Becoming a nursery worker

A sense of fun, energy, imagination, empathy and patience are all key skills you'll need to work in a nursery. And although it is possible to work in a nursery setting without specific childcare qualifications, most settings recognise that better qualified staff can offer more support for children's learning.

Whether the nursery is registered in England or in Wales will affect its requirements for qualified staff. Generally speaking, though, at least half of the staff must hold a valid childcare qualification at level 2 or above. This level of qualification is for front line practitioners working with children and can sometimes be gained whilst in your first role.

Starting on your training path

You might start out as a student or nursery assistant whilst you work towards your level 2 qualification. Some nurseries may offer the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship and this can be a great first step.

A nursery must ensure that all staff receive induction training to help them understand their roles and responsibilities. When you start work at a nursery your training will include information about emergency evacuation procedures, safeguarding, child protection, the nursery's equal opportunities policy, and health and safety issues.

If you're a childcare and early years student, you're likely to go on a placement at a local nursery as part of your course. Student members of PACEY have access to helpful guides to these placements, helping you prepare and to make the most of the opportunitiy. Talk to your college about getting PACEY Student membership.

Becoming a supervisor or manager

If you want to progress and become a room supervisor, age-group leader or nursery manager, you'll need to combine your experience in the role with recognised childcare qualifications.

England

In most cases, a manager would need at least a full and relevant qualification, such as, in England, the Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Workforce (Early Years Educator). If you want to start your training now, you will need to complete the Early Years Educator award.

And because having a good level of general education is important when working with young children, you need to have a good GCSE (grades A* to C) in English and maths before finishing the course in order to be counted in the ratios. If you completed a full and relevant qualification before September 2014, it is valid and will be accepted by employers. 

All nursery staff must also be trained in paediatric first aid.

Wales

In Wales, the person in charge of the setting must have at least a relevant Level 3 qualification. This should be on the Social Care Wales current qualification list. At least 80% of the non-supervisory staff must hold a minimum Level 2 qualification from the Social Care Wales current qualification list. At least half of these must have a qualification at Level 3.

In Welsh settings caring for under-2s at least half of staff caring for babies should have received training in this specific area. The person in charge of the baby room must have at least two years' experience of working with children under 2.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are designed to help you gain specific skills and work towards a relevant qualification, all the time earning a wage.

Depending on the level of apprenticeship, it'll take you between one and four years to complete. If you live in England, you'll need to have passed GCSEs in English and maths at grades A* to C during the course of the apprenticeship, and from August 2015, will need to have English and maths at A* to C before applying.

As well as gaining invaluable experience and training, you may also have the opportunity to apply for a job in the nursery after your apprenticeship has finished.

Ongoing training

A good nursery will ensure that all new staff receive induction training to help them understand their roles and responsibilities.

When you start work in a day nursery your training will include information about emergency evacuation procedures, safeguarding, child protection, the nursery’s equal opportunities policy, and health and safety issues amongst other things.

Further training, CPD and development is encouraged, and helps keep you up-to-date with changes in the sector. You'll have the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques, based on needs that you and your manager identify during regular appraisal and reflection sessions.

PACEY membership comes complete with free online training to help you stay on top of your personal professional development. Find out more about joining today.