The Key Person Approach: Positive Relationships with Children in the Early Years

McDermott, M. (2016). The Key Person Approach: Positive Relationships with Children in the Early Years.
The care and education of young children in Ireland has changed in the last two decades, with many children spending more time in their early years being cared for by people other than their parents, whether this is by childminders, nannies or crèches. Shared group care, such as in crèches, is now quite common and this may be full day care, part time or sessional care. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ireland in 1992, refers to a child’s right to learn and develop. For children to reach their full potential it is essential that the environment they are in is warm and responsive, one where they feel secure and have formed a bond or attachment with the adults taking care of them. One way of achieving this bond in an early years setting is by introducing a key person approach, where each child is assigned one person to be their primary carer, with this person also acting as the link between the service and the child’s parents. The key person approach is primarily focused on the relationships and communication between educator, parents and children. Having a secure relationship with one person in shared care supports children’s emotional wellbeing and enables them to become familiar with and confident in the setting. In some countries such as the UK, the use of a key person approach has become mandatory as an understanding of the importance of individual special relationships in shared group care has come to the fore (Department for Education UK, 2014). While this approach is not mandatory in Ireland, both Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (CECDE, 2006), and Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009) refer to the importance of key relationships between educators and children and parents. This booklet is for all those working in early years services that provide shared group care. It provides information on what the key person approach is, the benefits of this approach and what needs to be considered to ensure it works effectively. It will support both managers who are introducing the key person approach and the staff working in those services.