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What is a ‘key person’ and why are they important?

The role of key person in an early years setting is much more than just a title.

It is a requirement of the Early Years Foundation Stage that every registered childcare setting must assign a key person to your child when they start.

You should be told who this key person is and have their role explained to you. They will help your child to settle and will then be responsible for ensuring that the care your little one receives meets all of their needs.

The key person will be your first point of contact with the nursery or pre-school, and is also responsible for exchanging information with you. You will get verbal updates most days, and regular written summaries about how well your child is progressing in their learning and development.

Watching and learning

It will be the key person who observes your child regularly as they are playing and learning, they will pay attention to how your child learns, what they enjoy playing with and what they need more support with. They will also keep a record of the observations they have made, usually in a Learning Journey that documents your child’s progress through the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The key person will use their observations to plan further learning opportunities that are based on your child’s individual interests and needs. This is because they know that children learn best when the experiences they have are challenging and enjoyable, allowing them to play and explore, to concentrate and to develop their own ideas.

Talking — a two-way street

A key person’s responsibilities stretch beyond meeting the basic needs of your child and exchanging information with you. From the moment that you are introduced the key person should make you feel that their setting is a safe place that you can trust, they are your insight into your child’s world whilst they are away from you, whilst establishing the professional boundaries and expectations upon which your on-going relationship is based.

Your feedback is valued and will be listened to as part of the partnership between you, your child and the key person.

Working in partnership with the key personadult engaging with baby playing a music shaker

  • Make yourself aware of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Your child’s setting will have information that they can share with you and will also be able to tell you where you can find out more.
  • If you happen to be available on a day when Ofsted are inspecting your child’s setting, the Inspector will be interested to know what you think and how well the setting shares information with you about your child’s progress.
  • Read your setting’s current Ofsted report, it will help you to understand how effective they are.
  • Be prepared to share information about what your child enjoys doing at home and any new skills they have mastered. The information that you share is really important to the key person as they need to understand your child’s interests and abilities.
  • If you have a concern about your child’s overall development the key person will work closely with you, using their observations and records to see if your child is developing as expected. If they are also concerned they will seek support to make sure that your child receives extra help if they need it.
  • If your concern is about the quality of care, then you must speak to the key person in the first instance, if they cannot reassure you, then they will explain how you can make a formal complaint.
  • The most important aspect of the key person’s relationship with parents is that you can work together as a team to ensure the very best care and education for your child whilst they are away from home.

More information

Visit the Parents' section of the Early Years Alliance website for more advice about choosing childcare and getting more involved in your child's development.

Written by Melanie Pilcher, Quality and Standards Manager at the Early Years Alliance. 

Where next?

How to choose the right childcare

Get set for pre-school 

Getting ready for big school

30 hours offer: a guide for parents


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