Parents as partners
Parents as partners

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Parents as partners

4 A framework for understanding partnership

4.1 Five dimensions to parental involvement

Over the years, writers have put forward models, frameworks and typologies for understanding the theoretical and practical dimensions of partnership. The curriculum guidance documents produced respectively for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each contain guidance on how best to achieve a partnership with parents through practical means.

Suggestions for practice are certainly helpful to practitioners, but, it is also important to have a wider sense of the scope of partnership and the many practical ways in which it can be expressed. Partnership practice tends to be formulated by professionals – by policy writers, early years specialists, educational theorists and practitioners – but rarely by parents themselves. So it is important to have a conception of partnership that goes beyond what professionals might feel is appropriate; a vision that leaves some space for creative and unexpected ideas from parents and children.

Some time ago, Gillian Pugh and Erica De'Ath studied 130 nurseries, early years groups and centres. They came up with a framework to help practitioners and parents think widely about partnership (Pugh and De'Ath, 1989). They identified the following five dimensions to parental involvement in Table 1.

Table 1 Five dimensions to parental involvement

Non-participation Parents are not involved in their children's learning
Active There are ‘active’ non-participants who decide not to be involved. They may be happy with what's on offer, or very busy at work, or want time away from their children. Vincent (1996) called these ‘detached parents’.
Passive There are also passive’ non-participants who would like to be involved, but may lack the confidence to do this, or may be unhappy with the form of partnership offered. Vincent (1996) called these ‘independent parents’.
2 Support Parents support a setting ‘from the outside’
These parents become involved but only when invited, for example by attending events or providing money for learning resources.
3 Participation Parents participate in a setting ‘from within’
Parents as helpers These parents help in ways such as providing assistance on outings, supporting children's learning in the setting, or running a toy library.
Parents as learners These parents attend workshops and parent education sessions. These parents participate in parent forums, such as those in privately owned or corporate settings where there is no board of trustees, or parents' committee, as a place where parents can discuss and interact with setting managers.
4 Partnership Parents are involved in a working relationship with practitioners
These parents' involvement is characterised by a shared sense of purpose and mutual respect.
For example, parents
  • have equal access to information and records;
  • Share in the diagnosis and assessment of their children;
  • share in the selection of practitioners;
  • and they are encouraged to become practitioners.
5 Control Parents determine and implement decisions
These parents are ultimately responsible and accountable for the provision of the setting and have the same responsibility and control as governors in the school, although few would take operational control, any more than school governors take on day-to-day management of a school.
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