Teacher (nursery/early years): job description

Nursery(or early years) teachers help to nurture and develop the knowledge abilities, and social skills of children from birth to five years old.

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What does a nursery teacher do? | Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Nursery teachers (also known as early years teachers) work with children from birth to five years. Unlike nursery nurses, who care for small children, early years teachers are responsible for planning and leading learning activities. It’s a specialist role that incorporates the important guidance young children need. That means that in some parts of the UK there’s also a specialist qualification route.

Typical duties include:

  • developing and providing safe and stimulating learning activities based on educational frameworks
  • liaising with parents, carers and professionals such as speech therapists and health visitors
  • monitoring and assessing children’s progress
  • maintaining records.


Qualified early years teachers can expect to be paid up to £25,000 as a starting salary, according to AGCAS – find out more about pay levels in teaching and education .

Typical employers of nursery and early years teachers

  • State-maintained schools.
  • Independent schools.
  • Nurseries provided by voluntary and private organisations.

Vacancies are advertised on targetjobs.co.uk , and on national newspapers’ websites and local and central government sites. There are also specialist education job sites.

Qualifications and training required

You need early years teacher status to become a nursery teacher in England. Graduates without a degree in an early years-related subject can qualify for early years teacher status via an early years initial teacher training (EYITT) course, for which you’ll need GCSEs in maths, English and science at least grade 4 (C).

Courses are available via universities or within school settings, and the Teach First scheme has opportunities for early years teachers. There’s also an assessment-only route for graduates with a substantial amount of experience working with young children.

In Wales, graduates without an early years-related degree need to take a PCGE (postgraduate or professional graduate certificate in primary education). Your degree needs to be in a subject that’s relevant to the national curriculum. Alternatively, you could train via a school-based route. For either route, you’ll need at least GCSEs in in English and maths at grade 3 (B), and, if you want to teach in Welsh, you’ll need a GCSE in this at grade 4 (C) or above.

In Scotland, graduates need a PGCE or PGDE (postgraduate diploma in education).

Key skills for nursery and early years teachers

  • An understanding of how small children learn.
  • Creativity.
  • Problem solving.
  • Authoritativeness.
  • Patience.
  • The ability to think on your feet.

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