Parent Involvement… how to inspire!
Out in China, helping develop a new setting open and use the EYFS curriculum, I am continually challenged. Especially, around how parents should be encouraged to be involved as one of the EYFS principles.
‘No, it is not ok for parents to not enter the nursery’,
‘No, it is not ok to do all communication via ‘Wechat’ (similar to Whatsapp)’ and
‘No, it is not ok for parents to collect their child from outside the building’!
(This was written pre-covid times and of course, we have had to adapt in this very manner – making it even more important for the bonds between parents and your setting to be rock solid!)
It soon becomes very clear that in China, they want the child to be happy, but have a low expectation of learning opportunities to be provided. However, in my experience, China is very progressive with IT and embrace technology often beyond my own understanding. They are keen to use all our software applications, especially the EYFS software for providers, nursery administration software and the ‘connecting’ spark@HOME version for parent participation with the EYFS curriculum. They totally get it and have an immediate understanding; the gains in non-paper operations and using software to embrace new ways of working and to add efficiency.
BUT – although the parents who are choosing the new nursery are those who want something refreshingly different in comparison to what is currently available, one parent questioned (the one I always dread!) if parents will have time?
How many times have I heard this!!!
Here in the UK, this is a frequent exasperation of EYFS Practitioners and Managers (this was the first in China although probably not the last).
I explained honestly how it is quick and easy. How once used to the software, parents enjoy it and how it becomes part of their routine. Parents also can use the suggested Next Steps to help the child achieve what they could be learning next. They may plan for these and/or will notice developments and successes, and enjoy making those observations. The software rewards the parent as they make recordings and they are hooked.
However, I am aware that some families don’t get that far to ‘be hooked’. In my own nurseries, there are families that ‘opt out’ or maybe there is another reason. If they don’t latch on at the beginning then they rarely do. For the caring practitioner, it is equally frustrating as there is less information to use in planning to meet the child’s needs.
So how can the practitioner help the parent embrace the role in helping their child?
What can be done, to make a partnership and enable the setting to help the child further?
On the long flight home – this continued to bother me … and these were my thoughts:
Do we really think parents don’t care about their children?
Do they not care about their child’s cleanliness, happiness and well-being?
Of course, they do!
Whose fault is it when a parent doesn’t get involved?
Is it really the parents… is it really the lack of time… or is it a lack of understanding?
We had a staff meeting at the nursery. I conveyed the conversation I had with this parent.
Believing passionately in children’s EYFS learning and development and parent involvement being of up-most importance for the child to gain their full potential… how can we get them to SEE their role?
I then conveyed my resolution I found on the plane. Not necessarily THE answer, but maybe my writing will be at least food for thought and hopefully ideas for action!
We know generally parents ensure their child is washed and dressed – they give time to ensure this happens. They choose a nursery/pre-school where they expect their child to be happy once settled in. They rely on the setting to ensure their child is well looked after while out of their own care, and they also have an expectation that they will learn something (this is less important to the Chinese family). Generally, parents do this instinctively, as their parents probably did for them.
Did their parents get involved in their learning and development? In the Early Years?
Probably not, after all the original EYFS didn’t arrive until May 2000 and the role of the parent was accentuated subsequently in the revised EYFS in September 2012 with many more updates since. Many practitioners, although noting the extra emphasis and understanding the theory, may not know how, or feel confident to actively promote and encourage parent participation.
Some may feel threatened. Some may feel inadequate.
Some may not understand the responsibility.
80-90% of a child’s adult’s brain is formed by a child’s fourth birthday.
Is this as important as washing and dressing? Do we convey to parents about brain development?
So, in our nurseries from September 2015, we expected new families to attend a parents’ meeting or parents’ evening together where there is more than one starting together. This occurs within the first three weeks of their first day and we offer it out to all parents who want to find out more about the software too. We explain how important it is to make time and how the spark@HOME software will support them and make it quick and easy. Basically, we will be making it not just an expectation but by supporting them we will enable them (as they are so busy) to get to grips with it together and so (hopefully) making the foremost expectation, compulsory.