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How to become a

Nursery/Primary Teacher

how to become a nursery teacher

What does a Nursery/Primary Teacher do?

Nursery/primary school teachers work with children between the ages of three and eleven, in state or independent schools.

Nursery teachers work in nursery schools and classes with children aged three to five. They use mainly play activities to facilitate children's social, personal, physical and emotional development, creativity, understanding of the world and language, literacy and numeracy skills.

Primary teachers teach children aged five to eleven. These age groups can be further broken down into lower primary (five to eight) and upper primary (eight to eleven). Teachers have responsibility for a class, to which they teach all or most areas covered by the National Curriculum. They also have a specialist subject, and may co-ordinate this throughout the school.

Some areas of England and Wales have middle schools that take children from ages eight or nine to twelve or thirteen. Teachers in middle schools teach the primary or secondary curriculum appropriate to the age of children in the class.

In addition to actual teaching, teachers spend a lot of time preparing lessons and teaching materials, marking and assessing work and mounting displays in the classroom. They may be assisted by teaching assistants or nursery nurses, especially in nursery and reception (first year primary) classes.

The work also involves liaising with other professionals, speaking to parents and carers (both informally and at parents' evenings, attending meetings and in-service training, and organising outings, social activities and sporting events.

What's the working environment like working as a Nursery/Primary Teacher?

Teachers in state schools in England and Wales work 39 weeks a year in school. Teaching hours vary between schools but are usually 9am to 3.30pm or 4pm. Teachers also spend a lot of time outside these hours preparing lessons, marking and assessing work and taking part in other activities such as outings.

What does it take to become a Nursery/Primary Teacher?

To be a nursery/primary teacher you should:
  • be interested in the education and welfare of pupils
  • have enthusiasm for the subjects you teach
  • be able to build up good relationships with pupils, parents and carers and colleagues both inside the school and externally
  • be committed to working with pupils and parents/carers of different backgrounds and abilities
  • enjoy working in a team but be able to use your own initiative
  • be well organised
  • be able to manage classes well and deal with challenging behaviour
  • have excellent communication skills in English (and Welsh where appropriate)
  • be patient and have a good sense of humour.

Nursery/Primary Teacher Career Opportunities

Most teaching jobs are in state schools. Teachers could also work in: independent schools; pupil referral units; hospitals; or schools run by the armed forces. Part-time or supply teaching is possible.

Experienced teachers may be able to apply for Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) posts. ASTs spend 80% of their time in teaching their own classes and 20% working with and for teachers from other schools (outreach), supporting their professional development and raising standards of teaching and learning.

All candidates need to complete an application form which provides evidence of how they meets each of six AST standards, and undergo a one-day assessment by an external assessor. The candidate's headteacher is also required to provide supporting evidence under each of the standards. Full details can be found on the Teachernet website – see Further Information.

Promotion may be possible in most primary schools to curriculum leader, deputy headteacher and headteacher. Teachers may be able to develop their leadership skills through the Fast Track programme, as mentioned in the Training section.

Some experienced teachers specialise in teaching pupils with special educational needs or move into private tuition.

Further information: