3.5 Practitioners providing courses for parents
A well-known way of increasing goodwill, understanding, and a sense of partnership between practitioners and parents is through the provision of courses and workshops. These can take many forms, but essentially they involve inviting parents to a setting to:
give them information;
explain what their children do in the setting;
provide information about their children;
help them to be more effective supporters of their children's learning;
increase their confidence in approaching practitioners with queries and suggestions.
offer them skills and knowledge that may be useful to them.
Long-established parent-focused provision, like the above, is now being consolidated and enhanced by the parenting support element of the 'core offer' that schools and children's centres must give to parents.
'It's beautiful to be a Querk'
A six-week 'Querks' course was provided for parents from St Leonards Nursery, East Kilbride, Scotland. Three parents, Mhairi Lloyd, Marie English and Clare McNeill, describe what it involved.
Case study: The first week was an introduction session for both parents and the children as no one knew what Querks were. A large story book was opened and the story of the Querks was read out, something which the children thoroughly enjoyed. The story follows four Querks as they go to the four corners of the world to try to find other Querks. On their travels they find other animals: one finds a rabbit, one finds a moose, one finds a parrot and the other finds a lion. All four of the Querks try to be the animal that they have met; they dress up as the animal and they try to act like the animal. Ultimately, all four of the Querks decide that they aren't very good at being any other animals, and that they are quite happy being Querks. When the story was finished, the large chest was opened and the 'real' Querks were shown to the children. They were then given the opportunity to dress the Querks up in the outfits from the story. The children then had a 'Querks suitcase' to take home. This contained a passport, which was stamped each week when the children came along to the sessions, information sheets for the tasks, which were given out each week, glue sticks, crayons, and various types of paper.
In Week 1, the children made an Indian flag which was to be brought the next week, as India was the country which the children would be travelling to. In Week 2, a room was decorated and traditional Indian music was played. The children went to four different tables (in rotation). The first was a tasting table, which gave the children an insight into the typical foods of the country. The second table was Querks' table, where the children could play with the Querks and dress them up. The third was an arts and crafts table, where the children could draw animals form the appropriate country, and also get involved with craftwork. The fourth table was a cultural table, which allowed the children to experience musical instruments from the country as well as artefacts.
Each subsequent week the children visited another country on another continent - South America, Australia and Africa.
The whole programme was very popular with children and parents. The children gained an interest in the wider world of other countries and cultures. They also undertook their homework tasks with enthusiasm, and parents, having attended the Querks programme, were able to provide very meaningful home support for their children's learning.
Provision of courses for parents is only a part of the story since, for reasons you have already considered, not all parents are able to make this kind of commitment. The more effective programmes have elements where practitioners work on a one-to-one basis with parents. An example at the time of preparing this module is.
Family workshops at the Tate Modern
Roger Hancock et al (2010) describe the family workshops that Tate Modern runs for children from birth to 3 years. Although public galleries welcome a range of audiences, including children, it is not usual to find programmes specifically aimed at under threes, including babies, but this is becoming more common as both local and national initiatives in all of the UK countries emphasise cultural and creative learning.
Meeting the needs of very young children in a prominent public gallery could be seen as a risky thing to do. However, Tate Modern believes that the inclusion of parents as partners can greatly reduce such risks, and actually increase the value of the workshops for the children. The workshop leaders imaginatively provide learning experiences for both children and parents. This combination of practitioners' professional knowledge and parents' understanding of the needs of their children is a very powerful mix of expertise.
Maybe you already create opportunities in your setting for parents to make such a contribution to your work with the children. Or perhaps you can envisage how you might encourage this form of reciprocal partnership.
One definition of partnership is the idea that it is 'a joint business'. You will next consider a partnership initiative in which parents and practitioners act both jointly and interdependently.
Article on the role of the bilingual education assistant in working with parents with little confidence.
Activity 5 Increasing parents' confidence
In Article 1 (above), Sheila Karran provides examples of three types of parent courses:
a ‘Parents and learning’ course for Sylheti-speaking parents with children in nursery and reception classes;
an arrangement whereby Mirpuri-speaking parents and grandparents are invited into a nursery to participate in children's activities;
family learning sessions in a nursery, which involve parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and younger siblings.
Please read Karran's article, taking particular note of the role of the bilingual assistant, and the benefits – for parents, children and practitioners – that stem from the initiatives described. Make notes in your notebook.
Bilingual assistants play an essential ‘intermediary’ role in terms of linking with parents and helping them feel sufficiently confident to attend courses and to enter an early years setting. In the examples described, the bilingual assistants are mainly paid employees. However, in settings where there are no such posts to provide support, volunteer bilingual parents may sometimes be recruited.
The chapter highlights some important benefits of running parent groups. You may, for instance, have noted the following:
Parents are able to benefit from an increase in their personal confidence. They can feel more able to support their children's learning, and to be more comfortable about visiting and spending time in their children's setting. Parents also stand to gain from having their learning accredited. This might lead to employment within an early years setting, for example, or the decision to enrol for a course at an adult education college. Providing support for parents from minority ethnic communities who lack confidence in speaking English may help them to feel less isolated and, importantly, may foster race relations. An issue raised by Karran's chapter, however, is the need to make sure that all parents - from both majority and minority ethnic groups – feel they are equally valued and provided for.
Children can gain much from practitioner – parent contact. This includes the increased ability of their parents to help them, the knowledge that significant adults in their life want to work together and understand each other's views, and the way in which home and setting are brought together with the potential of influencing and learning from each other.
Practitioners are put in touch with parents' understandings and skills, and their attitudes to education. Table 1, for instance, is revealing of some cultural differences with regard to education practices. There is a need for dialogue to establish a common approach, or children could be confused. Practitioners may feel more supported and appreciated if parents become more informed about the work and aims of an early years setting.