Literature review

What do we know so far?

The partnership between practitioners and parents/carers[1] in the early years has a significant impact on children’s development, both during (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003) and before school age (Melhuish et al., 2008; Evangelou, Brooks & Smith, 2007). Parents are the most important part of children’s early lives, as they are the first point of reference when it comes to children’s interactions with the world and they also communicate meaning and knowledge with children before and after they enter into institutional settings (e.g. nurseries or child care). In effect, collaboration between practitioners and parents is important, and when it is effective and meaningful this means that both parties are working together to achieve common goals; through mutual respect and recognition of the contribution each key agent makes towards children’s development (Baum & McMurray-Schwarz, 2004).

The study[2] presented here is underpinned by Froebel’s pedagogy and principles; acknowledging the importance and value of the relationship between children, family members and practitioners, and the role of play as a central, integrating element in children’s development and learning (Froebel, c1826, trans 1912). For Froebel, parents and family members form the basis for a child’s understandings and interactions, which reiterates that an effective partnership essentially involves the engagement of parents and practitioners in order to support all children educationally, socially and emotionally.

[1] Whenever referring to parents we also mean carers.

[2] Funded by The Froebel Trust

Why is this important?

There is a general consensus in the literature that parental involvement has an impact on children’s outcomes. This consensus spans all educational settings for children.  The child within the family will be influenced by their engagement in their schooling and will benefit in a variety of ways.

Its impact is noted widely:

  • Social and emotional development (Wheeler et al, 2009)
  • Language and literacy development (Evangelou et al, 2009)
  • Mathematical language development (Evangelou et al, 2009)
  • ‘The home learning environment is important for school readiness in addition to benefits associated with pre-school’ (Melhuish et al, 2008, p.108) .
  • ‘The most important finding from the point of view of this review is that parental involvement in the form of ‘at home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation….The scale of the impact is evident across all social classes and all ethnic groups’ (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003, p.4).
  •  ‘Many professionals in contact with families have brief and important opportunities to identify and mobilise support for children with persistent behavioural problems’ (Khan, 2014, p.13).
  • There are a range of activities that parents undertake with pre-school children which have a positive effect on their development. (Sylva et al, 2004)
  • Studies of successful preschools by Siraj-Blatchford et al. (2003) indicate that preschools that promote activities for parents and children to engage in together are likely to be most beneficial for young children, and this has implications for strategies to help disadvantaged children
  • Start school with more academic skills and maintain their educational achievement. (Melhuish et al 2008, p. 110).

You can find more about this by reading our paper published in the Early Years Educator