Collaborative Partnerships

Building and sustaining collaborative partnerships with families and other professionals to best support children’s learning and development

Collaboration with families

Families are a child's first teacher. This is recognised by the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) Practice Principle Partnerships with Families (pdf - 1.61mb). Families play a critical role in the growth, learning and development of children, and children's sense of belonging. A family's involvement in their child's experience of a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program is a central component of supporting the child to grow and develop.

To support strong and authentic partnerships with families, teachers and educators should:

  • accept the unique needs and circumstances of all families and children
  • partner with families to build shared knowledge of their children, and see this knowledge as being as valuable as the information early childhood professionals gain through educating and caring for the children
  • build clear and shared expectations of how families will be included in the educational program
  • share what they are observing and planning to support children's learning and development
  • ensure that open lines of communication are established and that the family and early childhood professionals' communication is honest, caring, warm and genuine
  • identify and assess what families hope their children will gain through attendance at a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program.

Collaboration with families will look different in each Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program, and assessing the local needs, requirements and resources available will impact on what collaboration looks like.  Some practical ideas to support collaboration with families may include:

  • inviting families to share how they would like to be involved
  • starting off with a small initiative, for example, offering families the opportunity to spend more time at the kindergarten when their child starts, and building on this with other opportunities, such as asking families for their ideas on how else they would like to be involved 
  • identifying any barriers which might inhibit a family member from participating in aspects of the kindergarten program and work at reducing these barriers.

​Collaboration with other professionals

Collaborating with other professional who support children and their families is an important way to support children’s learning and development, as highlighted in the VEYLDF Practice Principle, Partnerships with Professionals (pdf - 1.29mb).

Working in collaboration with other services and agencies requires early childhood professionals to identify what other relevant services are located within their local community, and which services their families may be accessing or seeking support through. This may include the local Maternal and Child Health Service or allied health professionals.

All professionals who support a child’s learning and development have knowledge that can assist other professionals who support that child. At a service level, strong and effective leadership is required to enable this collaboration to be maintained. This includes, for example, the allocation of time to connect up. Building and sustaining these relationships with other professionals requires teachers and educators to actively build these relationships. 

Collaboration requires an ongoing commitment. It is the willingness to be involved, as well as ensuring that there is a common vision and clear aims for working together. This takes time and cannot be rushed. There may be existing opportunities in local communities that can be tapped into. For example, local early years networks, transition networks, leadership forums or shared professional learning opportunities are ideal places to build these types of relationships.

Educators working in Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs should develop processes and protocols to draw on the expertise of other professionals and share appropriate information about children’s learning and development with families and other early childhood professionals.  Over time, services will see the benefits of collaborations for children, families and professionals.

One such benefit may be improved continuity of learning for children in Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs. Continuity of learning is the continued progress of a child’s learning and development as they transition between learning environments. This includes entering a formal learning environment for the first time, and transitioning from three to four-year-old kindergarten. It relies on strong and effective relationships and the sharing of information between early childhood professionals in services and schools, as well as other professionals who may work with a child, to help ensure that children experience smooth and successful transitions.

Connections to the VEYLDF

Partnerships with Families (pdf - 1.61mb) and Partnerships with Professionals (pdf - 1.29mb) are two of the eight VEYLDF Practice Principles.

Early childhood professionals have an important part to play in building collaborative relationships with others, including families, health services, family support services and primary school staff. Collaborative relationships take time, effort and persistence, and require a culture of respect for the diversity of approaches, knowledge and expertise.

In building these relationships, it is acknowledged that children learn best when the adults who work and live with them have close and professional relationships. It is important that a culture of reflection and evaluation are integrated into any process of building such relationships. In doing so, opportunities to expand on successes are focused on, and opportunities for improvement and refinement remain an option.

As early childhood professionals continue their commitment to collaboration, they see the benefits of these relationships in improving outcomes for three-year-old children.

Questions for reflective discussion

To support collaborative partnerships, take some time to reflect on the following questions.

  • How does your team define collaboration? What does collaboration look like at your service?
  • Who does your service collaborate with and what actions can you take to enhance collaboration with other service providers?
  • Which services in the local community might you benefit from building a relationship with, particularly related to working in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program?
  • What knowledge and expertise do you and your team have about three-year-old children which other service providers might benefit from knowing?
  • What strategies have you heard of or used that have been successful in building cross-organisational relationships?

Connection to the Box of Educational Resources

A Box of Educational Resources has been provided to services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in 2020 and 2021. It includes resources that specifically focus on building collaborative relationships.  A number of relevant resources included in the box are also freely available online and these links are listed below, while some others are only available in hard copy.

Resources available online

  • Tip sheet 7 - Kindergarten access for all children: ensuring the sector is responsive to the community: This tip-sheet provides ideas to support access to high-quality, responsive learning environments for all children. 
  • Tip Sheet 7 (docx - 7.15mb)

Resources available in the box

  • Making Links Parent Partner – A Guide for Parents about What Matters in Early Childhood Services: This booklet highlights what really matters for children and their families in early childhood services. See, Page 16 ‘Partnerships’, which highlights the importance of relationship building with parents and some practical ideas for building these partnerships. 

Other Resources

ACECQA, Building Partnerships with Families and Building Partnerships Between Families and Early Childhood Staff
This information supports teaching teams to recognise that collaborative relationships with families are fundamental to achieving quality outcomes for children under the National Quality Standard and highlight that community partnerships that are based on active communication, consultation and collaboration are essential. 

DET, Moving to primary school (transitions). These webpages provide advice and resources on effective transition to school, including working with families to support this important transition.

DET, VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide Partnerships with Families (pdf - 1.61mb): This practice guide supports early childhood professionals to critically reflect on partnerships with families. The practice guide draws on the VEYLDF Evidence Paper Practice Principle 1: Family-Centred Practice (pdf - 459.26kb)  and should also be used in conjunction with the VEYLDF Practice Principle Partnerships with Families video.  

DET, VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide Partnerships with Professionals (pdf - 1.29mb): This practice guide supports early childhood professionals to critically reflect on partnerships with other early childhood professionals. The practice guide draws on the VEYLDF Evidence Paper Practice Principle 2: Partnerships with Professionals (pdf - 1.58mb) and should also be used in conjunction with the VEYLDF Practice Principle Partnerships with Professionals video.  

Value for Early Childhood Educators: This website provides information on ways in which early childhood educators can work with and support communities to help shape the future and wellbeing of Australian children, including by building community partnerships.