Nursery/Primary Teacher Careers

How to become nursery or primary teacher

What does a nursery school teacher do?

A nursery, or early years teacher works with children up to age five in day nurseries, children’s centres and independent nursery schools. They know all about child development and use play activities to facilitate children’s social, physical and emotional progression. Far more than just child’s play, these early years’ activities can help develop language, literacy and numeracy skills.


Is this different to a primary school teacher?

In one word, yes! A primary school teacher will be in charge of the education of a class of children, aged five to eleven. They might choose to specialise in lower primary (five to eight) or upper primary (eight to eleven). Planning lessons and teaching subjects to cover all areas of the National Curriculum, a primary school teacher will spend a long time out of the classroom planning lessons, speaking to parents and marking and assessing work.


Is this the job for me?

In order to succeed in this role, you will need to be an enthusiastic, yet patient person. You’ll be spending a great deal of your working week dealing with children, so having an interest in child development usually helps. Whether you are working in a nursery or a primary school, you will be expected to work as part of a wider team, ensuring your teaching practises are correct.

As much as you’ll want to get on with your class, you will also need to earn their respect. This means you will need to be able to manage class behaviour and discuss progress and concerns, where necessary, with the child’s parents. If you shudder at the thought of re-entering your childhood classroom, or dealing with crying and sticky hands, this probably isn’t the job for you.


What are the working hours like?

As an early years teacher, your working hours will vary depending on your employee. Some nurseries will be open outside normal school hours, from around 7am to 7pm, so you might be expected to work long days or do shifts.

As a primary school teacher, you will work, on average 37 hours a week, however this is not a normal nine till five. A lot of the time, the school day will start around 8.30am and finish around 4pm.

It’s worth noting, in both jobs you will be expected to spend time out of your usual hours planning and preparing activities and lessons, marking and assessing work and attending parents’ evenings and training sessions.


What’s the salary like?

In both cases, your salary will vary depending on where you are based and what type of nursery or school you work in. An early years teacher will typically earn somewhere between £18,000 to £23,000 per year. For a primary school teacher, your salary can be between £22,244 and £32,832 a year (27,819 to £37,862 in inner London), however in both cases, this can increase with experience.


Where will I be based?

Unsurprisingly, you’ll spend most of your working life in the classroom, with the children.


How do I get there?

To gain your first job as a nursery teacher, you’ll need to gain early years teacher status (EYTS) by completing an early years initial teacher training course (EYITT). In order to gain a place on this course however, you’ll usually need to have a degree in childcare or teaching. Your pathway into the industry usually also depends on your experience working with children.

On the other hand, the most common way to become a primary school teacher is by doing Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) and gaining qualified teacher status (QTS). This can either be through a university degree, or school-led, work based training.


Need more info?

We’ve given you a rough guide here, but if you are interested in finding out more, here’s some handy places to start looking –

Get into Teaching

Teacher Training Agency

National Day Nurseries Association

Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years



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