This is an extract from our Key Person Policy, published online August 2017. Read the full document.

This policy is not an exhaustive ‘list’ of what to do as a key person, more of an exploration of how to be.

Elinor Goldschmied was instrumental in creating the key person role we know today. A pioneer of early childhood care and education, her work has continued to have a profound influence on theory and practice to the present day. While all Elinor’s work was innovative, perhaps the three ideas of greatest consequence have been the treasure basket, heuristic play and the key person approach.

In the aftermath of WW2 Elinor was invited to work in the orphanages that had been set up by Mussolini during the war. It was in these settings that she advocated small group work, which is where the seeds of the Key Person role were sown. At this time Elinor took responsibility for a group of evacuated children who were considered ‘unbilletable’ due to their unruly behavior, this experience provided the foundation for much of her later work on the management and organisation of nurseries, both in Britain and Italy.

The conception of the key person approach emerged from Elinor’s focus on the development of building a genuine personal relationship with individual children and their parents.

Senior Early Years Officer Lian Higgins, shared with me that her role “is to inspire trust”. Lian feels her knowledge deepens through her interactions with parents, and asks parents to help her understand their child, while sharing her observations and thoughts with them. Lian’s experience has taught her that parents very much value the feeling that a practitioner really knows their child. In this way Lian is exploring not what to do but what kind of person to be (Cunliffe, 2009).

This model of practice leads us to identify the strengths and knowledge a family bring and to enable their participation in our service, this and harmonious relationships are key to achieving a co-ordinated model of collaboration.

Lian’s thoughtful practice is guided by Froebel who revealed that “man’s nature and purpose require that he should not live alone but develop in a social context” (Lilley, 1967).  This philosophy underpins thoughts about relationships, particularly in a Day Care Setting, many of our parents have similar feelings as I discovered when I undertook some research of the key person approach in 2011.

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer

Read more about Cowgate’s Key Person Policy and Karen’s research in the full document: Key Person Policy, 2017