Making Partnerships Work: Proposing a Model to Support Parent-Practitioner Partnerships in the Early Years

Kambouri, Maria; Wilson, Teresa; Pieridou, Myria; Flannery Quinn, Suzanne and Liu, Jie (2021). Making Partnerships Work: Proposing a Model to Support Parent-Practitioner Partnerships in the Early Years. Early Childhood Education Journal (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01181-6

Abstract

Building on Froebelian principles that highlight the importance of family and community, this study explored the importance of collaboration and communication as part of a two-way dialogue. The aim was to identify the key characteristics of a model that would encourage interest and commitment to partnerships from both parents and practitioners. The idea of such partnerships has a solid theoretical background and is supported both rhetorically and by legislation by the Department of Education. However, research has shown that practice often falls short of the ideal, due to reasons such as the managerial discourse that constructs parents as potential consumers and the challenges faced when performance is prioritised over creativity. As part of the study, we employed a mixed methods approach and encouraged parents and practitioners to work together by participating at two sessions with families and children. The sessions provided parents and practitioners with space and time to explore the issue of working in ‘partnership’. After careful consideration of ethical issues, data were collected using pre and post-session questionnaires with all participants, as well as face to face interviews with some of them. Findings indicate that both parties need to invest time and recognise that ‘effective partnership’ is a two way process which requires engagement and dialogue to be able to develop meaningful relationships of trust. The findings were used to develop the ‘CAFE' partnership model which incorporates those elements considered important to facilitate the development of partnerships between practitioners and parents. The CAFE model addresses the gap in the literature in terms of unpicking the key features of a partnership approach, as captured through the lived experience of both parents and practitioners. It also contributes to deepening the understanding of the applications of Froebelian principles in contemporary contexts and the ways in which they can encourage high quality early childhood development and education. Future research should explore how this model could be used to evaluate existing practice and guide the development of current partnership policies and approaches.

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