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Key worker System

August 29, 2014

With the summer break now over, it’s time to plan and prepare for the new preschool year, September is here again. Lots of new children will come through your doors to begin their educational journey and having a friendly warm atmosphere is really important to help them settle in.

Keeping that in mind let’s have a look at what the National Standards for Pre-school Services (2010) standard 9: Nurture and Well-Being says:  9.5 “Each child is assigned to a particular member of staff, or “key worker”, and every effort is made to ensure consistency of care. The child’s key worker is identified to the child’s parents or guardians. The key worker has a primary responsibility for the child’s well-being on a daily basis, and ensures that information concerning the child is shared with the parents or guardians and the service provider”.
As we know these standards will be replacing the explanatory guide for the preschool regulations so it’s a good time to begin familiarising ourselves with them, so let’s begin with the key worker.

 

What is a key worker?

In a nutshell the key worker is the person which whom the child can relate to in a special way. The staff member is assigned a small number of children so that they can pay close attention to the child’s development and it is this person’s responsibility to make a connection with the child’s family. The key worker will help the child manage their day transitioning from one activity to another and build on their relationship ensuring the child feels cared for.

 

Role of the Key Worker

The role of the key worker has many subtle responsibilities and some more obvious ones. The most important aspect of the role is to develop a relationship with the child and their family. Each child is different and will need different things from their key worker. Being adaptable and attentive to the child will help ensure this special relationship is given the nurture it needs. Here are a few basics to the role:

 

Do’s    

 

  • Meet and greet the child and their family on a daily basis – have a chat with them about their morning, listen and reconnect with the child and the parent
  • Spend time playing with the children during non-structured activities which the children have chosen themselves
  • Watch and observe your key children carefully and regularly; the adult should not always have to be involved in the play so use this time to watch and learn
  • Begin to identify the child’s interests and strengths, who they like to play with, where they like to be 
  • Document the child’s learning and using a Learning Stories approach is a great way to capture and share children’s thinking.  Documenting is a shared process, something that you as the educator and the child do together while in the group
  • Meet with parents both formally and informally.  Arrange annual/ bi annual meetings with the families to talk about their child, to highlight his learning and strengths and to provide parents with opportunities to contribute and share their knowledge and insights 
  • Try always to connect with families at the end of the day when they are collecting their children
  • Spend one to one time with the child and build the relationship

 

Don’ts

 

  • Key worker system does not mean taking your group of 10 or 11 and only working with them in isolation
  • The system is about the individual within the context of the group. Think about seamless play with all the children while keeping an extra eye on your key children.
  • Early Childhood Educators (EYE) cannot and should not ever diagnose a child. Although EYE’s have lots of experience and may see something a parent does not, it is vital if you have a concern that it is expressed to the family with facts and not a label. Only a recognised professional can assess or diagnose a child.
  • Don’t be worried about spending time with the other children. It’s important to build a trusting relationship with the other children as their key worker may be out sick or on holiday.

 

Remember the key worker system is not about working with “your group” but about working with the individuals in those groups

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