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Embedding parents’ perspectives in the discourse for quality education and care in the early years

Full reference

Bailey, E. & Solvason, C. (2019). Embedding parents’ perspectives in the discourse for quality education and care in the early years.  NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 22(1), pp. 59 – 71.  Retrieved from

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Page 59

Original Research Paper
© ChildForum 

NZ Int Reseach ECE journal pic

Embedding parents’ perspectives in the discourse for quality education and care in the early years

Emma Bailey
Early Years Educator, Worcester, UK

Carla Solvason
University of Worcester, UK


The Early Years sector in the UK is gripped by the notion of quality; quality improvements, quality experiences, and better-quality staff in order to build ‘foundations for quality’ (Department for Education, 2012). However, multiple conflicting perspectives exist regarding a definition for quality. This research contributes to this discussion, locating the lived experiences and expectations of parents of young children in registered settings in relation to the existing dynamic discourse for quality.

In this article existing literature is reviewed to ascertain the links between quality and leadership and to explore the value of parent partnership within quality provision. Then by investigating the perspectives of two small samples of parents (one from an online regional parenting discussion board, the other from a small domestic setting) we gain a deeper understanding of how some parents perceive quality Early Childhood Education and Care. Qualitative questionnaires and ‘purposeful conversations’ (Kvale, 1996) are analysed to reach the conclusion that the process of assessing quality is an intuitive one; based upon a sense of familiarity, safety and the emotional well-being of those in the setting.

The empirical data collected contends the need for flexibility in parent partnerships, providing a range of structured opportunities for engagement in discourse, in order to allow for greater inclusivity. It also highlights the importance of professional interactions not becoming tokenistic, as this undermines authentic dialogue and relationships with families. 

Key words: Quality, discourse, perspectives, parent partnership, early years provision.



The current curriculum in the UK is based upon the acceptance that high quality Early Years (EY) experiences create better outcomes for children (Office for Standards in Education [Ofsted], 2013). Frequently referenced throughout literature, quality has become the goal for EY provision across the western world (Taguma, Litjens & Makowieck, 2012). Despite this, definitions of quality are inconsistent. Reed and Canning (2012) state that it is open to interpretation and subject to variables that influence opinion. But whose opinion is heard? The perspectives of practitioners rarely feature in EY policy, but more specifically, the perspective of parents is absent. This paper focuses upon parental perceptions of quality, using small-scale research to invite parents’ views into the ongoing debate.

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