Shared values are essential to achieving strong and sustainable partnerships. They represent the alignment of core guiding principles between sometimes diverse stakeholders and they underpin collective ideas and actions. Five shared values have been identified by the Department of Education (DoE) and the Tasmanian Education and Care (E&C) sector in the development of the Strong Partnerships Framework. They are:
Developing shared values takes time and effort, as DoE schools and services, and E&C services approach Strong Partnerships with their own already established values. Through ‘listening to learn’, leaders begin to bring their individual service’s values into alignment with the best interests of the children at the centre of their ideas and actions.
- Collaboration occurs when two or more people work together towards shared goals. Through collaboration, stakeholders in Strong Partnerships develop shared understandings and actions that support children and families.
- Diversity in Strong Partnerships is characterised by:
- the children and families
- the workforce within each partnering service
- the perspectives, pedagogies and philosophies that services bring to the partnership.
By understanding and honouring the diversity of people, professional perspectives, and broader ideas within Strong Partnerships communities, inclusive practices emerge that result in positive outcomes for children.
- Equity is achieved when agreements, decisions, actions and ideas are widely accepted as fair to all. In Strong Partnerships, equity is evident when DoE school and service, and E&C service staff:
- can provide the best possible environments, transitions and experiences for all children
- agree that learning occurs through a broad range of pedagogies, including inquiry and play.
- Inclusion is evident in DoE schools and services, and E&C services when all children and families are welcomed and have a sense of belonging, and children are engaged in respectful learning and leisure experiences. Inclusion in Strong Partnerships is also evident when educators and teachers welcome the sharing of ideas and insights.
- Respect in Strong Partnerships is evident when the diversity of professional knowledge is valued and used. Respect also extends to relationships with children and families when leaders, educators and teachers engage in consultation before making decisions.
These values are well aligned and support the DoE values of respect, courage, aspiration and growth.
- When educators and teachers work collaboratively in relation to children’s transitions to school age care, a web of support is created for children and families, as well as for educators (Dockett & Perry, 2016).
- Achieving positive partnerships requires professionals to respect and appreciate the diverse skills and experience of their colleagues (Hopps, K. (2004) “Teacher communication across the preschool-school boundary”. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 29(1): 8-13; Ashton, J., Woodrow, C., Johnston, C., Wangmann, J., Singh, L., & James, T. (2008) “Partnerships in learning: Linking early childhood services, families and schools for optimal development”. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(2): 10-16).
- Equity “resonates through both the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the Australian Curriculum as a value, a belief and a commitment to achieving more equitable learning outcomes for all learners” (Early Childhood Australia & Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2011, p. 27).
- Misunderstandings can occur if principals and school staff perceive themselves as more important than the Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) workforce, potentially undermining the OSHC workforce’s feelings of efficacy in children’s lives (Cartmel, J. & Grieshaber, S. (2014) “Communicating for quality in school age care services”, Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 39(3): 23-27).
- Respect “for children’s family practices, beliefs and values within the early childhood setting, OSHC and school is foundational to children feeling a sense of security and belonging” (Arthur, L., Beecher, B., Death, E., Dockett, S. & Farmer, S. (2018) Programming and planning in early childhood settings, Cengage Learning Australia, South Melbourne).
- Respectful relationships rely on understanding one another’s role and overcoming misconceptions about different sectors (Hopps, 2004 – see above; Ashton et al, 2008 – see above).
- The five shared values identified in the Strong Partnerships Framework underpin and guide the actions of leaders and staff. Consequently, leaders must ensure that these values are shared and incorporated into the everyday practices of all staff across services.
- When reviewing the partnership, leaders and staff should always ensure that the shared values have been considered before any collaborative decisions are made, and that the shared values are reflected in the partnership’s Working Together Agreement.
- Leaders and staff need to ensure that the five shared values are clearly communicated with children and families in ways that make sense.
- The shared values of Strong Partnerships are everybody’s business. Department of Education (DoE) school and service leaders, and Education and Care (E&C) service leaders, educators and teachers, understand and draw from these values when establishing a Working Together Agreement, and continue to work with them through a lens that includes attention to the five shared values.
- Ensure professional approaches that support children attending co-located services are always underpinned by one or more of the shared values.
- Ensure the shared values are present in a range of professional practices.
- Leaders collaborate to develop shared policies and procedures.
- Leaders, educators and teachers collaboratively develop experiences that reflect the diversity of children, families and the broader community, such as engaging Aboriginal sharers of knowledge for both services.
- Leaders, educators and teachers plan the purchase and sharing of resources that reflect the diversity of children, families and the broader community.
- Leaders collaborate to enable fair use of shared spaces.
- Leaders collaborate to establish inclusive practices across both services for all children.
Leadership practices that embed one or more of the shared values are critical to establishing strong and sustainable professional relationships between Department of Education (DoE) schools and services, and Education and Care (E&C) services.
To support collaborative practice, leaders:
- develop evidence-based practices to improve programs and share their reasoning with staff
- create agreed formal and informal communication strategies between staff at various levels and between services
- model positive relationships and a positive culture between staff from DoE schools and services, and E&C services.
To support diversity, leaders:
- reflect on their own beliefs and persuade others to do the same; this includes being aware and checking that personal beliefs are helpful and supportive of diversity
- value and actively celebrate diverse backgrounds, interests, cultures and abilities through networks and learning programs
- encourage the development of the whole child by supporting the physical and mental health of children, as well as their social and emotional wellbeing and their sense of safety and confidence.
To support equity, leaders:
- implement relevant policy and legislation to develop service-wide programs that support the participation and learning of children with additional needs
- consider the social justice and equity implications of their shared practices.
To support inclusion, leaders:
- understand that inclusive practice is underpinned by ethical leadership
- model and actively promote inclusive behaviours
- cultivate the development of positive relationships among staff and children between their service and their partner service.
To support respect, leaders:
- focus on developing continuity between services to support children’s learning beyond the school day
- connect professional development opportunities for staff from DoE schools and services, and E&C services, to ensure consistency in approaches and encourage relationship-building among staff
- regularly engage in respectful conversations with educators and teachers where they ‘listen to learn.’
REFLECTIONS FOR LEADERS:
- How are we demonstrating the shared values in our meeting agendas?
- How do I, and my partnering service leader/s, consistently promote a sense of achievement, empowerment and engagement for all children?
- How do we collaborate to support the development of effective leaders in our services?
- In what ways do our services jointly analyse serious incidents, injuries and illness to support well-being and continuous improvement?
- How do we give priority to inclusive practices across co-located services?
- In what ways do we work with our partner service to provide continuity and support for children? How effective are these strategies and how can we improve them?
- Are there processes and resources in place for relief staff at both services to understand key components of the partnership (e.g. transitioning young children to Outside School Hours Care)?
- How do we ensure a consistent approach to supporting children’s behaviour between schools and the Education and Care service, as well as meeting the rights of children in a recreation and leisure program?
- What have we done to ensure resources for students with additional needs will be shared between services?
- How regularly do we jointly review Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics and/or the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers to ensure our practices and policies align with them?