Communication is a critical tool for achieving Strong Partnerships. In this context, it involves:
- keeping the best interests of children at the centre
- being open and respectful
- listening to understand differing perspectives
- communicating messages clearly and concisely
- using nonverbal visual cues to convey respect
- selecting the right form of communication
What the Research Tells Us
- Positive communication between Education and Care (E&C) and schools provide high-quality services. Likewise, ineffective communication results in negative outcomes for both services. Australian researchers confirm this in relation to communication around shared spaces, resources, and equipment. (Cartmel, J. & Grieshaber, S. (2014) Communicating for Quality in School Age Care Services”. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood 39(3): 23-28).
- Collaborative partnership between services assists in quality support of children and families. This partnership develops through being open and non-judgemental. Active listening and consideration of different perspectives is essential to this partnership. (Cartmel & Grieshaber, 2014 – see above; Dockett, S. & Perry, B. (2014) Continuity of Learning: A resource to support effective transition to school and school age care. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Education).
Expectations and Responsibilities
Communication is one of the key areas of the Strong Partnerships Framework. Clear, effective communication is crucial to working in partnership. It is an expectation under the provisional Co-location Policy that co-located services communicate frequently, openly and respectfully. Department of Education (DoE) and Education and Care (E&C) representatives worked together to create this Policy.
There are a range of documents that guide communication between DoE staff and E&C service leaders, including:
7.1 Meet professional ethics and responsibilities.
Lead teachers: Model exemplary ethical behaviour and exercise informed judgements in all professional dealings with students, colleagues and the community.
7.4 Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities.
Lead teachers: Take a leadership role in professional and learning networks.
- Personal qualities, social and interpersonal skills – take account of the social, political and local circumstances within which they work. They continuously improve their networking and influencing skills.
In relation to colleagues, I will: build a spirit of collegiality and professionalism through collaborative relationships based on trust, respect and honesty.
In relation to community and society, I will: collaborate with people, services and agencies to develop shared understandings and actions that support children and families.
Standard 6.2 – Collaborative Partnerships: Collaborative Partnerships enhance children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing.
Communication must also comply with legislation, regulations and policies in relation to personal information. These include:
- The Privacy Act 1988 (Commonwealth of Australia)
- Department of Education Personal Information Protection Policy
- Department of Education Authority for release and exchange of information
- National Quality Framework, which includes:
- National Law and Regulations
- National Quality Standard
- National Learning Frameworks
- Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia
- My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia
Legislation, regulations and policies may differ between Department of Education and Education and Care sectors. It is important that partnering leaders establish a clear and transparent communication agreement. The agreement must support the right to privacy of children and families. This can take the form of a Working Together Agreement (WTA). A WTA will guide the building of respectful and purposeful relationships.
Strategies and Ideas to Support Communication
Communication involves the use of a range of channels to inform and support shared understandings and collaborative work. Stakeholders in Strong Partnerships meet and collaborate through:
- face-to-face scheduled and unscheduled contact
- phone calls
- websites and social media.
- Share and discuss policies and procedures that are relevant to the partnership
- Share up-to-date Quality Improvement Plans, School Improvement Plans or Service Improvement Plans
- Discuss approaches to supporting behaviour and align them where possible and appropriate
- Include Strong Partnerships on DoE and E&C associated group meeting agendas
e.g., School Association and parent groups, and E&C parent/community groups
- Distribute information about learning and recreational programs to support connections and linkages
e.g., NAIDOC Week, Harmony Day, Children’s Week, community events, and Launching into Learning
- With written parent/guardian permission, share:
- Share and discuss policies and procedures that are relevant to the partnership.
- Share up-to-date Quality Improvement Plans, School Improvement Plans or Service Improvement Plans.
- Discuss approaches to supporting behaviour and align them where possible and appropriate.
- Include Strong Partnerships on School Association or parent group meeting agendas, and on parent/community group meeting agendas associated with the E&C service.
- Distribute information about learning and recreational programs and experiences to support connections and linkages, e.g. NAIDOC Week, Harmony Day, Children’s Week, community events, and Launching into Learning.
- With written parent/guardian permission, share:
– Learning Plans and Individual Education Plans
– Strategic Inclusion Plans
– Behaviour support Plans for individual students
– Reactive Strategies Plans for individual students
– Transition Statements
Work together to develop shared and agreed understanding about key elements of the partnership that outlines:
- a shared commitment to the wellbeing of children
- the ways in which programs connect
- how children are supported in transitions.
This document can then be shared on DoE and E&C services websites, on posters and in brochures.
Celebrate Strong Partnerships in newsletters and on social media sites by including:
- contributions from partnering services
- reports on shared enterprises
- congratulations to partner services on their own notable achievements.
Review staff and parent guidelines and other information and resources and amend them where necessary to include and communicate key messages about partnerships. This may include:
- induction resources for staff
- written advice to staff outlining expectations about shared professional practices and protocols, for example, respectfully supporting children’s daily transitions
- signage to support children, family and community access and understanding.
Leadership for Communication
DoE school and service leaders, and E&C service leaders use a range of strategies and tools to share information and reach agreement. Respectful communication between service leaders, and their respective teams, to ensures the intent of Strong Partnerships is clear.
- consistently model positive relationships and a positive culture between DoE school and service, staff and E&C service staff
- establish formal and informal communication strategies between staff at various levels, and between services
- agree to a regular meeting schedule, and circulation of an agreed agenda that keeps participants’ focused on outcomes for children and drives decision making
- ensure that meeting minutes and action lists are prepared and circulated promptly to provide opportunities for responses and to keep things moving.
REFLECTIONS FOR LEADERS:
- Do current governance and leadership structures of my organisation support building Strong Partnerships?
- How often and in what ways should I meet with leaders from the service we partner with?
- How are we creating opportunities for professional conversations between staff of our services?
- What professional learning could support the wellbeing of children transitioning between our services?
- How can I be sure staff members in both services understand agreement requirements?
- How do we ensure the intent of Strong Partnerships is clear and approaches align?
Questions for Reflection
- What approaches could we use to build relationships and collegiality between Department of Education (DoE) school and service staff, and Education and Care (E&C) service staff?
- How do we communicate effectively to connect school-day activities with outside school hours care activities?
- How do we share the benefits and successes of our partnership with families and the community?
- Do we have suitable supports/tools in place, such as checklists, that help staff members manage and monitor shared resources?
Critical reflection by all stakeholders is essential to developing and sustaining Strong Partnerships. By regularly reflecting on processes, partners ensure the ways they work together are continually improving.