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Building partnerships - the partnership process

We know that involving parents in their children's education has real benefits for everyone. The partnership process is as important as the outcomes.

It has long been recognised that involving parents in their children's learning has very real benefits for everyone involved. It is a healthy, nurturing, positive learning process.

Promoting this same partnership in the assessment, planning, provision and review of children who have (or may have) Additional Learning Needs is a continuation of that partnership process - so that parents of all children at school feel involved and can be confident that their child's needs are being met. Parents need to feel confident. If the parents feel confident about their child's education, the child will also capture this confidence too!

Confidence building

In order for parents to contribute effectively in all discussions and meetings, they need to feel confident and assured. There are certain key factors that assist this process and build parental confidence levels:

  • approachability
  • genuine care and concern
  • channels for two-way communication.

If professionals aim for genuine partnership with parents in the assessment, planning, implementation and review process, they need to:

  • recognise the personal and emotional investment of parents
  • focus on the children's strengths as well as weaknesses
  • refrain from making assumptions about the learning context of the home
  • support parents in the preparation of their contributions
  • respect the validity of differing perspectives, or the right to disagree
  • seek constructive ways of reconcile (or resolve) different viewpoints.

Teachers need to accept parents' expertise; after all, parents are experts on their children and know them well. Teaching staff should be willing to listen, not just to what is said, but to what is meant. This will greatly assist the development of effective parental partnership and involvement (this of course works both ways).

Family issues that professionals need to consider

For parents to feel they are regarded as equal partners, professionals must show they understand that parents have many aspects to their lives. Just as a professional has to prioritise, balance needs, meet targets and deadlines, so do parents.

The following issues may be relevant for many families to consider:

  • availability of time
  • notice of meetings
  • other family commitments
  • working parents
  • lack of transport
  • lack of confidence
  • literacy
  • language
  • culture
  • status
  • social skills
  • educational history
  • additional learning needs/disabilities

It is vital, therefore, for any healthy partnership to flourish, for ALL sides of the partnership to appreciate and understand one another.


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