Family Partnership Working: A Guide for Education Practitioners


Rita Cheminais

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  • Education at SAGE

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    This book is dedicated to all those loyal and trusted colleagues who continue to support my current work, and believe in me. I also wish to dedicate this book to my late mother, Joan Cheminais, who gave me a wonderful family life against all the odds.


    Thanks are due to Jude Bowen, Senior Commissioning Editor at SAGE Publications, for suggesting and encouraging me to write this practical book in response to the government's focus on working productively with families. I wish to acknowledge the valuable feedback that I have received from the reviewers of this book. They have helped to inform the contents of this practical resource.

    I also wish to thank the following colleagues for convincing me that there is a need for a book of this type, covering the key aspects of effective family partnership working: Beryl Oliver and Dave Harrison, Associate Education Consultants; Anne Maguire, Senior Educational Psychologist in Warrington Children's Services; and Philip Eastwood, AST for Initial Teacher Training at St Mary and St Paul's C of E Primary School in Prescot, Knowsley.

    In addition I wish to thank all those professionals from higher education, local authorities, nasen and the educational publishing field, who continue to promote and refer to my work.

    In particular I am grateful to all those visionary and dynamic senior leaders that I have been privileged to work with in schools, academies, PRUs and FE colleges across the UK and abroad, for sharing their invaluable experience and views with me in relation to family partnership working.

    Finally, I am indebted to Alex Molineux and Elena Louridas at SAGE Publications, and to all those who have contributed to the production and marketing of this book. Thank you for making the concept of it a reality.

    About the Author

    Rita Cheminais is a leading expert in the fields of Special Educational Needs (SEN), inclusion and the emotional health and well-being of children and young people in schools, academies, pupil referral units (PRUs), and local authority children's services. With a background as a teacher, SEN Coordinator, OFSTED inspector, General, Senior and Principal Adviser in SEN and Inclusion, and School Improvement Partner, Rita has thirty-five years of practical experience.

    She is a prolific writer and respected author of journal articles and books in the areas of SEN, inclusion and Every Child Matters, and speaks regularly at national conferences. She has provided consultancy to and undertook research for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) on the emotional health of children, and has scoped the training available to the children and young people's workforce on learning disabilities. Her publication entitled Effective Multi-Agency Partnerships: Putting Every Child Matters into Practice was shortlisted for the nasen Book to Promote Professional Development Award 2009.

    Currently, Rita is an independent freelance education consultant and Director of Educational Consultancy & Management (ECM) Solutions.

    About Educational Consultancy & Management (ECM) Solutions

    Educational Consultancy & Management (ECM) Solutions is a very successful educational consultancy, training and research organisation based in north-west England. Formerly known as Every Child Matters (ECM) Solutions, the business has expanded over the last three years since it began trading in May 2008.

    The business portfolio is extensive, and includes:

    • undertaking project work in two local authorities, on behalf of the previous government, to research the impact of provision on children's emotional health;
    • on behalf of the National CAMHS Support Service and the DCSF, scoping the training available on learning disabilities available to those working in the children's workforce, addressing the emotional health and psychological well-being of children and young people;
    • presenting keynote speeches, seminars and workshops on an annual basis at national education and SEN conferences on a range of topics: SEN, inclusion, teaching and learning, pupil voice, multi-agency working, the strategic role of the SENCO, gifted and talented education;
    • delivering high-quality bespoke training to local authorities and schools throughout the UK, and abroad, in Lagos, Nigeria;
    • providing tailored consultancy and support to early years settings, mainstream primary and secondary schools, special schools, academies, PRUs and further education (FE) colleges across the UK and abroad, who are undertaking any one of the three national and international awards offered by the organisation. These include the Achievement Through Well-Being Award (previously known as the Every Child Matters Standards Award), the Multi-Agency Partnership Award and the Family Partnership Award;
    • exhibiting at education shows and conferences in the UK.

    For more details about Rita's consultancy, training and research work contact:

    Downloadable Materials

    Downloadable materials for this book can be found at partnership for use in your setting. For a full list please see below.

    • Table 1.1: Overcoming barriers to family involvement
    • Table 1.2: Children's workforce national standards, knowledge and skills relating to working with families
    • Figure 2.1: The family partnership working self-evaluation process
    • Figure 2.2: Milestones and activities in the family partnership evaluation process
    • Table 3.1: Family partnership working review framework Table 3.2: Family partnership working action plan
    • Table 4.1: Portfolio of evidence record sheets
    • Table 5.1: Framework for recording outcomes from a reflective enquiry family walkthrough
    • Table 5.2: Descriptors for judging the effectiveness of family partnership working
    • Figure 6.1: Family-friendly school checklist
    • Table 6.1: Family–school partnership working problems and solutions
    • Table 6.2: Framework for family walkthroughs
    • A1. PowerPoint presentation of the Family Partnership Award self-review process
    • A2. Family partnership working policy
    • A3. Family Partnership Coordinator job description
    • A4. Family partnership working survey
    • A5. Annual Family Questionnaire
    • A6. Family Partnership Award good practice case study template

    Key for Icons

    This chapter covers

    Good practice example

    Points to remember

    Questions for reflection

    Downloadable materials


    Figures and Tables

    • Figure 2.1: The family partnership working self-evaluation process 28
    • Figure 2.2: Milestones and activities in the family partnership evaluation process 29
    • Figure 6.1: Family-friendly school checklist 70
    • Table 1.1: Overcoming barriers to family involvement 14
    • Table 1.2: Children's workforce national standards, knowledge and skills relating to working with families 16
    • Table 3.1: Family partnership working review framework 36
    • Table 3.2: Family partnership working action plan 42
    • Table 4.1: Portfolio of evidence record sheets 49
    • Table 5.1: Framework for recording outcomes from a reflective enquiry family walkthrough 57
    • Table 5.2: Descriptors for judging the effectiveness of family partnership working 62
    • Table 6.1: Family–school partnership working problems and solutions 75
    • Table 6.2: Framework for family walkthroughs 76
  • Appendices: Model Resources

    A1. Powerpoint Presentation of Family Partnership Award Self-Review Process

    A2. Family Partnership Working Policy

    Introduction and Rationale

    An important dimension of effective schooling for children is family involvement. Families are an essential resource in children's learning. Research indicates conclusively that family involvement at home in supporting their children's learning improves their achievement and attitude towards learning.

    The term ‘family’ refers to any adult who assumes responsibility for nurturing and caring for children, including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, step-parents.

    Family partnership working in this school is everyone's responsibility, and professional development for teachers and support staff in this aspect of the school's work is given a high priority.

    The school has a designated senior member of staff (the pastoral deputy head teacher) who takes lead responsibility for family partnership working. They are the first point of contact if families wish to raise any concerns or queries relating to how the school works in partnership with them.

    Principles of Family Partnership Working
    • Families are the prime educators of their children.
    • The school welcomes and acknowledges the valuable contributions that families make in helping their children to learn and be happy.
    • The extent of family involvement in a child's education is more important to a pupil's success than family income or education.
    • Family support for a child's learning is most effective when it is long-lasting and well planned.
    • Families are viewed as equal partners in the education of their children.
    • A child's education is a shared responsibility between their family and the school.
    • Families, like the school, want the best for their children and for them to be successful.
    The Aims of Family Partnership Working

    The school aims to develop strong and effective family partnership working in order to:

    • help families develop good parenting skills and the confidence to support their child through periods of change in their school life;
    • promote two-way communication between home and school;
    • keep families informed about their children's progress and achievements;
    • involve families in appropriate family learning opportunities and other positive family activities;
    • provide families with practical strategies and approaches in order to enable them to support their children's learning, behaviour and well-being at home;
    • encourage families to participate actively and to contribute to school decision-making and develop their leadership skills in governance and advocacy;
    • provide families with the information and skills in order to access community activities, events and family support services.
    Provision to Foster and Promote Productive Family Partnership Working
    • The school has a well-established Family Council that provides a forum where families can raise concerns and issues as well as share good practice.
    • The school encourages and empowers families to take a lead in informing the school of improvement priorities that relate to helping children achieve more.
    • The school consults with families on all issues that will affect their role in supporting their children's learning, behaviour and well-being at home.
    • Families are invited to complete an annual family survey and questionnaire, which informs the school's decision-making in relation to ensuring that the activities and events offered to families are what they want and need.
    • The school provides a Family Room where families can enjoy social networking with other families in an informal area, as well as meeting with external agencies and school staff who provide support for families.
    • The school keeps families informed about their children's progress and achievements through class progress review meetings, parents' evenings and pupil reports.
    • The school provides family-friendly information on its website, in addition to offering a confidential text messaging service for families and an electronic family chatroom.
    • The school offers families a good range of appropriate and relevant family learning opportunities, including enjoyable family social, cultural and recreational events and activities on the school site.
    • The school provides training and support to family members who opt to be volunteers, Family Champions, Family Ambassadors, family mentors and family coaches.
    • The head teacher attends the monthly family coffee mornings to listen to any family concerns, issues and good news.
    Monitoring, Evaluating and Reviewing Family Partnership Working

    The pastoral deputy head teacher is responsible for monitoring, evaluating and reviewing family partnership working within the school on an annual basis.

    The head teacher, the governing body and the Family Council receive termly reports and updates on the effectiveness and impact of family partnership policy and practice.

    This policy is reviewed and updated each year.

    It is available to download and view from the school's website.

    A3. Family Partnership Coordinator Job Description

    Job Title: Family Partnership Coordinator

    Responsible to: The deputy head teacher (pastoral)

    Main Duties:

    • Help to develop a whole-school family-friendly culture and ethos in partnership with key stakeholders, including families.
    • Develop a whole-school agreed policy on family partnership working.
    • Take responsibility for overseeing the use of the Family Room in school.
    • Keep family noticeboards, the family pages on the school website, and family information on the school's live channel up to date, to help publicise and promote family-related activities at the school.
    • Develop and deliver a good range of family learning and recreational activities and workshops, designed to engage families in supporting their children's learning and well-being.
    • Enable teaching and support staff to develop effective communication and joint partnership working with a diversity of children's families.
    • Develop and promote effective family participation and engagement strategies, which will skill them up to support their child's learning and well-being at home.
    • Help to recruit and train family volunteers, family mentors and Family Champions to support new families and those who are ‘harder to reach’.
    • Keep family partnership working activities and events under regular review, monitoring and evaluating their impact and outcomes on families and children's learning and well-being.
    • Participate in and support cluster group family partnership working events and activities.
    • Work productively with community partners and external agencies to secure appropriate resources and opportunities to enhance family partnership working and family learning.
    • Disseminate good practice in family partnership working within and beyond the school.
    • Take responsibility for engaging in relevant continuing professional development opportunities, relating to family participation and partnership working.
    • Undertake any other duties designated by the head teacher that are relevant to the post.

    A4. Family Partnership Working Survey

    In order to help the school identify how best we can help families to support their children's learning and well-being at home, we would be grateful if you could complete the following survey.

    If you require this survey in another format or language, please ask at reception.

    • Which aspects of your child's learning, behaviour and well-being would you welcome further advice and guidance from school to help you support these aspects at home?

    • What do you currently find works well in supporting your child's learning, behaviour and well-being at home?

    • Which family activities do you enjoy doing the most with your child?

    • How do you like to celebrate family birthdays or other special family events?

    • Which family activities and events do you enjoy attending the most at the school?

    • Which other family events and activities would you like to see the school offering to families?

    • Would you be willing to volunteer to get involved in organising family events at school, or to offer support to individual families? If the answer is yes, what would you be willing to do?

    • Please make any further comments about family partnership working or family participation and engagement with the school below.

    Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.

    Please post your completed survey in the Family Box at reception.

    A5. Annual Family Questionnaire

    Please take a few minutes to complete this questionnaire.

    Circle Yes or No.

    All answers are anonymous.

    Your responses will enable the school to further improve its partnership working with families.

    • Are you always greeted in a friendly, polite way when you contact the school by phone or in person?

      YES NO

    • Is the main reception area for visitors welcoming and does it provide information about what's going on in school?

      YES NO

    • Does the school provide a good induction programme for new families enrolling their children at the school?

      YES NO

    • Does the school offer social events for families to meet the staff and head teacher?

      YES NO

    • Is the head teacher approachable, visible and willing to meet with families?

      YES NO

    • Are families able to offer ideas, raise queries and take part in school decision-making?

      YES NO

    • Does the school offer families the opportunity to visit their children's classrooms to see learning in action?

      YES NO

    • Are families welcome to use the school's facilities after school hours?

      YES NO

    • Are non-English speaking families supported in understanding the work and life of the school, and are they able to participate in family activities at the school?

      YES NO

    • Are families kept informed about local family activities and events taking place at the school and in the local community?

      YES NO

    Thank for completing this questionaire.

    Please return it to the receptionist at school.

    A6. Family Partnership Award Good Practice Case Study Template

    Please complete the following good practice case study template at the end of the award process. With your permission, this will be posted on the website, in order to disseminate your good practice experience with other participants and prospective participants.

    Table A1
    • Name of organisation:
    • Type of organisation:
    • Local Authority:
    • Date award achieved:
    Relevant contextual information about your educational setting or service:
    The reasons why you engaged with the Family Partnership Award process:
    How you organised the audit and evidence-gathering process:
    What worked well in engaging with the Family Partnership Award process:
    Examples of innovative family partnership working good practice worth sharing:
    Impact of family partnership working in general and on helping children achieve more:
    Impact on staff and other key stakeholders in engaging in the award process:
    Next steps and ongoing family partnership working developments:

    Acronyms and Abbreviations

    ASTAdvanced Skills Teacher
    CAFCASSChildren and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
    CAMHSChild and Adolescent Mental Health Services
    CDcompact disc
    CEChurch of England
    CPDcontinuing professional development
    CVcurriculum vitae
    CWDCChildren's Workforce Development Council
    DCSFDepartment for Children, Schools and Families
    DfESDepartment for Education and Skills
    DVDdigital versatile disc
    ECMEducational Consultancy & Management (ECM) Solutions
    FAQsfrequently asked questions
    FEfurther education
    ICTinformation and communications technology
    INSETin-service education and training
    MORIMarket & Opinion Research International
    OFSTEDOffice for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
    PRUpupil referral unit
    PSHEpersonal, social and health education
    PTAparent teacher association
    QAquality assurance
    REreligious education
    SEALsocial, emotional aspects of learning
    SENspecial educational needs
    SENCOspecial educational needs coordinator
    SLTsenior leadership team
    UKUnited Kingdom


    • Active listening is a non-judgemental way of listening that focuses entirely on what the family or child is saying and confirming understanding of both the content of the message and the emotions and feelings underlying the message to ensure accurate understanding.
    • Audit is a transparent, systematic, objective evaluation and quality assurance review process that judges and compares actual policy and practice against a series of recommended predetermined best practice evidence descriptors.
    • Change is a process designed to improve practice, introduce new policies and functions and alter the existing practice.
    • Cluster is any group of schools geographically close to one another, where the individual schools in the group interact and work collaboratively together for a common purpose.
    • Collaboration is the process of working jointly with others, including those with whom one is not normally or immediately connected, to develop and achieve common goals.
    • Consultation is the systematic process of seeking information by talking about things that matter, with families and children, and listening to their opinions on an issue or topic.
    • Decision making is a process of partnership to share views and take action toward shared goals for school improvement and pupil success.
    • Engagement is the enthusiasm, excitement and investment that family members feel towards an activity or issue that interests them.
    • Evaluation is concerned with gauging and judging effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses, and interpreting how well things are going.
    • Family comprises of members who are closely related, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and other kith and kin who are involved in children's learning.
    • Family-friendly refers to a school climate that is open and welcoming in forming positive partnerships and an involvement with all types of families.
    • ‘Hard to reach’ families refers to those families who are either unwilling to accept or ask for help, or don't want to engage or cooperate with the school, or don't know how to ask for help or engage with the school. ‘Hard to reach’ families may include asylum seekers, rural families, young carers and fathers.
    • Informed choice refers to families making knowledgeable decisions that reflect their own cultures, values and views. An informed choice is an ongoing process where families are supported to reach decisions in ways that are sensitive to their individual strengths, resources, needs and experience.
    • Involvement refers to the efforts of any adult who assumes responsibility for nurturing and caring for a child in promoting and developing their well-being.
    • Monitoring is the process of checking progress against objectives or targets set relating to the key aspects of family partnership working, identifying trends and ensuring that agreed actions take place.
    • Outcomes refers to the identifiable (positive or negative) impacts of interventions, strategies, programmes, activities or services on children, young people and their families.
    • Participation means committing to something worthwhile with opportunities to be engaged in decision making.
    • Partnership is a collaborative relationship designed to produce positive educational and social effects on a child while also being mutually beneficial to all other parties involved. Partnerships are dynamic and change over time and are characterised by common aims, mutual respect, negotiation and flexibility.
    • Portfolio is an organised collection of a range of high-quality information and evidence that demonstrates successful and effective policy and practice on a particular topic or aspect.
    • Quality assurance is the process of systematically examining the quality of family partnership policy and practice within an educational setting with a view to improving outcomes.
    • Self-evaluation is an in-depth developmental reflective collaborative process at the heart of improvement.
    • Stakeholder is any person, group, organisation or institution that has an interest in an activity, project, initiative or development. This includes intended beneficiaries and intermediaries, winners and losers, and those who are involved with or excluded from decision making.
    • Volunteering is an unpaid activity where someone gives of their time to help and benefit an organisation or an individual whom they are not related to.
    • Well-being refers to having the basic things required to live and be healthy, safe and happy.

    Useful Websites and Organisations

    Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)

    CAFCASS is a non-departmental public body accountable to the Secretary of State for Education, which is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities. It operates within the law set by Parliament and under the rules and direction of the family courts.

    CAFCASS safeguards and promotes the welfare of children. It gives advice to the family courts, and makes provision for children to be represented. CAFCASS also provides information, advice and support to children and their families going through the court system.

    In particular, CAFCASS Champions the interests of children involved in family proceedings. CAFCASS has its own Family Court Advisers, who are qualified social workers. They work exclusively in the family courts and support children who are: subject to an application for care or supervision proceedings by social services; subject to an adoption application; or when parents are separating or divorcing and can't reach an agreement on arrangements for their children.

    Further information about CAFCASS can be found on their website at

    Family Action

    Family Action is a charity that provides services to disadvantaged and socially isolated families. They also provide practical, emotional and financial support through community-based services across England. Family Action can supply educational grants for families as well as helping them gain information on topics such as domestic abuse, mental health problems, learning disabilities, severe financial hardship, substance misuse and alcohol problems.

    Family Action works with the whole family as a unit in order to help them find solutions to problems and to enable them to become stronger, happier and healthier.

    Further information about Family Action can be found on their website at

    Family Lives

    Family Lives is a national charity providing help and support with all aspects of family life. They have a 24/7 free Parentline, a website, message boards, an email service, live chat and parenting/relationship support groups, all designed to help families resolve family problems. Family Lives provide free, professional, non-judgemental, accessible support and advice on all aspects of family life including: raising children; school issues; family breakdown; parenting and relationship support; bullying at school; risky teenage behaviour; mental health concerns; and aggression in the home.

    Further information about Family Lives can be found on their website at

    Families Need Fathers

    Families Need Fathers is a UK charity that seeks to obtain for the children concerned the best possible presence of both parents in their lives. It is a social care organisation that helps parents whose children's relationship with them is under threat. Families Need Fathers offers information, advice and support services for parents on how to do the best for their children.

    Families Need Fathers also lobbies to get court orders for shared residence; improvements in the time that children are allowed to spend with their second parent, and replacing adversarial court hearings over children-matters with child-centred discussion.

    Further information about Families Need Fathers can be found on their website at

    Family Rights Group

    Family Rights Group is a charity in England and Wales that advises parents and other family members whose children are involved with or require children's social care services because of welfare needs or concerns. They run a helpful, confidential, free helpline for families as well as offering advice about children's social care services involvement. Family Rights Group runs conferences for those working with and supporting families that helps to ensure children are raised safely and securely within their families. They also campaign to ensure that support is available to help grandparents, family friends and carers who are raising children who are unable to live at home.

    Further information about Family Rights Group can be found on their website at

    Fatherhood Institute

    The Fatherhood Institute is a registered UK charity that acts as a think tank for fatherhood. They collate and publish international research on fathers, fatherhood and different approaches to engaging with fathers by public services and employers. They also help to shape national and local policies to ensure father-inclusive approaches to family policy. The Fatherhood Institute ensures research evidence on fathers and fatherhood informs national debates about parenting and parental roles. They lobby for changes in the law, policy and practice to remove barriers to fathers' care of their infants and children. In addition, the organisation provides training, consultancy and publications on father-inclusive practice for public and third sector agencies and employers.

    The Fatherhood Institute offers an online community for sharing expertise in father-inclusive practice called Dads Included.

    Further information about the Fatherhood Institute can be found on their website at

    Grandparents' Association

    The Grandparents' Association is a national charity supporting all grandparents and their families. They offer confidential support and advice to those grandparents who are bringing up grandchildren. They also provide advice to grandparents regarding welfare benefits and the financial support available to help them bring up grandchildren. The association offers a confidential helpline where grandparents who have lost contact with their grandchildren can talk things through with a professional adviser. They also run local support groups and provide helpful publications and factsheets.

    Further information about the Grandparents' Association can be found on their website at

    Grandparents plus

    Grandparents Plus is a national charity in England and Wales that champions the role of grandparents and the wider family in children's lives and particularly of those who take on a caring role for grandchildren. The organisation works to support grandparents and the wider family by: campaigning for grandparents' contribution to children's well-being and care to ensure that it is valued and understood; providing evidence, policy solutions and training to ensure that grandparents get the services and support that they need to help their children and grandchildren thrive; and building alliances and networks to ensure that grandparents have a voice and an opportunity to support each other, especially when they become their grandchildren's full-time carers.

    Further information about Grandparents Plus can be found on their website at

    National Association of Family Information Services (NAFIS)

    NAFIS is a charity that supports, links and promotes Family Information Services (FIS) in Great Britain. It also represents a network of quality Family Information Services across England, Wales and Scotland. NAFIS offers training, publications, electronic communication facilities and regular networking opportunities to its members, while FIS provide information, advice and assistance to parents, carers and professionals on the range of children, family and young people's services available within their local area.

    Further information about NAFIS and FIS can be found on their website at

    National Family and Parenting Institute (NFPI)

    The National Family and Parenting Institute (also referred to as the Family and Parenting Institute) produces a wide range of publications for families, policy makers and practitioners. They campaign on behalf of families and contribute to family policy development. The NFPI also signposts to other useful resources, information and relevant organisations.

    Further information about the NFPI can be found on their website at

    Working Families

    Working Families is the UK's leading family work–life balance organisation. They help children, working parents, carers and their employers to find a better balance between their responsibilities at home and at work. They also offer a free legal helpline to parents and carers on legal and in-work benefits advice, in addition to helping parents and carers negotiate more flexible working hours. In addition Working Families undertakes research and campaigns to encourage a healthy work–life balance and flexible working for everyone.

    Further information about Working Families can be found on their website at


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