Early Years teachers work with children from 0-5 in a variety of settings such as pre-schools, nurseries and reception classes. In Early Years the focus is on social development and promoting communication skills, alongside early literacy and numeracy.

They have a good understanding of child development and learning in young children, and apply this by providing stimulating activities and environments.


  • Communication skills
    • The ability to communicate at all levels and to a range of audiences is absolutely key to becoming a successful teacher.
  • Resilience and stamina
    • Teaching is a very demanding role and you will need to be able to handle a large workload and long working hours.
  • Organisational and Time management skills
    • Teaching involves quite a large amount of administrative work on top of planning and teaching. You need to be able to prioritise and manage your time efficiently.
  • Ability to take and act on feedback
    • As a teacher you will be regularly observed and given feedback on your teaching. You need to be able to accept and reflect on negative as well as positive feedback.
  • Reflective
    • The ability to reflect upon lessons is a key skill in developing your teaching practice.
  • Flexible
    • Things change quickly in Primary Schools and Nurseries, you need to be able to think on your feet and change your plans (in seconds sometimes). You also need to be able to work in a variety of different teams, from the classroom to the whole staff, and with professionals from outside agencies.
  • A good sense of humour
    • It is important to be able to see the funny side of things and keep a sense of perspective.
  • Enthusiasm
    • Enthusiasm is infectious! Let your enthusiasm for your job shine through.
  • Ability to turn your hand to pretty much anything!
    • One minute you are in a professional meeting, the next you are comforting a distressed child. As an Early Years teacher you need to be able to “muck in” and adapt.



Working as a teacher in Early Years requires either QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) or EYTS (Early Years Teacher Status). It is very common for teachers to move age ranges in primary school and it is not necessary to have focused on Early Years in your training to become a successful Early Years teacher.


You must have a C or above in GCSE English and Maths and Science, or an equivalent qualification. It may be possible to gain these alongside teacher training, if you do not already have them, or you might consider taking them at a local college before you start.

If you do not have a degree, you can choose to study for a degree and then take a postgraduate qualification, or you can study for a BEd (Bachelor of Education) in Early Years.

The BEd route takes 3 or 4 years, with lots of practical school based experience, as well as university teaching. This either leads to EYTS or QTS, depending on the institution. Course fees are payable for this route, and students have access to fees and maintenance loans.

If you already have a degree, you can choose from three routes

  • University based training leading to a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). These courses attract a £7,000 grant from the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) to cover fees. In addition, bursaries are available, based on your class of degree (1st £5,000, 2:1 £4000, 2:2 £2000). They offer lots of school experience coupled with university teaching.
  • School Direct (Early Years) graduate entry is a school based training programme. Training is delivered within a cluster of schools.  Fees are payable on this route, and you can access student finance such as maintenance and tuition fee loans.
  • Graduate Employment based is a route for professionals already working in an Early Years setting. Funding is available from the NCTL, with £7,000 to cover tuition fees and another £7,000 for employer costs.
  •  Assessment Only is a self-funded route by which graduates already working in Early Years who meet the Teacher’s Standards can be assessed. This route is suitable for overseas trained Early Years teachers, for example.

Professional Skills Tests

In order to be awarded QTS or EYTS  you also need to pass the Professional skills tests in Numeracy and Literacy. These can be taken before you start training or during your course. These tests are computerised and can be taken at over 50 locations across the country. There is more information on the dedicated DFE website http://sta.education.gov.uk/

DBS check

Before training or working in a school or nursery in England or Wales, you will need to have a satisfactory enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. In Scotland you will need a Disclosure, and in Northern Ireland a Criminal Record check. This ensures that adults in schools and colleges do not have any convictions which would bar them from working with children. Your training institution or school will apply for and pay for this, although if you go into supply teaching you may have to obtain another one and pay for it yourself.

Self Disclosure

Staff working in Nursery and Primary schools also usually need to complete a self disclosure form, on which you must disclose if anyone in your household has a conviction of a violent crime or a crime against children. In some instances you may be barred from working with children if you live with someone convicted of such an offence.


  • Support children’s development by providing a range of rich, stimulating activities and experiences.
  • Assess the children’s skills and development by observation.
  • Set targets for children’s learning building on prior attainment.
  • Differentiate learning for children so that activities are well pitched and appropriate.
  • Select and produce appropriate resources for teaching and learning.
  • Ensure that the children have a safe and stimulating learning environment.
  • Work in a team with other professionals, such as teaching assistants and senior management.
  • Work with volunteer helpers
  • Plan opportunities to develop pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
  • Model good language social skills to children.
  • Use ICT to support learning.
  • Be aware of child protection policy and implement it.
  • Support trainee nursery workers, teaching assistants and teachers within the classroom.
  • Foster close relationships with parents/carers and the wider community.
  • Participate in open days, parents’ evenings and other events as required.


Early Years teachers start on a salary of around £20,000 a year.  Those working in a primary school can expect to progress to around £35,000, or more (up to £66,000 in inner London) if you take on extra responsibilities. Schools are able to set their own salaries and you many need to negotiate.

Salaries in private settings vary and are negotiated directly with the employer.

Teachers working in schools can expect holidays in line with school holidays (usually 13 weeks). In private schools and nurseries, holiday allowances will vary.

You can expect to have access to the Teacher’s Pension Scheme if you work in a maintained school. It may also be possible to join if you work in a private school or nursery.

These figures are an indication only.


Maintained schools are required to provide 190 days of teaching and 5 days of staff training per year.

Full time teachers work long hours. It is necessary to be in school before the teaching day begins and remain after, and most teachers also take marking and planning home to do. It is quite common for teachers to work over 50 hours a week in term time. Teachers also routinely work in the holidays. In addition, they are expected to participate in after-school activities, fund raising events such as Summer Fairs and parents’ evenings.

It is possible to work part time, although the availability varies and some schools do not welcome part time working. Many teachers also undertake temporary work, known as supply teaching, working in schools on a short term basis.


Most Early Years teachers work in maintained schools, academies, independent schools or private nurseries.  It is also possible to find supply teaching work in school nurseries.

Following teacher training, it is necessary to complete an induction year, known as the NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. During this time the school will provide you with additional non-contact time (10%) on top of your 10% PPA time, and a mentor will offer you guidance and support. It is possible to complete your NQT year on short term contracts or supply, but placements do have to be of at least one term.

There is no time limit to complete this year, but you can only work as a supply teacher for five years after completing your training without completing your NQT induction.

A few local authorities still operate a “pool” system for newly qualified teachers. In this case you make one application to the pool rather than applying to individual schools.

If you are working in Scotland, you will be able to join the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS), which provides a guaranteed training post for your first year of teaching.

More and more schools are using specialist education recruitment agencies.

Individual schools often post vacancies on their own websites.


Your school will provide you with regular in-service training (INSET) as part of the staff development program. Most of this training will take place in school, on INSET days. In addition, you will be able to access courses provided by local authorities or third party providers, in line with your identified training needs. This training will cover a wide range of professional issues, as well as practical ones like first aid.

Many teachers continue their studies by undertaking an MA.


As you progress through your career, you can take on extra responsibilities, for example leading in a curriculum area, Special Educational Needs or Early Years.

If you are interested in moving into school management, you can study for the National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership (NPQSL), or the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). These can be studied while in post and your school will usually support you.

This can give you access to posts on the Senior Leadership Team, progressing to Deputy and eventually Head Teacher. You will usually be expected to teach other year groups in order to progress to a senior management role.

It is also possible to find work in associated fields such as teacher training, educational consultancy, and Ofsted inspection, once you have some teaching experience.

If you prefer to work for yourself, you might also consider own private nursery.


If you are interested in becoming an Early Years Teacher, it is a good idea to demonstrate your commitment by gaining some relevant work experience. This could be in a school, pre-school or playgroup or a summer holiday scheme, for example.