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Primary Caregiving - what are your thoughts?

Kia ora.

After an online workshop last week exploring the myths and legends of primary caregiving I had an email from one of the participants.

She is a new team leader and is really keen for others to share their ideas to support her. We thought it would be a good idea to ask her question here.

Her question is......

What would be the best way to work with a child that is just starting out at the centre? Is it best for one person to be the key settler for that child and then when they are settled more them to the person that they form the relationship with or would it be better to watch them in their visit to the centre to see who they are and what teacher they make bond with in their visit?


  • Katherine Bussey (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2013 4:32pm ()

    Hi Donna,

    It is well worth getting the second edition. I have both and the second edition is great. You can only get the CD rom plus other content changes when you get the second edition.There's lots more books out there too. I did my Masters related to the idea of the key teacher/primary caregiving approach and came across lots of books and articles etc so just let me know if you want any info! I come from a long line of librarians so reading is how I learn.

    Thanks Justine, it is a different life working on being an academic, I am working hard and battling to not lose my practitioner roots! Just saw Helen Hedges today. she came as a visiting scholar. Really nice to see another kiwi! We have a few at my University now! Two from Massey!

  • Justine Mason (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2013 2:10pm ()

    Hi there Donna, I just had a bit of a fosscik about online to see if I could find anymore info. It looks like this is the 2nd edtion. The CD is new and all the reviews I have read say the CD is really valuable.

  • Justine Mason (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2013 12:18pm ()

    Kia ora, great to see this conversation continuing here! I love that you can stay connected to the NZ context even though you are in Australia Katherine............thank you for sharing your wisdom,

    Here is the link to Fishpond where you can buy Primetimes, it's $43.00 and includes the CD Katherine just mentioned. I think this book is a must have/must read for anyone involved with infants and toddlers

  • Donna Rowland (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2013 1:53pm ()

    Hey thanks, I have the first edition of Prime Times, can anyone tell me if its worth while getting the second? Many changes?

    I did a PD with Robin and Toni Christie on Saturday and picked up a copy of Toni's book "Respect", also a very good reaource as far as key teachers/free movement/and respectful practice goes.


  • Katherine Bussey (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2013 12:08pm ()

    Hi Donna,

    It sounds like you have thought through this really well and I agree with what you do with following through with requests from both whanau and staff. In my previous job we tried to match siblings with their previous sibling's teacher as the relationship was so strong with the whanau.

    There are some great resources out there to support you with discussing key teacher approaches, with both colleagues and whanau too! Jim Greenman and Anne Stonehouse's book Prime Times has some awesome handouts available on the CD-Rom that goes with the book. It is tricky to explain this idea to someone but also important to advocate for children too!


  • Donna Rowland (View all users posts) 24 Mar 2013 1:35pm ()

    Yes Katherine we also plan ahead based on what other commiitments teachers have, however if a child or family show a particular preference for  a teacher we do our best to work around that. Every now and then we have a child who moves from ther key teacher to another and we try to respect that and change the key teacher accoridngly. I recently requested I be key teacher for a child because I had already built a great relationship with heir whanau through siblings having attended the centre.

    Key teachers is a always an interesting subject, at the moment I am experiencing frustration with another teacher that insisits she wants a 'turn' with the baby...this really gets me going...and i cant seem to get the message across that its not about taking turns, but about the  child experiencing consistaint  responses  to their cues and needs from a consistant adult. 

  • Katherine Bussey (View all users posts) 19 Mar 2013 11:46am ()

    I personally try to plan ahead as much as possible - taking account of each teacher and how many key children they have each day, then also how many children they have settling within a period of time, if they do not work five days a week and you have a child work comes three days a week and one or two of those are not on the same day as the new child then it is probably not suitable either. In saying that, then if the child and teacher and (more likely) child and whanau are not a good match then it would be a good idea to move the child to someone else. The way to build a relationship with a child is to build a relationship with their family first, and once I have helped the family to settle and get used to and more comfortable to leave the most important person in their life with you, then I find things work a lot easier. The child relaxes more easily and relationships form well. The child will pick up on the vibe, especially strongest from the mother and if Mum is not keen on what is happening, then neither is the child!


    So, then the person settling and taking them through and forming the closest relationship is the teacher who will be the key teacher. Generally the teacher would work alongside someone else with their children and so when each teacher is settling a new child then they can support one another - pick up the slack, or just when they have more children on one day, or when on breaks, holidays etc then key teacher 1's children are also happy with key teacher 2 because she has engaged in care moments at other times with them too.

    I am writing this as a practitioner, and have just moved into a new role as a researcher for my PhD, but in my previous job as a mentor and pedagogical leader I would prioritise the relationship between the new child and the key teacher, to the extent that as I would step into a support role to cover breaks etc that I would support the key teacher's children by engaging in care moments, being available when they plaayed etc so that the key teacher could build and work on a relationship with the family and then the child. Then I would talk more and begin a relationship with the family and child after they had settled in and I found they were open to more relationships.

    Gosh that was a long reply! Can you tell I am missing being a practitioner? Please anyone let me know if you need clarification in what I have said or questions too!


  • Kim (View all users posts) 18 Mar 2013 5:54pm ()

    Sometimes when a new child comes for a visit, if the child gravitate towards a particular teacher, get along well with him/her; it makes sense to assign the teacher to the child.  It is also helpful to have a second teacher to support/back up  (in case when the first primary key teacher is away).


  • Kim (View all users posts) 18 Mar 2013 5:06pm ()

    I often find the the first teacher that the parent passed on to when parent leaves is the one the child tend to attach a bond for the teacher. As a team leader, I assign a teacher to be in charge of a new child's portfolio, name/locker tags and hand over from the parent during the first day as the key/primary care giver.  In this way, the teacher can develop a deep relationship with the child and his/her family.  All the teachers are also involved with looking after the child, e.g. daily routine like toileting, etc. but it's the key teacher that the child look for when he/she needs the extra TLC. By assigning a key teacher for the new child also helps the teacher to assess the child's learning journey in the centre. 

  • Justine Mason (View all users posts) 18 Mar 2013 2:41pm ()

    Here are some documents that I reccommend

    This is an article by Jean Rockel, its great and a must read

    Primary Care in ECE To be or not to be

    This article challenges you to consider your own beliefs about child rearing practices

    Understanding the influence of culture on caregiving practises

    This is a link to a video and some reflective questions about consistency of care

     And this is the link to one of the centres that were part of the COI's ( a past Ministry of Education initiative), they researched primary caregiving in their setting

  • Tracey Mackay (View all users posts) 28 Dec 2014 6:52pm ()

    Hi there, I couldn't open the second article - the one that challenges us to consider our own beliefs about child rearing practices - please could you re-load it

    Many thanks


  • Justine Mason (View all users posts) 05 Jan 2015 8:24am ()

    Kia ora Tracey,

    I have just checked and the article downloaded for me. Did you try clicking the "download" button on the right?

    I am not sure what internet browser you are using, I am using google chrome so you could try that.

    Failing that, here is the link 

    Let me know how you get on...........

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