Strong partnership working between early years professionals and parents is critical to a successful childcare setting. By building positive relationships, you are able to learn more about your key children and their development as a whole, enhance the quality of provision you are able to provide, and reduce potentially disruptive issues between parents and nurseries. This is such an important and substantial topic that we didn't feel able to do it justice in a single article. Our first area of focus for is - speaking the same language.
Across the UK, nearly 1 million adults are unable to speak English well. Over 4 million adults identify a language other than English as their primary language, and in some communities just 58.6% of people speak English as their main language. Before we can consider any other steps to building positive parental partnerships, we must look at how to ensure parents and professionals can understand one another.
There are some things which you can't risk being misunderstood when caring for other people's children. You need to ensure that every parent understands primary policies about child safety and protection, fees and payments, and emergency procedures. Some local councils offer childcare providers access to services which can translate documents into multiple different languages for free. If you're not lucky enough to work in one of these areas, commercial translation services are surprisingly affordable.
Communication difficulties are likely to be even more stressful for parents than they are for you and so families are often enthusiastic about involving an aunt, uncle or family friend who is able to speak English well when enrolling their children in your care. This represents a great opportunity to lay the ground work early on for positive parental partnerships in the future, when the family member or friend might not be as readily available.
Some options include...
...ask the English speaker to write down some key words and phrases in the parent's language which you can learn. Can you learn how to describe how long their child slept for? Are you able to write down some basic information about that their child has done? Even if your understanding is limited, learning some of their language will be really appreciated by parents.
...make arrangements for regular evening meetings where the English speaking friend or family can attend. If its going to be difficult to keep non-English speaking parents up to date about their child's progress day-to-day, why not arrange to update them through their friend or family each month?
...agree a plan for what to do in an emergency. Appreciating that there's something wrong with your child, but not understanding if its serious is horrible for a parent. Parents might be happy for an English speaking relation to be the primary contact in an emergency. This might mean that they can effectively communicate the situation to the parents in their own language. Please make sure that you record any agreements in writing, and involve your manager if you have one.
Many childcare providers are already embracing digital alternatives to hand-written daily journals. If you're setting doesn't use digital journals for everyone, consider using one for families where the parents don't speak English. Providing your update about a child's day in a digital form makes it easier to get translated. Digital text can be easily emailed to someone else to translate, or even put into Google Translate to get a rough understanding. A "digital journal" can be as simple as sending an email at the end of the day.
We would love this series of articles to prompt discussion and experience sharing amongst members of the #thatnurserylife community. Do you have a key child whose parents don't speak English? Are you an early years professional who also speaks another language? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or tweet with #parentalpartnerships to join the conversation...