If you enjoy being around young children and you’re dedicated to helping them develop in various ways, an early-years practitioner career could be the ideal job for you. In this role, you would be working with children under five years of age.
These first few years of a child’s life are a crucial time, as children need to develop emotionally, mentally and socially to be ready for starting school. It’s an important and rewarding job, although it’s not for everyone. Early years practitioners have a great deal of responsibility in young children’s development, so don’t enter this profession lightly.
To find out if you have what it takes to be an early-years practitioner, check out the following helpful information. You’ll discover what the job entails, what key skills you need to possess to do the job well, and what qualifications and experience are required to embark on this career. You will also learn how much you can earn as an early-years practitioner and how you can progress further in your career.
What is an early-years practitioner?
You would work with babies and young children up to five years of age, in nurseries or other childcare environments. Although there are many types of jobs that involve working with children under five years of age, the word “practitioner” refers to someone who is qualified to work with children of that age bracket. Also known as nursery nurses, early years practitioners look after both the social and educational development of babies and young children.
What babies and children are exposed to during the early stages of their lives plays an important role in how their personalities and behaviour develop. It’s therefore crucial that they spend time with qualified early years practitioners in their formative years. By being exposed to professionals who demonstrate correct behaviour, babies and young children will be more prepared for attending school.
Being in the care of an early-years practitioner can help children to develop their personality, language, coordination and confidence.
What does an early-years practitioner actually do?
An early-years practitioner is much more than just a child minder. If you want to work in this role, you’ll be guiding young children to learn and develop in order to become productive as they grow older. As an early-years practitioner, you’ll teach children in a fun and interactive way.
You will therefore work on their level to ensure they understand what is being taught. You’ll also be relaying details of children’s achievements, or any problems they may have, to their parents or guardians. You could be working with one child or several children. Furthermore, you could specialise in working with babies and young children who have learning disabilities, physical disabilities or mental health issues.
You would mostly be working inside a nursery or other childcare environment, but you may also be involved with supervising young children during outdoor activities or day trips.
Full-time early years practitioners typically work eight hours a day. Nurseries tend to be open from seven a.m. to six p.m., so you would be working during those hours. Part-time positions are available as well.
Early Years Practitioner Job Description
As an early-years practitioner, you’ll be encouraging the learning and development of babies and young children through play and learning activities. You will also be responsible for their welfare, so you’ll have to make sure children are safe, and do tasks like feeding and changing babies. Typically, the duties of an early-years practitioner involve the following:
- Planning learning activities.
- Assisting children to lean language, literacy and numeracy skills, through activities such as reading stories and counting games.
- Using your imagination to help children learn.
- Supervising meals of children.
- Creating a secure environment.
- Observing the progress of children and keeping records of their development.
- Reporting children’s progress to their parents.
- Assisting children in becoming more independent in daily tasks.
- Creating a good balance between learning activities and downtime.
Key Skills of an Early Years Practitioner
To become an early-years practitioner, you must enjoy being around children. You must also be committed to helping children develop. Having patience is another crucial key skill you must possess, as you must be able to calmly deal with children who are having tantrums or misbehaving. If you get stressed and angry easily, this job isn’t for you. Being in touch with your inner child is important too, as you’ll have to use your imagination and get involved with messy activities like painting.
You need to have lots of ideas for learning activities that are fun as well, so being creative is a must-have key skill. You not only need to have the right key skills to work with babies and children, you also need to have great interpersonal and communication skills to build positive relationships with parents. Other important key skills you need to possess to do this job effectively include:
- Working as part of a team.
Useful Work Experience
Having experience of working with children is the most important experience you need to have before you work towards becoming an early-years practitioner. You may have children of your own or you may have worked as a babysitter or supervised groups of children. Many early years practitioners begin their careers by initially working as a nursery assistant.
In that position, you would work under the supervision of experienced members of staff. Working as a nursery assistant is a great way of gauging whether you’re cut out for the job. You may love being around children, but dealing with groups of children day-in, day-out can be a lot more stressful and demanding than you may think.
Average Salaries for an Early Years Practitioner
An early-years practitioner in the United Kingdom can earn between £15,000 per year and £22,000 per year. However, most early years practitioners earn around £17,000 annually.
The exact amount you can earn depends on the type of facility you work at and the responsibilities you have. If you decide to go down the self-employed route and open your own nursery or childcare business, you could earn even more than £22,000 per annum.
Qualifications for an Early Years Practitioner
Before you can become an early-years practitioner, you must hold a formal recognised qualification. If you already have a level two or level three qualification in childcare that you earned prior to September 2014, you’re qualified to apply for early years practitioner positions.
This could be a Level Two Certificate for the Children and Young People’s Workforce, a Level Three Diploma for the Early Years Workforce or a Level Three Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce.
If you do not already have a qualification, you have to complete a level three early years educator award. These types of awards are available through further education providers and other training providers. You could need to have GCSE grades of A to C or one to three, or an equivalent qualification, to be accepted onto one of these courses.
If you don’t have a GCSE or equivalent qualification, you may be able to study for these alongside your training course to become an early-years practitioner. Examples of qualifications you can earn to become an early-years practitioner include:
- A Level Three Diploma for the Early Years Practitioner.
- A Level Three Diploma in Children’s Learning and Development.
- A Level Three Diploma in Childcare and Education.
- A Level Three Diploma in Montessori Pedagogy.
Once you have a relevant level three qualification and experience of working as an early-years practitioner, you could go on to earn a level four or level five qualification. You could study for a childcare-related degree, such as a foundation degree or a degree in early years, childhood studies or child development.
These types of qualifications allow you to progress in your career by becoming a community nursery worker, an area supervisor, or a manager of childcare for organisations like the NHS. You could even set up your own nursery. Having a higher education certificate also allows you to apply for early years Initial Teacher Training courses. By gaining more qualifications, you’ll have a wide range of options to progress further in your career.
If you enjoy working with children under five years of age and you’re dedicated to helping them develop their personalities, behaviour and learning, an early-years practitioner career could be right for you. You’ll need to be patient, caring and creative in order to help young children develop basic skills and knowledge such as literacy and numeracy. This allows children to be better prepared for attending school.
To begin this rewarding career, it’s helpful to initially get hands-on experience by working in a position like a nursery assistant. You can then enrol with a relevant course of study to earn a qualification that allows you to work as a bona fide early-years practitioner. If you want to then progress in your career and earn a better salary, you can earn a higher qualification to open up a variety of other job opportunities.