The appointment of a named key worker for every child is the best way to help young children benefit from education and care outside the home, says a research team from Manchester Metropolitan University after a two-year study of best practice in 10 early-years centres catering for children under three.
The researchers found that key workers improved communication between families and staff and enabled centres to respond more sensitively to children's verbal and non-verbal communication. Children had often been referred to the centres because of their poorly developed speech.
But centres cannot afford to become over-reliant on key workers, the research points out. Senior management also need a personal knowledge of children.
"Educare for the under-threes: identifying need and opportunity" by Lesley Abbott, Janet Ackers, Julia Gillen, Natalie Grant-Mullings, Brenda Griffin and Chris Marsh, Manchester Metropolitan University.