At Ace Early Years we believe that parental engagement is vital to a successful Early Years setting. We're sure we don't need to get into why supporting parents is so important to a child's education. The more parents are engaged in the education of their children, the more likely their children are to succeed in the education system. Instead we wanted to dive straight into some of the different things that we've done to drive up parental engagement. Hopefully you'll find some ideas that you might like to use in your setting.
We should firstly say that parental engagement shouldn't be seen as an 'add-on'. It isn't something that you put effort into every so often when you realise you haven't done anything for a while. It should be part of your every day practise, planned for to ensure maximum impact. All staff in your setting need to be on board - no one can have the attitude that parents 'get in the way'. We know that everyone has an off day and sometimes there will be a parent that drives you crackers. But at Ace Early Years we like to think of parental engagement a little like customer service - and we'd rather be Waitrose' than 'Ryanair'! (Thanks to which? for helping us with this!)
We're going to post several ideas around similar themes for a few days so keep checking back! Our themes are going to cover:
Also - we're using the word parents to simplify writing these blogs. But obviously we mean anyone who has a regular involvement in looking after a child. Biological parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, child-minders - everyone should feel welcome and supported.
This one is easy. And so very hard at the same time. We're not suggesting that you should become friends with the parents in your setting. But you should certainly be friendly towards them. The parents are giving you a huge amount of trust. Many of them will be anxious, either because of their own experiences at nursery and school or because they may feel worried about leaving their little treasures. It's easy to forget that, for each of the parents, their child is the centre of their world. The most important thing. But to us, they're just another child. Aren't they?
If we give parents the impression that we don't care enough about their child, then they might not feel comfortable leaving them with us. They might not feel able to come to us with concerns or questions. They may feel less happy with getting involved with their child's learning. So be friendly towards the parents. But be perceptive. Some parents will respond well to a question about their weekend or a nice comment about their umbrella. Some parents will respond well to a comment about how well their child is doing with something in particular. Some parents will feel uncomfortable talking to you with other parents around and vice versa. Some parents will respond better to particular members of staff - don't take it personally, it's just human nature! If you can work out what each parent needs, then you can get them on board with supporting their child.
So get out there and make yourself visible. Ensure your parents know each of the staff and the staff know the parents. Welcome parents in the morning on the gate or at the door. Where it's appropriate, make yourself available for parents to chat to before and after sessions (we know this can be tricky but anything you can do to avoid seeming unapproachable and always busy is important). Speak to parents who have moved on and ask them what they found useful and what concerns they had - this way you can seemingly prevent problems and allay fears before they even arise! If you're having a parents or information meeting consider the timing of them. Could you do daytime and evening sessions? Could some staff look after the children after a session and you speak to some parents? Could you do an evening? You could say 'I've worked all day so why should I have to work late' or you could say 'I want parents to realise we value them and understand they can't attend if they're working'.
One idea that many of you already use is to offer home visits. And yes, we do 'offer' them. We don't force our way into anyone's home just to have a nosey, honest! We explain why we think they are beneficial (for example, some children are different in their settings and at home, some parents find it easier to talk about things at home) and we explain that parents can choose to have a visit or not. We normally get about a 60/70% take up. It's a great tool for setting up positive relationships with parents (and the children too - most are excited to share things with us at home and often comment on when we visited them!),
More tomorrow! How do you go about creating positive relationships with parents? Let us know! x