General goals of the activity
Involvement of parents, teachers, operators and pedagogical coordinators of ECEC services in the design and programming of the Family Centre activities:
- Gather information about needs, questions, requests, beliefs and proposals of families and children from 0 to 10 years living in the area.
- Promote the involvement of parents and educational staff in the decision-making process. Parents are no longer just seen as people who use the services but they become an important part of the project.
- Plan and promote activities according to parents’ needs.
Description of the activity
The activity is divided into three different work phases:
- Establishment of the Participation Committee and identification of its components.
- Start of the activities of the Committee, which has the role of programming and designing the Family Centre activities.
- Assessment and verification of the program developed by the Committee and offered to families.
- Committee members internal assessment of the working group process.
The Participation Committee is currently composed as follows:
- 4/5 parents who have participated in different projects of the Family Centre (Stork Groups, meetings, workshops and parents and children activities, self-help groups, etc.) are selected on a voluntary basis and without representative status;
- 2/3 parents who do not attend the Family Centre but have children in nursery school, preschool or primary school (one of them is also a member of a parents association and participates as representative of the community);
- 4 teachers from nursery school and preschool;
- 2 pedagogical coordinators of ECEC services;
- 2/3 educators/professionals representing the different areas related to the Family Centre.
Parents are informed of the possibility to take part in the Committee and receive information from the Family Centre operators and the teachers of the nursery services. All parents can choose to be part of the Committee, as long as they consider it useful and interesting. The Committee has an “open” structure; it is always open to new members.
Parents who are part of the Committee have joined voluntarily and they do not participate as representatives of a specific group or educational service. Their opinion is listened to as parents with children of different ages (from infants to 10 years old).
The Committee meets 4/6 times a year. It plans and programs activities that are organized by the Family Centre for parents and children, and for parents only. The parents that are Committee members make proposals, compare their opinions with operators and teachers and together evaluate the proposals made to the families at local level.
(issues to be aware of when implementing the activity)
It is important to immediately inform parents about possibilities and limits. The Family Centre is part of the Municipality of Forlì and is therefore also subject to the constraints and guidelines issued by the local administration.
Once embarked on the road of participatory planning the operators must be willing to listen to parents’ opinions both during the planning and evaluation phase.
Role of the teacher
Teachers and Family Centre operators take part in the Committee, contributing with their specific points of view. They are privileged observers of children and of families’ needs. They observe the relationships and acknowledge doubts, questions, proposals, requests etc.
Teachers and Family Centre operators are also responsible for securing that the institutional constraints within which the Committee operates are respected.
Role of the family
Parents who are part of the Committee are active parties in this way of planning.
They are stakeholders of the activities and services offered by the Family Centre and they get to know and meet other parents with which they can discuss doubts, needs and difficulties.
Added value for the child and the family
The Committee aims at offering activities and services that are more in line with the needs of its end-users but does also provide an opportunity to enhance knowledge about ECEC and to develop new proposals for children’s education and quality of life.
Materials to be used
The meetings are convened by email and we use a meeting room inside the Family Centre with chairs arranged in a circle.
Guiding questions to reflect on the general improvement of the service
- Did the practice meet the needs from which it originated?
- In what way did the activity improve the participation of the parents?
- To what extent did the activity improve our professional development as a team?
- How did the activity affect the development of the relationship of trust with the parents?