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Nursery Worker

Nursery workers work with babies and young children, caring for them and helping them to develop and learn. Duties vary but can include:

  • feeding babies, changing nappies and preparing bottles or baby food
  • encouraging children to develop social, number and language skills
  • taking care of children's personal needs
  • taking children on outings
  • observing and assessing children
  • making sure children are safe at all times
  • working closely with parents and carers.

Salaries range from £10,000 to £35,000 a year.

Nursery workers work varying hours, Monday to Friday. Part-time work and jobshare may be available.

A nursery worker should:

  • be patient and caring, with a sense of humour
  • understand the social and emotional needs of children
  • be able to motivate children to learn new skills
  • speak clearly and be a good listener
  • be firm and consistent in setting rules for good behaviour
  • be creative and imaginative
  • enjoy working with babies and young children.

Nursery workers are employed in day nurseries, children's centres, and the nursery classes of primary schools. Some work in private households as nannies.

It is possible to start work in a nursery and train on the job, possibly going to college part time. There are no set minimum entry requirements but it helps to have some GCSEs (A*-C), particularly in English and maths. The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant for this area of work. Some employers offer Apprenticeships in children's care, learning and development.

It is also possible to train for nursery work by first taking a full-time college course. There are courses available that can lead to work as nursery assistants (who work under supervision) or as early years practitioners/nursery nurses (who are qualified to work unsupervised). Entry requirements vary between colleges.

There are many opportunities for further study open to both nursery assistants and early years practitioners/nursery nurses.

Nursery assistants can become early years practitioners/nursery nurses. They in turn may become room or team leaders, deputy managers and managers or officers in charge.

Some staff set up their own nurseries. It can be possible to work abroad, in large hotels and holiday centres and on cruise ships. Nursery workers may become teaching assistants, playworkers or care assistants. Depending on their qualifications, they may be able to train for careers such as teaching, lecturing and social work.

What is the work like?

Nursery workers work with babies and young children, caring for them and helping them to develop and learn. Much of the work is with children between the ages of six weeks and five years, but some nurseries offer out-of-school care for five- to eleven- year-olds.

Duties vary depending on the employer and the ages of the children, but can include:

  • feeding and dressing babies, changing nappies and preparing bottles or baby food
  • encouraging children to develop social skills and discover more about the world through play
  • helping children to develop number and language skills through activities like counting games and storytelling
  • taking care of children's personal needs and helping them to learn skills like dressing themselves, using cutlery and using the toilet
  • taking children on outings
  • following health and safety guidelines and making sure that children are safe at all times
  • observing children and writing reports on their progress
  • talking to parents and carers about their child's development.

There are jobs at different levels:

  • nursery assistants - working under supervision
  • early years practitioners/nursery nurses - responsible for a group of children, with support from nursery assistants
  • team leaders/deputy managers - assisting the nursery manager, maybe responsible for a team of staff or specialising in baby or pre-school care
  • managers - responsible for the day-to-day running of a nursery.

Developing good relationships with the parents or carers of the children is important. Some jobs involve liaison with other professionals, such as social workers, speech and language therapists and educational psychologists.

Hours and environment

Nursery opening times vary but can be from around 7.00am to 7.00pm. Nursery workers usually work Mondays to Fridays. Their hours vary and may involve shifts to cover early starts and late finishes. Part-time work and jobshare may be available.

Nursery workers work indoors and in outdoor play areas. They sometimes accompany children on outings.

Working with young children demands energy and involves bending, lifting and carrying.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • New nursery workers may start on between £10,000 and £12,000 per year.
  • Experienced nursery workers may earn between £13,000 and £20,000.
  • Nursery managers may earn between £18,000 and £35,000.

Pay tends to be higher in and around London.

Skills and personal qualities

A nursery worker should:

  • be patient and caring, with a sense of humour
  • understand the social and emotional needs of children
  • be able to motivate children to learn new skills
  • speak clearly and be a good listener
  • be firm and consistent in setting rules for good behaviour
  • be creative and imaginative
  • be able to get on with adults
  • work well unsupervised and as part of a team
  • have planning and organisational skills
  • have energy and stamina
  • be safety and hygiene conscious
  • be self-confident.

Interests

It is important to:

  • enjoy working with babies and young children
  • be interested in helping children to develop and learn.

Getting in

This is a rapidly expanding area of work with many vacancies. There are currently around 150,000 nursery workers employed in England.

Nursery workers work in day nurseries, workplace nurseries, children's centres, and the nursery classes of primary schools. Employers include local authorities, voluntary and community groups and private companies. Some nursery workers work in private households as nannies.

Jobs may be advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices and in publications such as The Guardian and Nursery World. They are also advertised on many recruitment websites.

Entry routes

There are two main routes into this type of job, direct entry into work or completing a full-time college course before entry to work.

It is possible to start work in a nursery as an assistant and train on the job, possibly going to college part time. There are no set minimum entry requirements, but it is an advantage to have some GCSEs (A*-C), particularly in English and maths. The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant for this area of work.

Some employers offer Apprenticeships in children's care, learning and development. Apprentices work towards NVQ Level 2 and a Level 2 Certificate in children's care, learning and development. Advanced Apprenticeships lead to similar qualifications at Level 3.

It is possible to train for nursery work by first taking a full-time college course that includes supervised work placements. Courses that can lead to work as a nursery assistant include:

  • CACHE Level 2 Diploma in child care and education. Entry requirements are likely to include some GCSEs (A*-E).

Courses that can lead to work as an early years practitioner/nursery nurse include:

  • CACHE Level 3 Diploma in child care and education. Entry is usually with at least four or five GCSEs (A*-C).
  • BTEC National Diploma in children's care, learning and development. Entry requires at least four GCSEs (A*-C).

Entry requirements vary between colleges, so candidates should check with individual institutions.

It can be possible to start as a volunteer in a nursery and progress to paid work and training.

All entrants to nursery work will need to undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau.

Training

There are many qualifications open to nursery workers. For nursery assistants, who work under supervision, qualifications include:

  • NVQ Level 2 in children's care, learning and development.
  • CACHE Level 2 Diploma in child care and education. Learners must complete the full Diploma in order to practise.
  • CACHE/City & Guilds/BTEC Level 2 Certificate in children's care, learning and development.

Nursery workers who work with children unsupervised (known as early years practitioners or nursery nurses) must have a Level 3 qualification or higher. Suitable qualifications include:

  • NVQ Level 3 in children's care, learning and development.
  • CACHE Level 3 Diploma in child care and education. Learners must complete the full Diploma in order to practise.
  • BTEC National Diploma in children's care, learning and development.

Those working at this level may work towards further qualifications such as:

  • BTEC Higher National Certificate/Diploma in advanced practice in work with children and families
  • a foundation or honours degree in early years or early childhood studies
  • CACHE Level 3 Certificate of Professional Development in work with children and young people
  • NVQ Level 4 in children's care, learning and development
  • Open University Certificate in early years practice.

Graduates may be able to work towards Early Years Professional Status. For further information see the Children's Workforce Development Council website.

Getting on

Nursery assistants can become early years practitioners/nursery nurses, who, in turn, may become room or team leaders, deputy managers and managers or officers in charge.

Some qualified and experienced staff set up their own nurseries. There may be opportunities to work abroad, in large hotels and holiday centres and on cruise ships.

Nursery workers may become teaching assistants, playworkers or care assistants. Depending on their qualifications, they may be able to train for careers such as teaching, lecturing and social work.

Further information

CACHE, Apex House, 81 Camp Road, St Albans AL1 5GB. 0845 347 2123. Website: www.cache.org.uk

Children's Workforce Development Council, 2nd Floor, City Exchange, 11 Albion Street, Leeds LS1 5ES. 0113 244 6311. Website: www.cwdcouncil.org.uk

National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), National Early Years Enterprise Centre, Longbow Close, Huddersfield HD2 1GQ. 01484 407070. Website: www.ndna.org.uk

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

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