Feedback and the key person role
These quotes from a child psychotherapist and an Early Years practitioner demonstrate how important it is to make time for group and individual feedback with colleagues to ensure the success of the key person approach. Regular meetings will improve your support of children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Time to talk and listen in groups
Sometimes, heads and managers say that their office door is always open, so that if a member of staff needs to come and talk to them about a problem, they can do so. This is valuable but it is not enough. It risks seeing talking as something that only happens when there is a problem. For the key person approach to work really well, it is important that staff teams have time to talk together in the way described below.
The key point is the need for regular 'work discussion' groups where the only agenda is the opportunity for each worker in turn to discuss their work with children and their own feelings about the work. This is not 'therapy', but a disciplined professional exercise. [Nursery] staff and childminders who have this opportunity are likely to relate better to the children, be less stressed, and have less time off for sickness.
Dilys Daws, Consultant Child Psychotherapist, Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust
Of course it is very difficult for some settings to find this time when staff are working shifts and so do not necessarily finish work at the same time for meetings. But many nurseries do manage to find a way to have this talking time regularly and find it an essential and integral part of making the key person approach work well.
Time to talk and listen individually
A practitioner describes her experience of the value of supervision, which is individual time for discussing professional relationships in the nursery.
I wasn't familiar with supervision until I came to work at [the centre] as a seconded deputy. Previously I'd worked as an Early Years coordinator in a school in a very challenging area of [a large city] where there was a desperate – and unmet – need for the opportunity to reflect on children and issues of concern in regular carefully managed, confidential, professional meetings. At [the centre], members of the staff team (secretaries, nursery nurses, teachers, students, project manager and deputies) have at least a monthly two-hour meeting with their line manager. This is seen as so valuable that nothing is allowed to compromise it – in the rare circumstances that a meeting has to be cancelled it is immediately rescheduled. Although certain aspects, like discussion of children who are on either the special needs register or the child protection register, form part of every month's agenda, there is also scope to focus on areas identified by either the worker or the line manager. We use this forum to look at issues like relationships with other staff members, children and parents, areas for development, and, if needed, it's the opportunity to have a good grumble about anything and everything to do with work. The supervisors are carefully trained in a range of supervision and counselling techniques and there is a negotiated contract (including a complaints procedure). Because of its obvious impact on self-esteem and sense of personal worth, the process plays a vital part in the good working relationships between staff, parents and children and it can have a therapeutic role… Supervision (which should not be confused with appraisal or staff meeting) in my experience has a wholly positive effect on the well-being of the team. In turn, this impacts on the life of the centre and the relationships we have with children and parents.
Quoted in Elfer et al., 2003, pp.58–59
Elfer, P., Goldschmied, E. and Selleck, D. (2003) Key Persons in the Nursery: Building relationships for quality provision London: David Fulton Publishers.