how do you tackle this problem? I will be seeing this woman again this term and it would be nice to point her to this website in answer to her troubles.

 

Thanks

Candy

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Dear Candy,

Well, believe you me there are many parents who see pre schools as a form of cheap childcare! However, there are just as many parents who really do believe in the pre school system as having a benefit to their children. In fact so much so that they want their child to read and write prolifically before they attend school!!

 

This week we are giving a presentation to the parents of both our Carer and Toddler Group and playgroup parents on The Foundation Stage, profiles, Observation and Assessment, record keeping etc. This will be a starting point for future presentations on other areas that the parents may want and I have prepared handouts for all those who attend and those who cannot on the benefits of "play" and the Stages of Development, emergent writing and maths etc.. When I gave the notes to the Chair (we are a committee run playgroup) it was apparent that she was very unaware of the stages of development especially in their relationship to the type of play the children encounter and the learning that takes place during this time - and why should she - but we really need to enlighten and impart some of the knowledge we have gleaned during our training. Just how many times have we heard "oh has he only played with the cars"!! They were all really positive about the presentation and I hope to see a good number of faces at the meeting which we have scheduled immediately after our playgroup session with all staff coming in to help look after the children who are bringing in a packed lunch. I shall also be touching on Birth to Three Matters - I have quickly gone through the CD, which I must say looks to be a fantastic resource, full of really interesting stuff - perhaps they could produce something like this for the Foundation Stage. I am sure there will lots of questions they will want to ask as a result of this - I just hope that I can answer them?

 

If successul then we are planning to do them more often. By giving them a brief outline in the presentation hopefully those who are interested will then look to the handouts for further information.

 

We are visited by the Heads of our local schools normally in June and we also visit some of the schools that our children go to and meet the teachers. However, I doubt very much whether they would have the time to give a presentation but might be worth asking.

 

However, as we run a toddler group for our 2-3 year olds prior to their attending the playgroup - this is often the best way of imparting and sharing information with parents in an informal way. My parents are also very active on the committee and we all see each other as equals which helps. In fact there is a fair amount of socialising - Xmas dinners, quiz nights etc lunch and picnics during the summer, Body Shop parties etc. that goes on too which is another way in which healthy discussion takes place and knowledge on both sides imparted. Several of our ex Mum's still regularly pop in to see us and their children have been gone for four years! Organised outings where one of the parents attend is another way in which parents feel more comfortable and able to discuss issues in a way they do not at the group. I will let you know how it goes? The key is to have knowledgeable and approachable friendly staff who welcome all parents/carers into the group.

Sorry to have rambled on - must be the fact that I have not been studying and writing assignments for a while - begin back next week.

Wish me luck and I will report back.

Nikki

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I work in aschool nursery and also find that many parents see us as a 'free' child care, often expecting to drop their children off early, being late to collect them, moaning that their child cant stay all day yet beacuse they are not ready to. (we are the only full time nursery in the area so have a waiting list). But that aside, and many are not like that, I think that the time investing in home visits is the best way of getting parents involved. It was through doing these, that I learnt so much about parents that I otherwise would not have done. For example, parents are more open about their nerves with regard to returing to the school environment, where some have never entered since they left school themselves; some were school refusers, or felt that the school system let them down, or were bullied. I have met many parents who went to school her but who admit to not being able to read or write. (this often explains why letters appear to be ignored). These fears are genuine, so they feel they have nothing to offer, and just want better for their children than they had themselves. We then build on the home visists and have 'inspire' workshops where the parenst attend with their child and we do an activity together (eg we make a game which they can then take home and play at home.)These are very popular, although time consuming to oragansie, and the parents always ask for more.

We havent cracked the fundraiaing at this school, but then half of me always says that if were properley funded, we would not have to spend our time fundraising every time we wanted to replace worn stock (books are my big soap box at the mo).

 

I also work with a lot of children who are EAL, the parents speak no English at all, and many of the mums especially never went to school themselves. School is therefore very alien to them. When we do workshops, we provide translators, otherwise they would not come, and we try to send letters home in several languages, although many of our parents do not read their own language.

I think when you start to unpick where you parents are coming from, it puts you in a better position to work out what to do to get their support. Just be aware that its not all lack of interest but a whole range of other things at play.

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Thank you Nicki and Mundhia,

 

I was really nice to hear that some of the things I believe so strongly in were echoed in your responses.

 

I agree that home visits are the best way to begin the initial relationship with parents. I used to do them regularly when I worked in Hampshire, but the practice is varied in West Sussex. Basically some settings do and some don't really acknowledge it's value yet. (I emphasise yet!) I know it certainly gave me a perspective on how the family saw school and education as a whole that I would not have had access to if I didn't home visit. I think it also let parents see me as a human being and not just their teacher (or according to the children the "the lady who lives in the home corner").

 

And this is where your comments Nicki were so relevant. Maybe parents need to stop seeing us as an "institution" responsible for the education of their children, but as friends and colleagues who share that responsibility with them. Social events on the surface may seem frivilous, but if parents come away seeing me as a person who also wants the best for their child, and someone who is interested in listening to their opinions pehaps this is the beginning of a relation of mutual respect and trust.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi,

 

I know that this probably will go un-noticed but the problem I have with building partenerships with parents is hampered by school rules.

I run a small rural LEA nursery from within a primary school and parents are encouraged not to enter the building. All the children have to line up outside, this includes the nursery, and then file into the building with the staff. Only if it is very cold or raining can they come straight in with their parents.

At the end of the session the children are taken to the playground and I unlock the gates for the parents to come in and collect their children. This is the only time I get to talk to the parents!!! The school is supposed to have an "open door " policy but it's always locked!!!

I know this is for security reasons and have now got the go ahead to make home visits. Has anyone got any ideas on how I can further parent contact.

I do write a weekly news letter but would like the parents to come in and see all the lovely displays and photographs in the nursery. The nursery can only be accessed from within the school, which raises another batch of problems, parental contact is minimal at present. Help Please!!!!

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Hi,

although I hate to say this ,I think you've got to solve this problem by pointing out to your Head etc how important the role of the parent is and the emphasis that is placed on this in both the Curriculum doc. & the profile.

 

Can you not try and introduce a once a week more open policy for children to show parents around etc. Perhaps you will need to open your door earlier. How about an open morning/session at regular intervals.

 

we used to have this regime in our school but fortunately it has died a death, as we have tried to encourage parents to bring their children more punctually.

 

What do the parents think about this or do they accept it? What do your neighbouring schools do?

As a parent I know I would have wanted more contact than you describe & I know that my children found the parting very difficult in a similar situation.

It was always easier to say goodbye when I had seen them into the classroom rather than left them in a line!!( we were always welcome in the school at the end of the day ).

 

Susan

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Sklenar, hi there. I agree with Susan that yoiu need to impress upon the Head how important parental contact is. Point out that it is great that you have the go ahead to do home visits and that you would like to build on that especially when the children first start. You cant expect parents to leave their children in the playground in their first few weeks. Try asking your Head if you can do talks or workshops which will being the parents, even if it appears formal, its a way of getting them in that your Head may approve of.

Is there a reason you Head doesn't like it-is it just because you have to go through the school to get to the nursery? Does that mean that when the children line up, they have to trapse through the school?

Let us know what the Head has to say and good luck

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