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Early Years Teacher

Early years teachers (or nursery school teachers) teach children between the ages of three and five, in nursery schools and reception classes. They develop work schemes and implement lesson plans to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation stage of the National Curriculum. The early learning goals of the Foundation Curriculum involve six areas:

  • personal, social and emotional development
  • communication, language and literacy development
  • mathematical development
  • knowledge and understanding of the world
  • physical development
  • creative development.

The teachers develop resources such as games, puzzles and visual aids to be used within the nursery. They manage the transition into the primary school environment, introducing active learning as the children develop in maturity.

With the help of teaching assistants and early years practitioners, they organise and share a wide range of activities with the children. They are responsible for:

  • developing confidence and language skills by encouraging discussion
  • developing imagination by reading to them
  • encouraging creativity and teaching colour recognition through artwork
  • teaching them to understand numbers
  • introducing role play, movement and singing
  • developing social skills such as taking turns, sharing equipment and attention, eating at a table, personal hygiene, brushing teeth, tying shoe laces
  • environmental projects such as gardening and outdoor excursions
  • encouraging acceptable behaviour through praise and rewards and helping them recognise unacceptable behaviour.

Early years teachers must also:

  • take into account issues of multilingualism and multiculturalism
  • take into account individual children's health or disability problems
  • observe and assess each child so as to tailor learning opportunities to individual needs
  • ensure child safety
  • keep records, write reports and complete assessment profiles for each child
  • organise the work of teaching assistants and parent volunteers
  • discuss development with parents and liaise with other professionals.

Teachers in state schools work 39 weeks a year. Part-time and temporary (supply) work is possible. Most of the time is spent in the classroom or sometimes in the playground but there may be occasional away walks or trips.

A newly qualified teacher usually earns £21,102 a year (£26,000 in inner London). A nursery head can earn around £42,000 to £52,000 depending on the size, kind and location of the school.

Early years teachers should:

  • enjoy the company of young children
  • be imaginative and create new ideas for activities
  • be observant with regard to individual children's behaviour and interaction
  • have energy, enthusiasm and a sense of humour
  • be able to command and hold attention.

Early years teachers work in state maintained and independent nursery schools, nursery classes in primary schools and children's centres. There has been a slight fall in vacancies in recent years.

To teach in a state nursery school or department within a state primary school a teaching qualification is required. In addition, a degree in early years teaching, early childhood studies, education studies or psychology with the emphasis on young children can be useful. Before working with children, applicants undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau and register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Many independent schools also prefer a teaching qualification.

Promotion to head of a nursery school or department is possible. Some teachers open up their own independent establishment. Some move into advisory work.

For general information about becoming a teacher and career progression see School Teacher.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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