Working collaboratively with parents is essential to ensuring a positive experience for children throughout the early years. Parents hold key information and have a critical role to play in their children’s education and have unique strengths, knowledge and experience to contribute to the shared view of a child’s needs and the best way of supporting them. All professionals need to actively seek to work with parents and value the unique contribution they make.
All those working with young children should be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early. Parents know their children best, so all practitioners need to listen to and understand when parents express concerns about their child’s development (SEND Code of Practice 2014 page 79 section 5.5).
Partnership encourages parents to be closely involved in their children’s learning and also allows access to services that can help to support the whole family. It is essential that early years practitioners actively seek to work with parents right from the start. Participation suggests a partnership of equals – practitioners are experts in children and childcare but parents are experts when it comes to their own children.
This is particularly important where a child has a special educational need. The SEND Code of Practice (2014) highlights the importance of having regard for the views, wishes and feelings of the child’s parents and the importance of full participation in any decisions that are made.
Positive relationships are central to partnership working. Clear and honest communication is needed, within a framework of mutual trust and respect. There should be no assumption about what parents can or cannot do to support their child’s learning. It is worth being mindful that lack of involvement may be due to any number of factors, including fear, lack of confidence or awareness, so it is important to find ways to include parents in as many different ways as possible.
Discussions around collecting information and supporting children when they first start in a setting (as well as transferring from settings) are included within the Settling in and Transitions sections of the SEN Toolkit. It is vital that at these stages, parents are fully involved. This also includes detailing and promoting the strengths of their child - not just the difficult moments.
Some parents may need extra support, feeling initially burdened by the thought of their child being ‘different’. Systems should be put in place to support families initially and throughout their time at each setting.
This could include: