Early Childhood Ireland Research Symposium

As part of the Early Childhood Ireland Research Symposium in October Fiona Scullion, Senior Early Years Specialist with Sharing from the Start presented on how the programme is supporting effective relationships with parents.


Fiona Scullion, Senior Early Years Specialist


At the beginning of the project, settings in Northern Ireland and the Southern Border Counties were asked to baseline strands of their provision, including parental engagement.

In NI the preschool settings Shared Education framework, published in 2016 and provides early years partnerships with the means of self-evaluating the extent and quality of their shared education provision and to set targets for development.

It was recognised that settings would have different starting points and that not all would reach the final ‘embedding’ stage by the end of the project. Settings were encouraged to use this self-evaluation method to identify progress made in relation to educational outcomes and delivering social change.

While the NI settings had access to this document the ROI were encouraged to use the Siolta Practice guide to demonstrate progress which they had made. They were encouraged to complete an initial baseline for the Components on Rights of the Child; Partnership with Parents; Identity and Belonging and Community Involvement .

In addition to the baseline, groups captured evidence in a portfolio to demonstrate how involvement in Sharing from the Start enhanced their provision

The research findings identified that as the project started in Sept 2017, 100 % of settings recorded that they were at the defining stage in relation to parent engagement – this is – they were enabling parents to understand and appreciate the educational benefits for their children of shared education.

For many settings they were embarking on this shared education journey and they were making plans for implementation. Recognizing that we had groups with very different religious , ethnic or social economic backgrounds coming together and gaining parental consent for children to take part in the Sharing From The Start programme was the starting point in forming respectful relationships.

The settings were able to evidence how participation in the Sharing From The Start programme supported them to provide ‘a variety of opportunities for parents to be involved in activities within the setting, taking into account the range of parents’ interests and time constraints.’

Through professional discussions parents have highlighted that involvement in Sharing from the Start has supported relationships with staff, other parents and the local community.

Many highlighted that this experience has increased their knowledge and understanding of early years education and enabled them to further develop this in the home environment. Improving the educational outcomes for the children

Feedback from questionnaires, surveys and focused groups has been very positive from both parents & grandparents. As the programme progressed, parents have seen first-hand the educational value of engaging in cross community projects and are now as enthusiastic and excited as the children to learn about the experiences planned.

Evaluations demonstrated that 86% of parents reported that involvement in Sharing From The Start had a positive/very positive impact on their relationship with their own child

Increased engagement with parents has also had a positive impact on the relationship with staff within the settings with 84% of parents reported positive/very positive impact on relationships with staff

The research findings highlighted that not only are the project outcomes being met, the data also captures the added value which Sharing From The Start has had on parental engagement and improving outcomes for children.

The Symposium this year was presented online and is available to view on this Youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0JE1g3pXfw&feature=youtu.be