1.2 Practitioner – parent partnerships
1.2.1 The nature of partnership
Partnership: An association of two or more people as partners; a joint business.
(The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles)
Partnership can be found in many areas of life. Solicitors, accountants, doctors and dental surgeons often set up partnerships. People ‘in partnership’ own shops and department stores, such as the ‘John Lewis Partnership’.
In education, the idea of a partnership between parents and practitioners has been around for many years. In the late 1970s the Warnock Report reviewed provision for children with special educational needs in England and Wales. The report contained an influential chapter entitled ‘Parents as partners’ (CEEHCYP, 1978). Indeed, it is now in the area of special educational needs and inclusive education that partnership with parents can often be found in its most developed form. Parents of a child with complex needs usually become very knowledgeable about their child's requirements. Wolfendale (1987), writing of the rationale for involving parents in assessment, refers to parents' equivalent expertise’. There is much to suggest that practitioners become more informed professionals if they form close partnerships with parents. In fact, when children have complex needs, professionals find that they must consult with parents' specific requirements in order to understand and make provision for those needs.
The concepts associated with practitioner – parent partnership, include ‘parental participation, parental involvement parental support, parental collaboration and parental engagement. There is, however, much overlap between these terms. ‘Partnership’ has become the preferred term to describe the relationship that an early years setting aims to have with parents and the wider community. This is reflected in the day-to-day language used by practitioners, and in the various curriculum guidance documents produced by all four UK countries.
In early years care and education contexts, the notion of partnership is associated with ‘shared understanding, mutual respect and discussion’ (ACCAC, 2000, p. 9) rather than a set of roles and responsibilities for partners.
The establishment of partnership between practitioners with differing specialisms is also a key tenet in the Every Child Matters agenda (DFES 2006)