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The aim of the study is to explore parents’ relationships with early years service providers. A further aspect of the study was to elicit the views of parents and staff on services in relation to parent-staff partnerships. True partnership requires parents and professionals to have a relationship characterised by openness and mutual respect. As the demand for childcare is growing it is becoming apparent that there is a gap in research in relation to parents and childcare in Ireland. Parents are one of the main stakeholders in childcare and it is important to understand parents’ views and expectations of childcare service. The views of full-time working parents of 0-3 year olds in the Dublin area are represented in the study, as are the views of the early years staff who care for their children. The National Childcare Census (2001) was chosen as the sampling framework as it provides a geographically representative target population. There were two stages of data collection in this study, non-participant observations and self-reported questionnaires, which collected both quantitative and qualitative data. The study revealed a variety of views representing both positive and negative perceptions of partnership. In general parents and staff felt that parents, staff and children benefited from partnership. While current childcare literature and government policy emphasises the benefits of partnership, evidence in this study indicates that partnership between parents and childcare providers is not prevalent. In particular, parents do not seem to have very much information about partnership. There was also very little evidence of parents and staff sharing accountability and responsibility for services in this study with very few parents involved in management of services and few parent-staff meetings. The types of activities parents were participating in were, typically, staff directed not characterised by a sense of partnership or mutual understanding and many parents viewed staff as the experts in relation to childcare. There appeared to be limited opportunity for meaningful engagement for parents with the early years services in the study. Parents’ apparent lack of time, and parent and staff attitudes were cited by staff and parents as the most significant factors in the development of partnerships. An important finding of the study was that, despite parents other commitments, many stated that they had a desire for greater participation.
Martin, S.: Parents as Partners in Early Childhood Services in Ireland : an Exploratory Study. Masters Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2003.