Key Person Approach: Policy and Guidance

Oxford Brookes University Nursery has a commitment to the key person approach of childcare. This means that our organisation and deployment of staff is centred around enabling close attachments to be made between individual children, their families and individual staff.

The nursery places the child’s needs at the centre of the approach but also recognises the entitlements and expectations for others involved i.e. the families, key staff, buddies and managers.

These are recognised as follows:


The Child

  • To have the key person available during settling-in visits and as much as possible during ongoing sessions
  • To have a flexible and supported induction period that is sensitive to their individual needs
  • To be ‘held in mind’ by their key person (or buddy) during their time at nursery
  • To have a key person who fosters their sense of belonging within the key group and the nursery as a whole
  • To have a key person who really gets to know them and their family and celebrates and facilitates their individual needs, interests and development
  • To know what happens when their key person is away, to still feel special to someone and not have their care compromised
  • To have the opportunity to make a secure attachment with their key person which will support their security, independence and overall well being

The Family

  • To be provided with information and literature about the key person approach and the reasons for its implementation
  • To understand the reciprocal relationship between themselves and the key person/buddy and ways in which this is fostered e.g. daily communication, diaries, shared observations, meetings etc.
  • To have their culture, heritage and family values respected and actively represented to develop their own sense of belonging in the nursery
  • To be kept continually updated about information regarding their child
  • To be informed in advance, when possible, if the key person will be away so that they can prepare their child and to understand what will happen in the key person’s absence

The Key Person

  • To receive information/training in the KPA and for new key people to have an induction into their role, with the support of a mentor
  • To feel supported by their buddy, particularly during times of settling-in new children
  • To receive on-going support from their senior and manager and to have opportunities to discuss and problem solve the challenges of their role
  • To be allocated time to complete paperwork
  • To have regular contributions from the parents on the children’s interests and learning at home to help inform their planning 

The Buddy (in addition to key person entitlements)

  • To be provided with adequate information by the key person to ensure continuation of a high standard of care for the children in the absence of their special person
  • To have the support of other team members if necessary when carrying out both a key person and buddy role and to be able to ask for help if needed
  • To be introduced to their buddy’s new key child and their parent/s on the first visit to aid the start of the buddy relationship

The Manager

  • To have staff who are motivated and committed to the KPA and willing to attend on-going support and training e.g. KPA staff forums
  • To receive personal guidance and on-going support from other professionals e.g. KPA manager’s network and Early Years Team
  • To work in partnership with families and have their support in making the KPA successful

The nursery recognises the challenges involved in ensuring the KPA works as effectively as possible and that it requires a whole team approach to achieve this. Wherever possible the key person and/or buddy are available for the child but there may be times when this is not able to happen. During these times ratios will always be maintained and other staff who the child is familiar with will take on the key person role.

The nursery is committed to continually evaluating its KPA practice, managing changes and transitions as sensitively as possible and ensuring each child feels special and has the opportunity to develop an attachment.

This policy was reviewed in November 2021.


What is the Key Person Approach?

Every child deserves to be special to someone and the Key Person Approach recognises this.

The Key Person Approach is one of the vital principals in the Early Years Foundation Stage and now a statutory requirement of the framework. It is a reciprocal relationship between a member of staff, individual child and their family. It provides the child with a sense of security so that they feel confident to explore their world and form further relationships.

The key person has an ‘invisible elastic thread’ of attachment to their key child, holding them in mind throughout their time at nursery. It does not mean that they ‘shadow’ or cling to the child or that they have to manage on their own.

What is the role of the key person?

The role of the key person is to know their individual child and to support their sense of identity and individuality. They need to be aware of their individual child’s and family’s needs, preferences and development.

The key person will usually be the person who welcomes the child and carer to the nursery and helps to settle the child into the session. They would also be the main person providing the child’s intimate care such as nappy changing, putting to sleep and physical closeness. Any information shared with the parents is also done mainly through the key person.

What happens when the key person is absent?

Each key person is paired with a ‘buddy’ who takes on the role of the key person in their absence with the support of the other staff. It is part of the key person's role to ensure that the buddy and other staff are aware of their child’s needs. Each child belongs to their key person's family group, their buddy’s extended family and the further extended group of the whole room.   

What is attachment?

“The building blocks of children’s development. Through a positive reciprocal relationship children learn to modulate affect, soothe themselves and to relate to others. Attachment is the base from which children explore…..their early attachment experiences form their concepts of Self, Others and the World.” - John Bowlby.