Bringing parents and carers into the nursery community

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

A study using parent/carer interviews to research how we can create a nursery community which parents feel equally part of.

Adult baking with a child


This project looks at the views of parents and carers in how we create a community that they feel part of, feel valued and has a positive impact on outcomes for their child and themselves.

Our purpose in undertaking this project was to explore how parents found the enrolment process, the transitions from home to ELC & within ELC, and how they have been supported to build positive relationships with staff and agencies. It takes into account how these have supported their child and theses have considered authority admissions policies and enrolment processes.


We are a 0-5 setting where places are mainly allocated via a referral service from social work, family partnership nurses, women’s aid and health visitors. Often the families require support and/or may have multi agencies involvement.

We had been looking at ensuring that care plans had all of information in them that we needed to keep children safe and ensure that staff got to know the child’s needs and interests, likes and dislikes in order to fully support them in building positive relationships from the start of enrolment.

This led us to use this research project to further question if we are supporting the parents and carers from the beginning of their nursery journey to ensure that they are an equal part of our nursery community. This is important to us as a staff team and is clear in our visions and values & aims that nurture is the heart of our ethos. My own principles follow the belief that parents are a child’s main educator and the relationships we have with them can support positive outcomes for children. This follows from Froebel’s principles and more recently ‘Realising the Ambition’ guidance which supports our pedagogical beliefs and underpins our values.

When deciding what methods would be used, we had to consider previous correspondence that has been used to gain the views of parents and carers. Questionnaires in paper form were handed in when encouraged by several parents, however there was little past response to surveys which were online or emailed. Parents had responded well to more informal chats and discussions at tea & coffee days, and when asked stated that their preference was not to use technology for these.

We had to consider individual parents and carers and if they required support to carry out the interviews, including an interpreter and furnishings/chair sizes etc. We also had to consider the backgrounds and current circumstances of parents when devising what questions and discussions we would be having. These were carried out sensitively and confidentially, in a relaxed and informal setting within the centre.



We ensured that consent was sought by all participants for the interviews to be carried out,  and to be recorded by audio. This ensured confidentiality was adhered to at all times and parents felt confident that their views could be heard. This also allowed us to be more ‘present’ during the interview process as we did not need to write anything down throughout. All participants agreed that this appeared a more relaxed and informal way to discuss the questions.

We wanted to ensure that all families were invited to be involved in this process; therefore we gave all a letter explaining our research project and aim, alongside an invitation and consent form to participate. This ensured inclusion for all. An interpreter was arranged and funded by the authority which allowed all to participate should they wish.

We ensured that all circumstances were taken into account and interviews were sensitive and relaxing for all.

‘Together, may we give our children the roots to grow and the wings to fly’ Pam Rogers


We have learned that face to face conversations are more preferred and have been more valuable to most parents, even when discussing confidential and very personal situations. Face to face interviews have supported us to reassure parents and extend questions informally though discussions. We have learned that this is a true way to find the views of parents and carers, and has contributed to us further building trust & understanding, and positive relationships with them. We also found that recording the face to face interviews ensured no distraction such as writing and allowed us to focus on what was really being said, this also made it less formal.

This has further deepened our practice and knowledge regarding research projects and the reason we carry these out for making improvements to our children’s and families’ lives, as well as the life of the centre.

Main findings from the project have been:

  • All families had concerns for how their child will settle in and ‘fit in’ prior to them starting (especially where this is their 1st child attending) These were alleviated within a short time scale for all families. They also recognised the social benefits of joining interactions with others and being part of a wider social world on their child, and some the parent, and how quickly they have seen this progress since they started.
  • The significance of the keyworker system within the nursery, and the positive impact that this has had on their child/children and their families, As well as being focussed upon the social development opportunities being afforded to children, by starting at nursery, parents and carers also expressed a perhaps surprising focus upon ensuring children’s progress and attainment. Further delineation of these benefits (nurturing and socialising, alongside general attainment and progress) may further build the trust, confidence and clarity of parents and carers
  • The foundation of building early positive relationships with staff and children and also with staff and families is fundamental to the child’s well-being and supports their overall experience and journey at ELC.
  • Most parents prefer dialogue face to face rather than virtual meetings or filling in paper copies of questionnaires as technology and written literacy skills are not used.

Findings from this project have now raised the question of What else can we do to further support and ensure all aspects of the journey through ELC are positive and improve outcomes for children and families.


The overall lesson we have learned is that face to face discussions have provided more information than any other methodology that we have used in the past. This methodology has also supported us to strengthened relationships with parents and carers, and has been valuable in making them feel included in the project and listened to.

We would like to carry this project on further to gain the views of parents and families on all aspects of the nursery, including their views on indoor/outdoor learning, literacy and numeracy – are we doing enough? Too little? Too much for ages? We would like to know if all aspects of health and well-being are supported and how we can do this the best possible way.

Research implications

This project, when shared with the team and the wider Local Authority group, has the possibility to highlight parental feelings, priorities and perceptions.  The findings of the research, discovered through lengthy and semi-structured interviews, really brings out the variety of parent and carer perspectives (Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, Foster carers) based in the both the concrete daily perceptions of the nursery experience, through to the hopes and aspirations for the future of their child.

Some interesting findings, and their associated implications are:

  • All families have a deep concern for their child, and anxiety about them being ready to be in a group care setting. At the same time they recognise some of the social benefits of joining interactions with others and being part of a wider social world.  A reassessment of nursery policy and admissions, taking account of these findings about a social focus and a degree of concern, may help to foster deeper relationships with parents, carers and families.
  • The significance of key individuals within the nursery, and their impact on the child and the family, and their role as almost-parental figures, formed part of the dialogue from parents and carers. Whilst the keyworker system is well established already, further consideration of this relationship, and opportunities for families to build further this trust and bond, would support this important theme of parents and carers
  • As well as being focussed upon the social development opportunities being afforded to children, by starting at nursery, parents and carers also expressed a perhaps surprising focus upon ensuring children’s progress and attainment. Further delineation of these benefits (nurturing and socialising, alongside general attainment and progress) may further build the trust, confidence and clarity of parents and carers

After sharing these findings within the nursery community, there will be a need to review  certain policies and procedures which will then offer scope for wider work within the locality.  These policies and procedures may include:

  • Initial communications and admissions information sharing
  • Settling in procedure
  • Personal and care plans and associated procedures
  • Policy on keyworkers and relationships

Development of the trackers used, placing due prominence on social relationships pertinent to parent/carer concerns

Practitioner enquiry

I believe it is already quite well established in West Dunbartonshire.  As well as a number of Froebel Projects having taken place, there is also a long standing tradition of Collaborative Action Research projects.  This particular project, as well as the current Froebel in Childhood Practice Cohort, will be shared across the local authority to encourage further participation and enquiry.

Leadership learning

I have learned the value of discussion and collaboration – a previous project that I have led was very much my project.  The value here has been in the dialogue creating something new in terms of the questioning of parents and carers and our joint understanding opening the way to further action and research.

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

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