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Five Tips For Practitioners: Building Authentic Parent Partnerships

Alex O'Donoghue

Written by Alex O'Donoghue

8 min read


Everyone agrees that parental involvement is important, but creating positive partnerships often takes imagination and a multi-faceted approach. Parent partnerships can be tricky, and trust can take time to build.

It won't always be easy to engage parents: like practioners, they are also very busy, or have a first language other than English.

Sometimes parents aren’t responsive because they are under financial pressure - juggling work and other commitments - or they might have had negative experiences with their own schools.

To develop real and lasting partnerships, practitioners need to work alongside parents and take an encouraging approach to get families involved.

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Parent involvement has a lasting impact on a child’s development. Over 70% of children’s lives are spent with their family and surrounding community and their learning environments extend far beyond the early years setting.

However, parents often feel distanced from their child’s school life and don’t have the confidence to proactively engage with teachers. Ofsted require evidence that parent partnerships are taking place, but it is up to the practitioner to know how best to build these.

Parents are more likely to connect with settings and feel empowered to create supportive home learning when they have a good connection with their children’s educator. Here are six ideas to put into practice.

Photo of EasyPeasys founder and CEO with parents and children in Cambridgeshire

1. Host ‘Stay and Play’ sessions

Invite families into your setting. You do not have to be bilingual, or indeed know any words of another person’s language, to make them feel welcome.

Simply engaging in play and reminding families of the importance of these interactions helps to keep the focus on playing and having fun together.

If you use a classroom or school hall, you could set up simple play areas.  if parents are unable to attend, encourage another family member to come.

2. Share good news with parents and caregivers 

Communicate as often as is appropriate via newsletters or parent emails. Is there a particularly great story that a family member has shared with you? Check that you have permission to include this, and invite parents to add their own interesting activity comments that could offer support for others.

Well-designed school communications are a great way to reach parents. Printed and digital communications can be less intimidating and a way that you can connect with parents without educational jargon. Not all people are comfortable talking on the phone and some parents and caregivers are unable to take time off from work to meet in person.

3. Share ideas with parents on the activities they can do with their children at home

Do families need a bit of inspiration on learning games and activities to do with their child?

Parents can struggle to understand age-appropriate activities at different stages of their child’s development. They might need guidance in increasing the challenge level. 

Even if their child gets to a point where they are learning beyond a level that their parents are comfortable with, don’t forget that parents are still able to help them. Provide books and online materials to help parents understand how best they can support their children’s learning at home.

4. Create display boards

There are amazing examples of colourful and playful display boards within settings. These are extremely useful to share what children have been doing and create a visual way to communicate with parents.

Take an inclusive approach and put up display boards where parents can see their own family background and culture represented as well as those of others. Create spaces where parents and carers can add their own comments and photos.

Display boards can also be communicated over social media and other digital tools.

5. Focus on strengthening the parent network through social events

Organise (and encourage parents to organise) social events so that families can get to know each other and develop their own support networks. This is an informal way to bring in less represented carers, such as fathers, who may have little contact with the setting and feel out of the loop.


Practitioners are major influencers beyond their own settings.

Involving parents from the beginning of a programme can make parents feel valued and interested in their children’s learning.

Parents need a similar level of nurturing as their child to feel important and practitioners are the best people to do this well. Building authentic and trust-based partnerships with them might not be easy - but with persistence and creativity, you will reap even greater rewards with the children in your setting.

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