Educator partnerships with parents and families with a focus on the early years

Fay Hadley, Elizabeth Rouse

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Parental involvement, engagement, and partnerships within the early years have become key policy directions in many countries in recent years (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article *Family Policy and Its Relation to Early Childhood [obo-9780199756810-0105]*). Since the early 2000s there has been a global push to include guidelines for educators that focus on the engagement and enactment of partnerships with families, especially in the early years. However, the family-educator partnership literature is varied, does not reach consensus on what is meant by `partnership', and fails to provide a clear definition of parent-family partnerships in early years’ settings. This lack of a clear definition and the interchangeability of terms used to describe the phenomena creates ambiguity of what authentic partnerships are and often culminates in a deficit approach to the discussion. For example who is visible/invisible, and often judging parents and families on their level of involvement rather than on how the educational setting may be contributing to this sense of disconnect. This article will draw on a range of recent international literature which contests and challenges existing paradigms of family-educator partnerships in the early years. It aims to create a space where those working with parents and families of young children can move beyond the position that partnerships, as determined by a schoolcentric and neoliberal discourse, are only effective when the ‘visible’ is considered. In fact, more recent research has suggested that it is what parents and families do in the home that has the greatest impact on children’s achievement rather than the visible involvement in the early years setting (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article *Relationships across Schools, Families, and Communities Supporting Learners [obo-9780199756810-0232]*). Through exploring a number of key themes emerging in the literature on parent and family involvement, engagement and partnerships in the early years, the article presents alternate views of partnerships which, rather than focusing on barriers and challenges, positions parents and families as possessing strengths and agency in relation to their child’s learning. Understanding these varied perspectives provides readers an opportunity to digest other approaches to partnerships that move beyond an instrumentalized approach to engaging with parents and families. Within this examination of the literature, the generic term ’early years’ rather than early childhood education and care setting has been used, as globally early years (birth-8) programs are situated in multiple educational settings, including childcare, preschools, kindergartens and schools, and the term educator is used, which is inclusive of teachers. The terms parents and families are also used interchangeably as both terms are used throughout the research literature. When we use the terms parents and families, we are referring the children’s primary caregivers, who may or may not be biologically related.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford bibliographies
Subtitle of host publicationeducation
EditorsAnne Hynds
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)0199756813, 9780199756810
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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