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The role of the adult and effective interactions

The Key Person

At North Islington Nursery School we aim to create safe, warm, respectful and loving relationships with all of the children that attend. These relationships enable children to thrive. Staff ensure that children are happy and secure and that their physical and emotional needs are met. Our key person approach enables us to ensure that right from the start, the ‘special’ adult/s can begin forming a secure relationship with each of their key children which reflects that of a family relationship.

We begin this journey with home visits where the key person and an additional staff member visits the family home of their key child. It provides an opportunity to ‘get to know’ the child in a familiar environment. At these visits, staff find out vital information to ensure that when the child begins at the setting, an enabling environment has been created for them.

Staff can prepare their favourite toys and activities and on day one, there will be familiar faces that a child recognises from the visit to their home.

The key person becomes a safe base for a child to explore from and the key person is responsible for supporting parents in settling their child for the first time, sharing updates on their child’s development by being part of the triangle of trust– Home-Child-School.

During the time that a child is in one class, the key person will ensure that all of the staff know about them, their likes, dislikes, what they can already do, etc. This allows for the environment to be enabling and to ensure that the child’s needs are met right from the start.

When a child transitions from one room to another, their key person, in partnership with parents/carers, will hand over to a new key person durung a transition meeting. Similarly, when a child is transitioning to primary school, the key person will take the child to visit their new setting and handover to their new class teacher.

Effective interactions

‘Warm, trusting relationships with knowledgeable adults support children’s learning more effectively than any amount of resources.’ Birth to 5 Matters 2021.

When a child joins the setting, it is important for them to feel secure and for staff to ensure that their well-being is a priority. A child who feels secure, acknowledged and cared for will be ready to learn and flourish. Once this foundation is solid, the adults working alongside the children begin by supporting children’s learning by knowing what they can already do and have achieved whilst introducing new concepts, ideas and learning opportunities.

One of our key principles in the way in which we ‘teach’ at North Islington is to allow children to take the lead. We understand that children learn best when they are in control of what they are doing/wanting to achieve so we ensure that time is spent observing children and finding out about them; what fascinates them and their intentions. Once we know this, we can join in and support children’s play without taking over or making the agenda of learning fit what we want children to do.

As skilled practitioners, staff will often wait to be invited into children’s play. Sometimes it may not be suitable to ‘interfere’ so we wait. Even babies will let us know when our attention is wanted or not. A gesture, a smile or a giggle will allow the adult to know the right time to join in. Once staff are involved in playing alongside children they use their sound knowledge of child development to sensitively ‘teach’ new concepts and ideas, to challenge and to pose open ended questions to extend learning in a holistic way.

Knowing that an adult is interested and wanting to join in is a powerful experience for a child. It shows respect from the adult and develops confidence and self-worth in children.

At North Islington we focus on The Spark! This is, what has captured the child’s imagination? What is it they are doing and learning? How can we best support, extend and challenge this learning?

What resources can we provide to enhance our environment for this particular child/group of children?

Purposeful interactions between adults provide opportunities for:

Getting to know and understand a child better – being able to effectively provide a child with what they need, emotionally and physically.

Modelling language – children will be exposed to new words, the correct phonetic, semantic and grammatical models of language.

Modelling thinking – being able to support children to pause, ponder, think about what they already know and make sense of the world.

Scaffolding – The gap between what a child can achieve on their own and what they could achieve with adult support.

Affirming and consolidating learning – not rushing learning but taking time to ensure solid foundations for learning are built.

Extending children’s knowledge and understanding – Adding something physical to the environment or by offering suggestions, a thought or posing a question to build naturally upon what a child has said or done.