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How to Become a Nursery Teacher

Nursery or Early Years teachers can be a very important part of a child’s development. It is hard to picture a world where there is no need for specialist nursery teachers. With the amount of mothers going back to work increasing, this is a career which is going to continue to employ a large amount of people for a long time. But becoming any kind of teacher is never completely straightforward so hopefully this guide can make the path a bit clearer.

What do Nursery Teachers do?

On the surface, the nursery teacher’s job is fairly simple; they teach and look after children from birth to age five. But primarily because of the age of the children the task is much more complicated. They often play a huge part in a child’s development. And they also have to stick to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) guidelines. It has been made even more complicated in recent years, by the constant government interference which means that teachers are spending a lot of their time doing paper work and trying to reach government targets. This often means teachers spend much more than their 37 -40 hours per week working hours doing work. Typical activities for a nursery teacher may include

  • Encouraging development and learning through play
  • Building up children’s language and communication abilities
  • Building up children’s basic literacy and numeracy skills
  • Ensuring children’s safety
  • Planning activities and preparing the necessary materials
  • Coordinate with parents and inform them of any problems that their children may be having
  • Keep record of the children’s process
  • Ensure that the EYFS goals are achieved


Nursery teachers do not have the highest paid jobs, but the starting salary is quite good. Although it is not possible for nursery teachers to reach the same pay scales as primary or secondary school teachers, it still has a decent wage.  But one of the biggest draws has always been the relative job security and benefits such as pension if you work for the government. However, it must be noted that the perks of job security and pension are being destroyed by the current government. Perhaps soon the only allure will be the good starting salary.

Starting Salary

£21,588 to £31,552

(£27,000 to £36,387 inner London)

Higher Salary Scale

£34,181 to £36,756

(£41,497 to £45,000 inner London)

 What Qualifications Are Needed?

There are numerous methods to becoming a Nursery Teacher, the undergraduate route, postgraduate route and the work based programmes. But all of them eventually lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). This is how the different methods of training is broken down:

  • Bachelors Degree in Education (BEd) 3 years
  • Alternatively, graduates from another undergraduate degree can take a one year intensive PGCE course in lower or early year’s education to become a nursery teacher.
  • Both courses contain vocational classroom training.
  • School Direct (Paid and Unpaid programmes) 1 year classroom based. Degree needed for both programmes. For the paid training route a minimum of three years’ work experience is necessary. 
  • School Centered Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) is one year a classroom based training programme for people with degree in a national curriculum subject.
  • Teach First two year charity run classroom based training programme for top graduates. Training is based in schools with bad socio economic conditions.
  • If you the pass any of these courses you will become a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)
  • NQT’s are monitored for a three term probationary period

Once the probationary period is finished you can work in any school that you want.

Career Development

As a nursery teacher it is extremely important to constantly undertake continual personal development and undertake training courses provided by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.  As nursery teachers have to attain QTS it is possible for any of them to transfer to another age group without training. But it is usually advisable for a teacher to get some experience with a new age group before making the transition. This means that it is possible for a nursery teacher to become a secondary, or primary school head teacher earning roughly £100,000 per year.

It is not a very highly paid career and it can be quite draining because you can effectively become like another parent. But if you have a real love for children then this could be the career for you. 

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