How to Become an Early Years Teacher In The UK

How to Become an Early Years Teacher In The UK

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Fancy a career as an early years teacher in the UK? Find out how in this informative guide!

An early years teacher plays a pivotal role in nurturing children up to the age of 5, typically within a primary school. This career combines the responsibilities of a parental figure with the expertise of an educator, fostering social skills, creativity, and a disciplined approach to learning and play. 

The ultimate goal of an early years teacher is to prepare young learners for a seamless transition into structured primary education. In this article, learn everything that you need to know about how to become an early years teacher, and how to appropriately apply your skills to this worthwhile industry.

Browse our vast range of online childcare courses to aid you on your early years journey.

Becoming an Early Years Teacher

Becoming an early years teacher in the UK is not tailored to one specific route; in fact, there are multiple approaches that you can undertake for this career path. We have structured the below sections to see which path best applies to you and how you can navigate your way into this industry:

  • Undergraduate Degree: Pursue a degree in early childhood studies or child development, complemented by practical placements.
  • Postgraduate Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT): Ideal for those with a bachelor’s degree in another field, this route offers a comprehensive dive into early years education.
  • Part-time Teacher Training: A flexible option for those already working in early years settings, looking to elevate their qualifications.
  • Assessment Only Route: This is preferable for experienced graduates, as this pathway evaluates your teaching skills against established standards, without the need for additional training.

We will now explore each of these options in further detail.

University Coursework and Training:

The best place to start your early years teacher training is by achieving an Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS), a qualification that underscores your capability to teach children up to age 5. There are multiple ways to attain this status:

Funding and Bursaries for Postgraduate Training:

A EYTS is supported by the Department for Education, which covers course fees up to £7,000. Additional bursaries are available, rewarding academic excellence with amounts ranging from £2,000 to £5,000.

Bursaries vary based on undergraduate achievements, offering £5,000 for first-class degrees, £4,000 for 2:1 degrees, and £2,000 for 2:2 degrees.

This financial support is exclusive to the postgraduate study route.

Employment-based Route for Graduates:

This is specific for graduates employed in early years settings seeking EYTS, with course fees up to £7,000 funded by the Department for Education.

The length of training is typically one academic year, leading to EYTS, with salaries provided by employers.

Undergraduate Training:

A full-time bachelor’s degree in an early-childhood-related subject leading to EYTS is another pathway, with a duration of 3 or 4 years and a cost of up to £9,250.

Tuition fee loans are available through Student Finance England to support you during this time.

Each route is designed with flexibility in mind, catering to various stages of professional development and personal circumstances, ensuring a tailored approach to achieving early years teacher qualification in the UK.

Postgraduate Training:

For postgraduates aiming to become an early years teacher in the UK, you can still apply for an Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS). This will cost between £2,500 and £3,000, is designed for those who already demonstrate the competencies aligned with the early years teachers’ standards, allowing them to secure EYTS in just 3 months without additional training.

Required Grades:

Prospective candidates should have 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, Maths, and science, alongside 2 to 3 A levels or equivalent qualifications for degree programs.

Career Pathway:

Beginning your career journey as a nursery worker or teaching assistant and pursuing a part-time degree in childhood studies or child development can be a practical approach to advancing towards this role.

If this is the path you wish to pursue, you have the opportunity to attain a Diploma for the Early Years Workforce (Early Years Educator) Level 3 RQF. This qualification will qualify you to be included in the staff-to-child ratios within a childcare environment. 

While the government is currently undergoing reforms in the childcare sector to accommodate increased access to childcare services, there will soon be changes to the qualification requirements within this sector.

However, NCC is committed to keeping you informed and will provide updates on becoming a nursery worker through additional blog posts as soon as this information becomes available to educational providers.

Volunteer Work:

Gaining practical experience is a crucial step towards becoming an early years teacher in the UK. Engaging with children and young people through various means, such as paid employment, volunteering in schools, participating in youth programs, or assisting in holiday schemes, provides valuable insights and skills necessary for this career path.

Skills Needed:

These are the skills you will need in order to succeed for becoming an early years teacher:

  • An understanding of teaching and structure courses specific to young children.
  • A compassionate, patient, and understanding demeanour helps in creating a supportive learning environment.
  • Effective teamwork, stress management, and adaptability are crucial traits.
  • Innovative thinking and excellent verbal communication enhance teaching methods and interaction with children and adults alike.
  • Competency in computer use and standard software is also important.

Requirements for the Role:

Passing background checks is mandatory due to the nature of working closely with children and potentially vulnerable adults, including DBS checks.

Daily Responsibilities:

These include the following:

  • Planning and executing educational activities, ensuring a nurturing atmosphere for learning.
  • Communicating with parents or guardians regarding their child’s progress.
  • Collaborating with colleagues on curriculum development and managing teaching assistants and volunteers.

Work Setting:

The role is typically based in nurseries or schools, where the environment can be both physically and emotionally challenging. A uniform may be required.

Career Development:

Upon qualifying, opportunities include advancing into nursery management, working as a supply teacher/teaching assistant, further training for primary education roles, becoming a play therapist, or teaching early years courses at a higher education level.

Unsure about whether childminder or nursery work is right for you? Explore our guide for further assistance. 

Responsibilities Of An Early Years Teacher

become an early years teacher uk

As an early years teacher in the UK, there are several responsibilities that come with the role, including:

  • Educational Planning and Engagement: Crafting and executing activities that are both instructive and enjoyable forms the crux of an early years teacher’s responsibilities. This includes devising lesson plans that cater to the diverse needs and interests of children, ensuring each session is geared towards stimulating their curiosity and learning.
  • Promoting Order and Participation: Given the explorative nature of young learners, maintaining a tidy and organised setting post-activity is essential. Encouraging children to participate in cleanup processes teaches them responsibility and teamwork, making discipline a shared and enjoyable task.
  • Facilitating Interactive Play: Beyond traditional teaching, early years educators are instrumental in engaging children through interactive play. This approach not only supports educational objectives but also aids in the social development of the children, ensuring inclusivity and enhancing communication skills among the quieter pupils.
  • Parental Communication: A pivotal aspect of an early years teacher’s role is to maintain open lines of communication with parents. Providing insights into a child’s progress, addressing behavioural concerns, and celebrating achievements are all critical in forging a positive home-school connection.
  • Ensuring Safety: The well-being of children is paramount, necessitating a secure environment both in and out of the classroom. Early years teachers are adept at identifying potential hazards, implementing safety protocols, and managing any challenges that arise to safeguard the children under their care.
  • Supervising Assistants: Collaboration with nursery assistants and volunteers is common, with the early years teacher guiding these contributors to ensure they adhere to the classroom’s standards and ethos, thus maintaining a supportive and secure environment for the children.
  • Staff Meetings: Engagement in broader staff meetings allows early years teachers to voice nursery-specific concerns and integrate the early years setting more closely with the overall educational framework of the institution.

Become An Early Years Teacher Today

In conclusion, the journey to becoming an early years teacher in the UK is marked by a commitment to nurturing, educating, and safeguarding young learners. It is a very rewarding role, whereupon your participation will be integral for the overall development of a child before they progress into primary and secondary school, therefore knowing that you may have a huge impact on their upbringing too for knowledge and welfare.


Can you be an early years teacher without a degree? 

Yes, you can become an early years teacher without a degree in some settings, but qualifications in childcare and education may be required. Regulations vary by country and employer. 

Do early years teachers get paid well? 

Pay for early years teachers varies widely depending on the location, type of employer, qualifications, and experience. Generally, early years teaching is not among the highest-paid professions, but certain positions, especially those requiring higher qualifications, may offer competitive salaries.

Which course is best for an early years teacher? 

The best course for aspiring early years teachers is typically a degree in Early Childhood Education. Specific qualifications can vary by country, so it’s important to research the requirements in your area. If you want to gain experience working with young children in a nursery setting, then you can qualify to work as a nursery worker by taking the Diploma for the Early Years Workforce (Early Years Educator) Level 3 RQF.


GOV.UK. (2012) Department for Education. [online] Available at: [accessed 19/02/24]

Childcare Choices. (2023) Help Paying For Your Childcare. HM Government. [online] Available at: [accessed 19/02/24]

GOV.UK. (2023) Disclosure and Barring Service. [online] Available at: [accessed 19/02/24]

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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