Early years education: teaching specialism

AGCAS editors give you an insight into a graduate career as an early years teacher and how you'll help children to learn through play.


In partnership with:


Teaching & Education +5

Hero image for Early years education: teaching specialism

This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

Early years education is about developing learning through play for all children from birth to five years old. In schools, this is provided by qualified teachers in nursery classes or reception classes, who have completed early years initial teacher training. They typically work closely with other professionals such as teaching assistants or nursery nurses.

The government wants to attract more high-quality graduates to early years teaching and has introduced the specialist role of early years teacher to support this. Early years teachers work with children from birth to five and are expected to meet the same entry requirements as primary school teachers.

The Teach First and School Direct programmes cover early years education.

Teaching in the early years foundation stage

The early years foundation stage framework for under-fives focuses on key areas such as personal, social and emotional development, physical development, and communication and language. It is used by all professionals who work with children of this age, including childminders, and in settings such as children’s centres, preschools and day nurseries. All children aged three and four in England are entitled to 15 hours a week of free early years education, and two year olds from the least advantaged backgrounds are also entitled. There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Graduate career options: early years teacher

Early years initial teacher training leads to early years teacher status (EYTS).

The pay and conditions for early years teachers are largely determined by employers at a local level. Early years teachers can find work in private, voluntary and independent early years settings, such as preschools and nurseries, and in the reception classes of academies, free schools and independent schools. They can also work in a nursery or reception class in a local authority maintained school but must have qualified teacher status (QTS) in order to lead a class.

Leadership roles in children’s centres

Children’s centres were established to provide high-quality, integrated early years services to communities. This can include family support, health services and activities for parents as well as early education and childcare. Children’s centres may also be based in schools that offer extended services. Children’s centre managers need at least three years’ experience of managing services for children and their families, plus a relevant degree.

This article was last updated August 2021.

Spotlight organisations

Get inspired

Cherry picked for you

Cherry picked for you

and delivered directly to your feed.