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Any time is time to talk: A workshop exploring effective practice in supporting Parental Engagement Presented at the Think Tank day by Ailsa Robinson and Jennie Bainbridge. The key theme of this workshop was enabling parents to exploit the everyday opportunities to support their child's speech, language and communication skills. Assisting parents to engage with, and understand the value of committing themselves to support their child's speech, language and communication development enriches their language learning environment and is an essential part of their journey towards a fluent grasp of language. The language learning environment comprises the key people and places that surround and influence children as they embark upon their journey in learning language. Parents, Carers and the extended family play a crucial role in this. The home environment provides an invaluable opportunity for 1:1 conversations which can develop sustained shared thinking skills. "reading and writing float on a sea of talk" - James Britton, 1970 In small groups, delegates discussed the potential barriers to parental involvement, and had space to reflect on the reasons for this. Do any of these apply to families or staff in your setting? Barriers from a setting / practitioner level: o Negative attitudes towards parents; o Lack of confidence / skills to work effectively with parents; o Staff teams which don’t reflect the community they are trying to reach - this could be in terms of gender or culture, for example are male carers confident to approach staff in a mainly female profession? o Lack of funding / capacity – do you have time / space (privacy?) to talk to Parents? o Is there an open door policy at your setting? Barriers from a Parent / Carer level: o Negative attitudes towards schools / settings based on their own poor experiences resulting in a lack of trust; o Fear of being judged as a failing Parent; o Stressful circumstances – mental health, poverty, single Parenthood; o Work commitments; o Feelings of intimidation; o Experiences of discrimination. Possible steps to consider in your setting which lead to increased and improved Parental Engagement: 1. Informed and enthused: o Parents need to be encouraged to understand the importance of developing their child’s communication skills. 2. Consulted and valued: o Providing opportunities for Parents to share what they know about their child. 3. Engaged Partners: o Parents who are fully empowered and engaged not only consult and comment on what is best for their child but are confident, proactive partners alongside practitioners, supporting their child’s speech, language and communication skills at home, in the setting and elsewhere. Talk Tickets This simple, yet brilliant idea helps parents to understand how they can use opportunities within already existing daily routines to support the development of their child’s speech and language. Practitioners make a set of A5 sized cards, called ‘talk tickets’ which each contain an everyday scenario with a couple of top tips for helping parents to get the most out of the talk the arises. There are as many scenarios as your imagination will allow… think about bath time, car journeys, meal times, shopping etc… All of these activities parents will engage with anyway, the talk tickets promote the language aspect which could so easily be overlooked. The beauty of the talk tickets is their ability to influence parents in a non-threatening manner, without bombarding them. Why not give them a go in your setting… you could even think about personalizing them by using images from your own setting / featuring your staff or children. The following websites were highlighted as containing supportive materials and information: www.literacytrust.org.uk/talktoyourbaby www.earlyhomelearning.org.uk www.ICAN.org.uk www.talkingpoint.org.uk - this is linked to the ICAN website and contains resources for Parents, carers and families.
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