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Positive beginnings? The role of the Key Person in Early Years adult-child relationships
Lemos, Marcos Theodore
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This research project aims to explore the role of the Key Person in Early Years preschool and nursery settings. The Key Person role is specified in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) guidance, and aims to provide an adult figure with which the children can form a positive and productive learning relationship. The present study originated from previous research conducted in the same authority which looked at the experiences of children in day care settings (Day, 2010). Day (2010) identified children’s attachment needs in day care settings as being an avenue for further research, and it was from this that the present study developed. The current study seeks to understand the role of the Key Person in terms of how relationships are formed with children in Early Years settings, and what those relationships look like on a daily basis. This is an important line of enquiry, as an understanding of Early Years, adult-child relationships can help inform effective future practice for Early Years staff, as well as enable outside professionals (such as Educational Psychologists) to design more effective means of early intervention for the children who may need additional support. The theoretical foundations for this research lie in attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969), following the language used by the Government Guidance on the role of the Key Person. Attachment theory is used here as a basis for understanding early adult-child relationships, and the review of the literature looks at research that has explored the impact of children’s attendance in day care settings. The project is divided into two linked research papers. In the first paper, the role of the Key Person is explored through surveying and interviewing a sample of Early Years staff. In doing this, the following research objectives were addressed: • To examine the approaches that Key Persons use to form relationships with the children in their care. • To explore Key Persons’ perceptions of their role within the setting and the challenges they face. • To examine the awareness and impact of the current government guidance on Key Person practice. • To examine how settings organise and evaluate the Key Person role. In the second paper, the relationships between the Key Persons and the children they care for are explored through a series of case studies. This was in order to address the following research objectives: • To explore the relationships between particular children with adults in Early Years settings through intensive case studies. • To examine the Key Person-child relationship by comparing Key Person-child interactions with interactions with other adults in the setting. • To compare cases of Key Person-child relationships between children who have identified social or emotional needs and those who do not. The findings from paper one indicated that Key Persons do not generally seem to use the Government Guidance as a primary influence on the way they build positive relationships with their Key Children. Key Persons seemed to base their practice on experiential knowledge. Furthermore, the organisation of the role in most settings seemed to indicate a more administrative focus than a focus on building specific relationships. Paper two showed that Key Persons generally had more interactions with their Key Children than other adults had with the same children. Differences were found in the types of interactions children experienced with different adults. Relationships were reported to be close with both groups of children, with Key Persons reporting more conflict with the children identified with social or emotional needs. It is hoped that the findings of the two linked papers will inform EP practice in relation to Early Years settings, particularly in terms of developing early intervention. From professional experience, there seems to be a large amount of diversity in the way EP services work with preschool-aged children and the professionals who support them. Perhaps further uses for the findings in this research could be to inform future collaborative working, as well as areas to which EPs can contribute their body of research knowledge. The following document presents each study separately as individual papers, each with appendices which contain additional information on methods and data analysis. The papers are followed by the literature review, university Ethics form and the bibliography for the entire study.
Doctorate of Educational, Child and Community Psychology