Engaging and supporting parents and families

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Wrexham Early Years Centre has developed several initiatives to engage and support parents and families, including “learning stories” to highlight children’s achievement, tailored support for parents about particular issues, and visits to families on request to help manage challenging behaviour. The results have been positive for both parents and their children.

Number of pupils: 51
Age range: 2-4 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2015

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Wrexham Early Years Centre is in the Queensway ward on the Caia Park estate in Wrexham County Borough Council.  This Queensway ward is considered the third most deprived ward in Wales.

The Centre has a resourced provision, providing assessment places for a number of pupils with a wide range of identified additional learning needs.  There are currently 51 pupils on role between the ages of two and four years of age, of which 28 pupils attend nursery. The other pupils attend Early Education and Flying Start.  Children attend the nursery provision for five mornings per week from 9.00 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.  Children who attend the resourced provision are transported from around all areas of the county.

Wrexham Early Years Centre believes that its relationship with parents is of paramount importance and that a genuine Home / School partnership provides the best opportunity for the holistic development of each child.  Many of the Centre’s parents have requested advice, support and guidance to deal with the developmental needs of their children. These parental concerns have led to the Centre looking at a range of strategies to offer support to the children both in school and at home.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

We have developed several initiatives to engage and support parents and families.  These include:

  • Keeping parents well informed about their child’s progress through use of ‘learning stories’ and ‘home school book’, which highlight what their child has achieved.  These give parents regular bespoke individual advice on how to support their children and clearly identify next steps for learning.
  • The ‘Hand in Hand’ group offers tailored support to individual parents about issues such as bedtime routines, behaviour and toileting.  This group meets in the Community Room.  We encourage parents, over a cup of coffee, to share ideas and concerns and to seek advice and guidance when necessary.  The group is led and managed by a teacher and an experienced teaching assistant both of whom have an interest in developing partnerships with parents and are well trained in delivering parenting programmes.
  • We visit families at home on request to help with such things as ‘fussy eaters’ or to offer support on how to manage challenging behaviour.
  • The school offers advice for parents on how they can support their child’s learning at home. The ‘number library’ allows parents to take home resources and games and provides interesting ideas on how to develop their children’s mathematics skills at home.
  • Student Assistance Programme (SAP). The Centre offers this programme to all parents.  A fully trained teaching assistant leads their group.  The course takes place over an eight-week period.  SAP allows parents to explore their parenting skills and gives them confidence in supporting their own child’s development. 
  • We have appointed a Home School Link Coordinator to develop and encourage parental engagement and commitment.  For example, they make weekly phone calls to the parents of children who live outside the area and who therefore don’t have daily contact with the nursery. This provides a more personal dialogue between home and school.  In offering a listening ear to any problems or concerns they may have we develop and maintain positive relationships between home and school successfully.
  • The Centre provides an outreach service to schools and settings within Wrexham County Borough.  We share our extensive knowledge and understanding of how to manage children’s behaviour and in how we provide for children with complex needs.  We regularly make visits to schools and settings at the local authority’s request, to offer advice and guidance.
  • We make very good use of the valuable advice and guidance about supporting children with additional learning needs, from a range of specialist professionals.  This advice feeds into children’s individual development plans highly effectively and allows these children to make beneficial progress from their differing starting points.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

A majority of children enter the centre with skills considerably below those normally expected for their age.  Working closely with parents is a crucial factor in addressing not only children’s skills deficit on-entry but also in addressing children’s social, emotional and behavioural issues.  Our work with parents focuses on encouraging them to play and interact as much as possible with their children and in helping to give them strategies in dealing with their child’s behaviour.  

Our workshops with parents, such as ‘Language and Play’ and our ‘School Readiness Programme’ have helped to improve parents own literacy and numeracy skills.  This in turn means that they are more confident in reading stories with their children and encouraging their children to count, sort and match objects when they play at home. 

Our in depth knowledge of children’s individual learning, social and emotional needs allows us to work with parents to plan innovative activities that are both flexible and responsive to children’s varied needs and interests. By the time that children leave the centre, our working with parents means that nearly all children’s behaviour is very good and they show consideration and concern for each other.  They have good independence and self-help skills.  Most children make worthwhile progress in developing their communication skills and many make good progress in developing their numeracy skills.  As they leave the Centre and transfer to reception class, we continue to support and help children, parents and teachers at the new school through this time of change.  The advice and workshops on managing behaviour and providing for children with additional complex needs help nearly all children to settle into their new schools quickly and happily and to achieve well in relation to their abilities and starting points.

How have you shared your good practice?

Wrexham Early Years Centre has provided training opportunities for colleagues in other schools and settings through holding workshops and courses on working with children with complex additional needs, engaging learners and using positive behaviour strategies.  A local primary school works alongside the Centre as part of the Outreach scheme. The Outreach team has held workshops for newly qualified practitioners in order to develop their skills in dealing with challenging behaviour in the classroom.