Before children start school, they often attend a nursery or preschool to prepare them for the transition. During this time, nursery teachers play an integral role in helping young children learn vital numeracy and literacy skills, as well as how to socialise with other children.

If you want to become a nursery teacher, a career in Early Years Education offers many rewards. However, if you don’t know the steps to take to get you there, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a nursery teacher.

What is a nursery teacher?

A nursery – or early years teacher – supports children up to five with their learning and development, often planning educational activities and supporting child development.

While nursery nurses are responsible for day-to-day care and engaging in activities, teachers are central to the preschool experience.

From teaching children basic numeracy and literacy skills to helping them learn about sharing and developing social skills, the role is varied but offers numerous rewards.

In many ways, nursery teachers take on a parental role, ensuring children receive the right entertainment, encouragement and educational activities that prepare them for primary school.

How to become a nursery teacher?

According to research from Save The Children, nursery teachers are in high demand across the UK, with only 36% of nurseries saying they have a fully qualified early years educator as part of their team.

There are plenty of opportunities to progress your career and take on different challenges, but initial training and the willingness to learn about child development can open up numerous doors.

Here are some essential steps you need to take to become a nursery teacher.

1: Get a degree in childhood studies

If you want to teach young children, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in most cases. Depending on where you choose to study, different degrees can prepare you for employment as a nursery teacher, including:

During your course, you’ll learn about how children develop and gain vital skills in facilitating their learning. While many worry about attending university full-time, the Open University offers an early childhood studies degree, which you can access through the above link.

These degrees can take longer when studying part-time, but they’re ideal if you need to work or have other commitments that prevent you from attending a traditional university.

2: Do an EYITT course

The Early Years Initial Teacher Training course is a vital step in gaining early years teacher status if you have a degree in an unrelated area. Graduates of early childhood studies, child development or similar degrees won’t need to do this course, as their degrees cover everything required.

However, if you have a degree in a different area, you can do the EYITT course full-time or part-time if you already work in a nursery or related setting.

The entry requirements include:

  • The right to work in the UK.
  • A first degree or equivalent (NVQ Level 6).
  • GCSEs or equivalents in Maths, Science and English.

You can read the full eligibility criteria on the GOV.UK website.

3: Get some experience in working with young children

It’s always a good idea to gain some valuable experience to prove you’ve worked with young children before. Some training routes will offer work placements in nurseries or other early years environments. However, you can also see if nurseries in your area are advertising for volunteer helpers.

If you did an unrelated degree, this step is particularly important because it demonstrates your enthusiasm for the role and can help when you apply for further training.

Teaching assistants don’t need formal qualifications, so working in a school with children aged seven or under is also a great way to learn.

4: Check other requirements

Early years teachers often require Grade 4 (formerly C) GCSEs in Maths, English and a Science subject, but some courses will accept functional skills qualifications. All early years teachers must also have an Enhanced DBS check to verify they’re suitable to work with children.

Some employers might have specific requirements, such as a UK driving licence and experience working in an early years education environment.

5: Refine your CV and cover letter

Your CV should highlight your education and experience working in early years settings. Whether as a nursery nurse or teaching assistant in primary education, highlighting these experiences is central to securing employment.

Detailing any experiences with arranging activities, helping children with learning, and other vital skills associated with nursery schools in your cover letter demonstrates your passion for the role.

What qualifications do you need to be a nursery teacher?

Early years foundation stage teachers must have an undergraduate degree in an early childhood-related subject. You need to be educated to a degree level to receive the credentials that allow you to teach young children.

However, as covered before, you can also do an EYITT course, which gives you early years teacher status upon completion.

If you haven’t been to university, it’s not impossible to gain qualified teacher status as there are plenty of online learning degrees which allow you to work at the same time. Many nursery nurses might decide to move into nursery teaching by using this route.

Responsibilities of a Nursery Teacher

The responsibilities of a nursery teacher span from general development to teaching vital skills and helping children develop socially. Whether you work in a preschool or nursery setting, other employees will look to you for guidance and support.

One thing people love about this role is that every day is different. From the children you’ll work with to developing fun activities, nursery teachers can enjoy the following responsibilities:

  • Education: As a teacher, a key role will be to help children with the general mathematics and literacy skills they’ll need when starting school.
  • Activities: Nursery is more than just education; it’s also an opportunity to encourage children to socialise and develop general life skills.
  • Monitoring development: Another area of the job is monitoring child development and communicating any concerns with parents.
  • Managing Nursery Staff: Teachers often design curriculums and activities while also monitoring nursery staff and managing them.
  • Pastoral care: You’ll also motivate children with special educational needs while providing emotional support.

Useful skills for being a nursery teacher

Nursery teachers should have various skills and qualities, as the role can be demanding. Working with young children means some things might not go to plan, and knowing how to deal with behavioural issues is vital to being successful in the role.

Here are some valuable skills you should have as a nursery teacher:

  • Patience: Keeping a cool head and understanding that one child’s development might take longer than another can help you offer each child the right amount of support.
  • Communication: You’ll also need strong communication skills to coordinate nursery staff and be a point of contact for parents.
  • Creativity: Coming up with fun ways of learning and various activities can require some out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Flexibility: Each child will have varying needs, and you’ll need to be flexible with different teaching methods. For example, identifying various resources will help you teach children with visual aids and more practical exercises.
  • IT Skills: Developing lesson plans often means you’ll need general IT skills and the ability to use software packages. It’s easy to do an online course and build up your skills this way.
  • Passion: Lastly, passion is key to the job. Nursery teachers appreciate watching children develop in an early years setting and preparing for school.

How much does a nursery teacher earn?

The average UK salary for a nursery teacher is between £24,000 and £34,000, but the National Careers Service says highly experienced nursery teachers can earn up to £38,000. So, your salary as a nursery teacher depends on your experience and where you choose to work

Join as a nursery teacher with Able Staffing

Becoming a nursery teacher allows you to work with young children and help them develop academically, socially and emotionally. Yes, there’s a lot of training involved, but being able to make a difference in a child’s life is worth it for many teachers.

If you have the qualifications, Able Staffing can help you find suitable nursery teacher jobs in the UK. Our dedicated team specialise in early years education, and we have a range of vacancies available for qualified individuals.

Please feel free to contact us today if you’d like more information.