There are many examples of successful partnership models currently in existence within the Early Years sector. With the introduction of the 30 Hours childcare, an increasing number of settings have created formal partnerships with other childcare providers to ensure their families can access the eligible hours and to support the sustainability of their business.
However, providers of early years education can benefit from less-formal working partnerships, collaboration and support. Whether it is an informal relationship for single events, or a long-term relationship, where one or more providers work together with a focus on advice, support and developments within their individual settings; these partnerships can provide opportunities that lead to a happier workplace, improved provision and better retention of both staff and children.
But.... They are our competition!…
Yes, they are, and there will be a reason for that - It is a good idea to learn from it! You are in competition because you are both doing something right. From their strengths, you can self-reflect on how your setting can become better and find some strategies for improvement that you may not have thought of … and vice versa.
There are many more benefits to a successful collaborative approach:
Financial Benefits - Sustainability is paramount for the success of any Early Years business. With collaboration, you have the opportunity to share costs and make your finances go further. Whether it is sharing resources, or working together to create a quality CPD and skill-sharing training timetable across settings, you can save money or make the most of what you have. As we know, high quality training that meets our needs not only has a lasting impact on staff practice, but vastly supports the progression of learning and development for children.
Staff Benefits - In addition to the enhanced training for your staff, there are a number of positive opportunities for your team through collaborating. Firstly, through observations of other professionals, comparing room layouts and discussing best-practice procedures, staff gain ideas for new initiatives within their own setting. For many, it leads to a renewed enthusiasm and self-motivation towards improvement.
We all know the saying that ‘two-heads are better than one’. When staff are given time to discuss within groups and reflect, they usually come up with more innovative solutions. By taking the time to think and talk, and by working through issues with a wider variety of personnel, the range and quality of ideas can be vastly improved.
In addition to this, staff from the partnership settings can develop their provision by working together on aspects such as: moderating assessments, SENCo support, innovative planning and community events.
Finally, staff can feel valued through partnerships. They are often given more opportunities to progress, share their skills and ‘have a voice’ through partnership work. This leads to greater confidence, better work satisfaction and increased motivation to improve.
Benefits at the Top - Sometime being ‘at the top’ can be a difficult and lonely place. The ‘buck stops’ with you and everyone relies on your directions. Working together with other providers can offer a number of advantages; from sounding out ideas and solutions to being each other’s ‘critical eye’. You can share supervision and staff training, finding common development needs across settings. You can widen the potential pool of employees and quality bank staff available. By sharing and supporting, tasks seem less daunting and more achievable.
Making It Work - The success of any partnership is dependent on many factors, the most important of which is the mutually beneficial results both settings. Here are a number of ‘Top Tips’ for a successful working relationship.
Top Tips for Success........
- Ensure balance and equality – each setting needs to have equal effort and equal benefits for the partnership to work. If one provider and their staff are giving up more of their time, it will not be a positive relationship.
- Location is Important - think about the distance of your ‘support partner or partners’ – the further away, the harder it will be for you to work together in the different settings.
- Have a set of agreed ‘Ground Rules’ - having these before you start will ensure trust, professionalism and create a safe, open environment where people can share ideas without judgement.
- Make It Count – Plan! – using your improvement plans and training needs, think about how you can work together to make a positive impact on your settings. Be careful not to create a new set of additional actions; instead, think about how the collaboration will positively impact on your staff, children and families, as well as yourself.
- Agree A Get Out –agree to trial the collaboration and review its success within a given time period. This allows all parties to assess whether it is working for their setting and staff. If it is not having a positive impact, it is not right. Make sure that you allow enough time for the relationship to work but not so long that it leads to negative consequences, such as, poor staff morale.