Tuesday, 25 November 2014

What does 'parent partnership' REALLY mean?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of 'parent partnership' and what it really means. It is a term I use often and the idea of partnership with parents is fundamental to my philosophy of leading a school.

However, I have wondered recently whether it is a term and concept that needs clarity- I have always assumed that everyone has the same understanding of what this means and operates within similar parametres as me, but I think I am wrong to make this automatic assumption.

For me, it means a high level of trust, respect and mutual cooperation. Armstrong (cited in Hodge & Runswick, 2008) states that partnership... "implies: mutual respect, complementary expertise; and a willingness to learn from each other."

We have in our care your most precious children, nothing should be hidden from you and we should operate in a transparent way that engenders the characteristics of partnership as above. However, this works both ways, we need the same from parents!

One of the most critical components of partnership in my view is trust. Bryk & Schneider (2003) suggests that there are four components to trust:

  • Respect
  • Personal regard
  • Competence in core role responsibilities
  • Personal integrity

Each of these work together to foster relational trust that is built slowly, day by day. It does not happen overnight. All of you extend to us, as a matter of necessity, a level of provisional trust when you send your child to us on their very first day. As time goes on, this trust is either built on and confirmed or eroded away. Given our strong parent community, the norm is the first!

However, the same applies to us as a school community welcoming parents in and building that relationship. We extend to you, also as a matter of necessity, that same provisional trust, which  is either built on or eroded away as time goes on. Again, at Bradbury, the former is the norm.

This then builds the basis for true partnership, where both sides can rely on the other to act in ways which build relational trust which in turn, builds confidence in the other. This does not mean blind trust- partnership also means constructive feedback and dialogue, working together, through differences to reach solutions and compromises.

To me, parent partnership is an area that is a strength of our school. I feel that we have the trust of our parents in terms of respect, personal regard, competence and integrity. This then acts like both a glue and a lubricant, to use Schannen- Morgan's definition, which I love! Glue because it binds us together, lubricant because it greases the wheels of of our school.

I would be really interested in hearing your views on what 'partnership' in school means to you.

Anthony Bryck & Barbara Schneider (2003) Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform, Creating Caring Schools, 60:6, 40-45
 Nick Hodge & Katherine Runswick‐Cole (2008) Problematising
parent–professional partnerships in education, Disability & Society, 23:6, 637-647

1 comment:

  1. I suppose my view is rather simplistic but here is how I see the pillars of the parent-staff relationship:
    - Parents trust the staff to teach the children many of the skills they will need in life, in a safe and nurturing environment.
    - Teachers and staff trust the parents to send the children to school with the right attitude and social skills so that they are receptive to learning. Many life skills are not primarily taught in school, for example a work ethic.

    If either of these commitments of trust fails or falters, there is trouble. Crucially, there must be dialogue before said trouble leads to unrest, torches and pitchforks on either side. I suppose in HK that would be umbrellas and polite banners, but I digress...