Nursery School Teacher

The Job and What's Involved

Nursery school teachers teach children between the ages of three and five. They plan and organise a wide variety of early learning activities that help children to develop their social, emotional, physical and creative abilities; their skills with words and numbers; and their understanding of the world around them.

Individual and group activities with children can include:

  • Reading to them.
  • Helping them to recognise numbers and figures.
  • Encouraging them to talk and ask questions.
  • Role play, movement, dance and singing.
  • Games and play activities.
  • Practical skills of daily living including personal hygiene.
  • Environmental and other projects, sometimes outside the classroom.
  • Fostering good behaviour.

In England and Wales, nursery school teachers aim to help children achieve the early learning goals of the National Curriculum. In Scotland, they introduce them to the 5-14 Curriculum.

Other tasks include:

  • Talking to parents or carers about their child's development.
  • Monitoring development and identifying children who may have a learning difficulty.
  • Ensuring child safety.
  • Keeping records, writing reports and completing assessment profiles for each child.
  • Preparing visual aids and classroom resources.
  • Tidying up after class.
  • Working with teaching assistants (classroom assistants in Scotland), parent volunteers and nursery nurses.
  • Consulting and attending meetings with other professionals, e.g. social workers, health workers or speech therapists.

Teachers in state schools work 39 weeks a year. Part-time work is possible, as is supply work covering for absent teachers. Teachers spend most of their time in the classroom. They also supervise children's outdoor activities.

Salaries range from about £20,133 a year (£23,841 in Scotland) for a newly qualified teacher, to about £39,525 a year or more for a nursery headteacher. Teachers in London may receive an additional allowance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Nursery school teachers usually work in state maintained nursery schools, independent nursery schools, nursery classes/departments in primary schools, children's centres, preparatory schools and nurseries outside the education system. There has been a slight fall in vacancies in recent years.

Education and Training

Nursery school teachers must have a teaching qualification to work in a state school or a nursery class/department of a state maintained primary school. Many independent schools also prefer a teaching qualification. For more general information about becoming a teacher, see School Teacher.

Newly qualified teachers have to successfully complete an induction period (probation in Scotland) of around one year.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Nursery school teachers should:

  • Understand the emotional needs of young children and enjoy their company.
  • Be interested in how children develop.
  • Work well with other adults.
  • Be very energetic and have a sense of humour.
  • Encourage and stimulate.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion to head of a nursery school or department is possible or, usually after experience with older age groups, to other management posts in a primary school.

Nursery school teachers can also concentrate on developing their classroom expertise to become advanced skills teachers (chartered teachers in Scotland). They can move into related work, eg teacher training, or running a playgroup, small private school or nursery.

Featured Job Guide - Playworker


Playworkers work with children and young people to provide a safe, exciting and fun space in which to play, socialise, try out new things or just spend quiet time. Working in teams, they may work with children ranging between the ages of four and sixteen, or with one particular age group.

The idea of freely chosen, self-directed play is integral to playwork and all playwork settings aim to encourage children and young people to decide and control the content and intent of their play by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.


Get Further Information

Department of Education,
Northern Ireland, Rathgael House,
Bangor, Co. Down BT19 7PR
Tel: 028 9127 9279

General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS),
Clerwood House, 96 Clermiston Road,
Edinburgh EH12 6UT
Tel: 0131 314 6000

General Teaching Council for Wales,
4th Floor, Southgate House,
Wood Street, Cardiff CF10 1EW
Tel: 029 2055 0350

Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR),
Rosehill, New Barn Lane,
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ
Tel: 0870 112 2205

Independent Schools Council,
St Vincent House, 30 Orange Street,
London WC2H 7HH
Tel: 020 7766 7070

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