Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

There is a traditional African proverb that suggests “It takes a village to raise a child”. Modern research supports that what children need is for families, educators and communities to collectively support their healthy development and well being.

Recognising this, the approved learning frameworks[1] identify as a learning outcome that children should have opportunities to connect with and contribute to their world. Children’s sense of identity develops through connections in their family, community, culture and environment.

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The National Quality Standard (NQS) goes beyond simply requiring parent involvement, instead encouraging respectful, supportive, collaborative relationships with families and communities. Quality Area 6 – Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities focuses on educators, families and communities uniting around a shared vision for children and working together to achieve goals.

This Quality Area promotes respectful supportive relationships with families (NQS Standard 6.1), support for families in their parenting role and their values and beliefs about child rearing (NQS Standard 6.2) and collaboration with other organisations and service providers to enhance children’s learning and wellbeing (NQS Standard 6.3).

Secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships

When educators establish respectful and caring relationships with children and families, they are able to work together to construct curriculum and learning experiences relevant to children in their local context. These experiences gradually expand children’s knowledge and understanding of the world.[2]

Collaborative relationships are built in an environment of mutual respect, trust and honesty, established through effective communication and strengthening each other to feel capable and empowered.

The Connections resource developed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health offers practical strategies for communication with families including dealing with sensitive issues.

Partnerships

The approved learning frameworks identify that learning outcomes are most likely to be achieved when educators work in partnership with families and communities.

In genuine partnerships, families and early childhood educators:

  • value each other’s knowledge of each child
  • value each other’s contributions to and roles in each child’s life
  • trust each other
  • communicate freely and respectfully with each other
  • share insights and perspectives about each child
  • engage in shared decision-making. [3]

In respectful partnerships, educators also support parents in their parenting role. They may for example source and share information from reputable sources with parents. For example, in response to a parent enquiry, educators and parents may discuss safe sleeping at home, drawing on and referring to reputable sources of information such as the SIDS and Kids resources.

High expectations and equity

The learning frameworks note that educators who are committed to equity believe in all children’s capacities to succeed, regardless of diverse circumstances and abilities.[4] Collaborative relationships and the use of critical reflection allow educators to implement programs that provide equal opportunities for all children to achieve learning outcomes.

As part of Quality Area 1: Educational Program and Practice each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.

The NQS requires educators to adapt their curriculum to support each individual child including cultural factors which contribute to who they are, how they learn and how they respond. The experiences, interactions and routines each child engages in need to be relevant to them, respectful of their background and recognise and build on their current interests and abilities.

Respect for diversity

The approved learning frameworks stress the value of demonstrating respect for diversity and promoting cultural competence within education and care services.

To support individual children, educators need to learn about each child’s background and respect and honour family histories, cultures, languages, traditions, child rearing practices and lifestyle choices.

While feedback from families is important educators also need to be mindful and respectful of individual contexts and diversity. We need to reflect and consider a range of ways to appropriately, respectfully and realistically involve families, many of whom are balancing family, work and other responsibilities.

Community involvement, such as drawing on the expertise of those belonging to a cultural group or inviting culturally relevant guests to the service may also build a respect for diversity and cultural competence.

Ongoing learning and reflective practice

The development of genuine, respectful partnership relationships requires educators to seek information or strategies from families or professionals to enhance their pedagogy and curriculum.

Thinking that there is only one right way and not reflecting on practice can mean that opportunities are lost for children’s learning or that they can be disadvantaged by it. Critical reflection involves thinking about all aspects of experiences and considering different perspectives. For example it is important for educators to seek to understand the perspective of the parent as well as reflect on their own pedagogy, feelings, values and beliefs when addressing parental concerns to ensure fair, equitable and respectful outcomes.

The Connections resource shares further insight into considering different perspectives.

With end of year approaching, it’s a good time for educators to consider how end-of-year and new-year celebrations offer opportunities to engage in genuine partnership relationships with families and communities that foster respect for diversity and contribute to positive learning outcomes for children.

Resources

Child Australia. Welcoming Conversations with Culturally and Linguistically diverse families An Educators Guide. Offers practical advice for collaboration with culturally and linguistically diverse families.

Community Child Care. Self-Guided Learning Package, Discussing Sensitive Issues- A Proactive Approach to Communicating with Families. This resource is a practical learning guide to assist educators in communicating effectively with parents.

Connections. A resource for educators to support children’s mental health and wellbeing

Early Childhood Australia. Talking about practice e-learning video: Partnerships with Families

Family Worker Training and Development Programme. Diversity in Practice Resource Kit. A resource kit for early childhood services working with children and families from migrant and refugee backgrounds in the Nepean area

Guide to the National Quality Standard. Standard 6.1. Pages 142- 152

Kidsmatter: Families. KidsMatter provides families with a range of information sheets to help them support children’s mental health and wellbeing, and to recognise if and when professional help is needed.

Linking Together for Aboriginal Children provides educators with advice, information and tips on how to effectively collaborate with the Aboriginal community in their area.

NAPCAN Brochures. Brochures to support parents in their role and prevent child abuse.

Raising Children Network. This website is a useful to share with parents to support them in their parenting role.

SIDS and Kids Website. This website provides useful information on safe sleeping.

References 

[1] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’ and My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia’

[2] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, Early childhood Pedagogy, pp. 11.

[3] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, Principles, pp. 12 and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2011) ‘My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia’, Principles, pp. 10.

[4] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, Principles, pp. 12 and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2011) ‘My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia’, Principles, pp. 11.

This post was originally published on ACECQA’s blog We Hear You.

ACECQA

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) oversees the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and works with the state and territory regulatory authorities to implement and administer the NQF. Rhonda Livingstone is National Education Leader at the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). Rhonda provides national leadership, policy advice and recommendations on pedagogy and educational program and practice to enhance learning and development of children attending education and care services across Australia. Rhonda has more than 20 years’ experience in the early childhood sector, including working as a centre director, sessional academic and training coordinator, in government contributing to the development of national policy and legislation, and was a part of working groups to develop standards and resources for the NQF. Having worked as both a service provider and assessor, Rhonda has a keen interest in contributing to the discussion about streamlining processes to minimise burden and maintaining a focus on ensuring quality outcomes for children and families.

2 thoughts on “Collaborative partnerships with families and communities”

    Yarrow Andrew says:

    This didn’t add anything to my understanding of partnerships. It seemed to be a whole lot of ‘idealistic’ claims about partnerships without any sense of whether genuine partnerships can and do exist in our services. As someone who thinks about the issue of social class in early childhood, it leaves many unanswered questions. What is ‘realistic’ involvement of families? Does this mean not trying to engage with difficult (i.e., disadvantaged) families, and only engaging with those families who are ‘nice’ or ‘easy to talk to’?
    These are not easy questions for us to answer because we do not want, as teachers, to feel that our own values and prejudices may be affecting the children in our care, but they inevitably will.
    Also, when we have children with difficult behaviours, it is easy for families to blame the behaviour on the child’s educators, and for them to blame the family, without anyone sitting down and working together at all. None of these difficulties seem to be acknowledged in this article.

    Bronwyn Toft says:

    ..umm yes was trying to put to understandable language but am just going to ‘ditto’ Yarrow Andrew, my feelings are the same Got excited to read but then just felt let down my queries & confusion has not been eased. 🙁

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