UCL Day Nursery


UCL Day Nursery Key Worker Policy

A key worker is a named member of staff with responsibilities for a small group of children who helps those children in the group feel safe, secure and well cared for.

The key worker

At the UCL Day Nursery we firmly believe that children thrive from a base of loving and secure relationships. This is normally provided by a child’s parents but when your child joins the nursery it can also be provided by a key worker and other adults at the nursery.

A key worker is a named member of staff with responsibilities for a small group of children who helps those children in the group feel safe, secure and well cared for. We believe the role is an important one and an approach that is set out in the EYFS which is working successfully at the UCL Day Nursery. It involves the key worker responding sensitively to children’s feelings and behaviours and meeting emotional needs by giving reassurance, care and supporting the child’s wellbeing. The key worker supports physical needs too, helping with issues like nappy changing, toileting and dressing. That person is a familiar figure who is accessible and available as a point of contact for parents and one who builds relationships with the child and parents or carers.

Records of development and care are created and shared by the key worker, parents and the child. Small groups foster close bonds between the child and the key worker in a way that large groups normally don't. These groups allow the key worker to better tune into children’s play and their conversations to really get to know the children in the group well. Children feel settled and happy and are more confident to explore and as a result become more capable learners.

Why Attachment Matters

What is attachment and why is it important for young children? Attachments are the emotional bonds that young children develop with parents and significant others such as their key worker. Children with strong early attachments engage in more pretend play and sustain attention for longer. Their sense of who they are is strong. Children need to be safe in the relationship they have with parents or carers. They will develop resilience when their physical and psychological well-being is protected by an adult. Being emotionally attached to such an adult helps the child feel secure that the person they depend on is there for them.  When children feel safe they are more inclined to try things out and be more independent. They are confident to express their ideas and feelings and feel good about themselves. Attachment influences a child’s immediate all-round development and future relationships.

At UCL Day Nursery we plan and organise our nursery environment to ensure that all children receive enjoyable and challenging new experiences which are tailored to meet their individual interests and needs.

Each child is allocated their own key worker before they begin their settling-in period at nursery. Prior  to the settling-in period parents will be invited to a family group conference with the key worker, and during this conference the key worker will gain as much knowledge as possible relating to the settling-in period specific to the child’s individual needs.

During the settling-in period the key worker will spend a lot of one-to-one time with the new child to encourage the development of a positive attachment, which provides security for the child and helps with the settling-in process.

We have low staff turnover at the UCL Day Nursery and we are also a small setting, which enables all staff to work very closely with all the children and co-operatively meet all their needs and requirements. Our aim is to help all the children build a close relationship (in their own time) with all the staff so they can remain happy and confident when their key worker is not present.

Key worker responsibilities

The primary aim of the UCL Day Nurseries key person system is to provide close relationships between the practitioner and the child for whom the key person is responsible, and the parents /carers of those children in order to assist the development of the children.

We recognise that parents hold key information and play a critical role in their child’s education and understand the importance of their contribution, views and feelings about their child’s development. We endeavour to support both the child and the parents.

It is important to distinguish between the administrative aspects of a key worker system and the development of an appropriate key worker relationship, and also to recognise the value of both aspects of the key worker role.

  • Keeping records of your key children’s developmental progress, contributing observations to records kept by colleagues and sharing records with parents (settling in observations/initial assessment/previous reviews/records and reports).
  • Observing their key children and analysing the information gathered (observations to be put into EYFS assessment/evidence books).
  • Planning experiences for individual children based on the observations of the child’s interests and developmental stages.
  • Shared working with the Nursery in writing individual education plans for their key children with special educational needs.
  • Writing reports for parents and holding regular meetings to discuss progress.
  • Communicating with parents on a daily basis in person and through daily log books (Baby Unit only).
  • Communicating with colleagues and other professionals.
  • Planning key group times – these may include eating times, sharing stories, singing and rhymes, music and movement.
  • Organising a co key worker who is known to the parent and child.
  • Ensuring a smooth transition when a child moves rooms and the key worker changes, including the passing on of development records.
  • Where possible staff cover is provided by those who are already familiar to the children.
  • A secondary key worker who is already known to the child is able to step in during absence.
  • Practitioners have regular opportunities to reflect on their own emotional responses to the children and to their work as well as thinking about the children’s progress and planning play experiences.
  • Admissions are phased so that only one or two new children start in a group room at a time.

Important aspects of a key worker relationship are: 

  • Developing secure trusting relationships with key children and their parents.
  • Settling new key children into the nursery gradually, at the child’s individual pace.
  • Working in partnership with parents.
  • Interacting with key children at a developmentally appropriate level.
  • Providing a secure base for each child by supporting their interests and explorations away from their key worker.
  • Providing a secure base for the key children by being physically and emotionally available to them to come back to, by sitting at their level and in close proximity to them.
  • Using body language, eye contact and voice tone to indicate that the key worker is available and interested, gauging these according to the child’s temperament and culture.
  • Understanding and containing children’s difficult feelings by gentle holding, providing words for feelings and empathy in a way suited to each individual child.
  • Comforting distressed children by acknowledging their feelings, offering explanations and reassurances calmly and gently.
  • Acknowledging and allowing children to express a range of feelings, for example anger, joy, distress, excitement, jealousy, love.
  • Whenever possible is key workers settling their key children as they arrive each day.
  • Key workers eating with their key children in small groups.
  • Holding key children who are bottle-fed on their laps to feed, maintaining eye contact and conversation.
  • Changing and other personal care of their key child using sensitive handling and familiar words.
  • Dressing and washing their key children, offering help as needed but also supporting their growing skills.
  • Having regular opportunities to reflect on the emotional aspects of being a key worker with a skilled, knowledgeable manager or colleague.

Last updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2018