“Be honest and open. Give your time.” —Words of wisdom from progressive nursery professionals on parental engagement
Connect Childcare’s latest survey What does parental engagement best practice look like? A guide for progressive nursery managers was packed with facts and figures on how nurseries and families communicate in 2023.
Our aim was to provide insight and inspiration to help owners and managers foster success in this sometimes tricky operational area.
Among the 1,300 individual answers to a dozen questions there were many words of wisdom from the 107 experienced UK early years professionals who took part in our survey.
Here, we present some of the best, in response to our question: ‘What are your tips for nurturing great parent partnerships?’
What participants had to say on this topic was wide-ranging, though one clear theme was that truthfulness — when paired with tact — is very important. Practitioners should also show confidence, sharing the good and not so good. One respondent advised: “Always be honest about a child’s development but sandwich negatives with positives.”
Lynn Davies at Elephant Park, part of Tigers Childcare, said: “I think the parents need to work with the key workers if they have any concerns for their child. They need to work together if they think their child needs more support, or a little more help.”
The need for respect and understanding from all sides also featured strongly in people’s advice.
Childminder Clare Duval, of Clares House Childcare, said: “Actually getting to know the whole family and really talking to parents is my most important tip.” Another respondent added: “Relationships are so important, from the first home visit. We value our parents and work with them. They are their child’s first educator.”
Overall, our knowledgeable sample agreed that regular, honest, proactive, and open dialogue is the foundation to a child achieving the best possible outcomes from their early years setting. Avoiding making assumptions can also be key. “Ask parents how you can support them,” said one person. Another suggested: “Spend time getting to know the families.”
In considering how to kickstart fruitful dialogue, one manager stated: “We recommend having opportunities for parents to engage with children and staff within the setting.” They suggested outlining activities and ideas for parents to try at home, such as monthly challenges for parents and children to complete together.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind the many variables at play — who you are conversing with, what you are talking about, and how wide-ranging situations may require a variety of strategies. Manager at Brook Farm Children’s Nursery, Heidi Wright, said: “It’s important to communicate regularly, in as many ways as possible, to capture all parents.”
Similarly, Elaine Martin, owner of Hoppers Ltd, advised: “There is no one way to communicate with parents. The subject matter, and the families involved, need different approaches. Be honest and open. Give your time. Being present and seen by parents makes you real. Chat about the everyday stuff so that they feel comfortable talking to you.”
If you’re inspired by this insight, head over to our blog for many more resources for early years professionals, on a range of topics.
Parental Engagement: A Guide for Progressive Nursery Managers
To discover more about what parental engagement best practice looks like, download our free and dedicated guide on the subject.