A better reception

Polly Shields with daughter Sadie and early years educator Kerry Stocking at nursery school

Picture of parent/daughter & EY Educator









What's this?

How can you transform a personal experience into solid research that has the potential to benefit all children? After her own child experienced a difficult move from nursery to primary school, key stage 1 teacher Polly Shields decided she needed to find out more.

Shields, who has been teaching in London for more than 10 years, knew that the transition from nursery to primary school was a vital indicator of future academic success. But, historically, responsibility for transition has been placed on nursery workers, teachers and the wider school authorities, with hugely varying results.However, parents are beginning to be included in the process. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), statutory in all reception classes in England, commits providers to developing a partnership with parents. For the first time, schools have a legal framework to guide their relationships with parents of reception pupils.



As the Institute of Education's Professor Alma Harris explained in the Spring 2009 issue of Professional Teacher, partnership with parents is not a new concept. But, as Polly Shields notes, in the past schools were more likely to involve parents in supporting the school as an institution, rather than in their own child's development. As a result, Shields wanted to explore a group of parents' perceptions of their relationships with their children's nursery school and, after the transition to reception class, their primary school. Her research was conducted as part of an MA in Early Years Education.


Shields interviewed parents whose children attended an inner-London nursery and who then moved to one of the local primary schools in January 2008. She also interviewed the same children's key workers to establish how relationships with parents informed their work. Her own experiences shaped her research questions and became the filter through which she interpreted others' experiences. The aim was to gain a wider picture of parents' perceptions of the differences between nursery and primary, their relationships with key workers and teachers and whether this impacted on their involvement with their child's education and, ultimately, their child's development.


BUILDING GOOD relationships
The views of nursery key workers werean important aspect of Shields' research. The inner-city nursery school studied is part of a children's centre. Shields found that key workers felt that involving parents in their children's lives at nursery was central to their role, because it was essential to understand the family and the cultural background in order to understand the child's interests and needs. They also recognised that providing an understanding of their children's learning enabled parents to support the children's development at home, enabled them to feel more confident and relaxed, which in turn could help them to enjoy parenting more.


The full article is available below


  • A better reception (professional_teacher_summer09 - A better reception.pdf - 372Kb) PDf article

Find out more

  • TDA website  Link to the Professional Teacher journal | Summer 2009 PDF

Article published to :


Foundation, Key Stage 1

Type of Resource

Case Studies

Authors :

Julie Ferry

Publisher :

TDA - Professional Teacher - Summer 2009

Article Id :


Date Posted: