This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here Close
Working in a day nursery or pre-school

Day nurseries provide care for babies and children up to the age of five years, supporting each child’s unique learning and development. They are normally open between 8am to 6pm for 50 to 52 weeks a year. There are opportunities to work full and part-time.

Pre-schools provide care for children aged between approximately two and five years old, and will support each child’s unique learning and development. As a minimum, they are open for one three-hour session per day during term-time. Although many will provide longer sessions or two sessions per day.

A career working with children from birth to five years is extremely rewarding. At this age, children are at their most vulnerable and impressionable, so to be an important part of their development is both a privilege and a huge responsibility.

All day nurseries and pre-schools are registered with Ofsted who ensure that they follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five.

What would my job involve?

You will work with a small group of children, caring for their personal needs and ensuring their emotional security. You will be able to give children the reassurance to feel safe and cared for as well as having a good understanding of how they learn and develop. You will be expected to observe the children during their play to ensure that they enjoy engaging activities and are stretched appropriately in their learning. You must be able to work as part of a team.

You will be required to build good working relationships with colleagues as well as with parents, carers and other professionals (e.g. health visitors) to ensure the needs of each child are being met appropriately. You will be responsible for organising the time, space and activities in the daily routine to reflect the overall combination which best supports children’s wellbeing and learning.

What job roles are available?

Each day nursery and pre-school will have an overall manager and deputy and larger nurseries will also have room supervisors. The rest of the team are normally made up of assistant roles.

There are training opportunities to specialise as practice leaders for example as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) or Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) or their deputy.

There are opportunities to develop to a higher graduate level by gaining Early Years Teacher Status. This role leads the care and learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage for the childcare setting.

What training and qualifications do I need?

If you are new to the childcare workforce ideally you will hold a minimum level 2 early years qualification. If you are not qualified to this level it is still possible to gain employment, as a percentage of staff can be unqualified. Once working within a pre-school or nursery it is expected that you will eventually progress and undertake a level 3 early years qualification, which can be achieved whilst working in the childcare setting.

There are also volunteer and apprenticeship roles available so you can gain practical experience whilst accessing professional qualifications and funding. It may be a good idea to contact training providers to get more information, as you will be more successful gaining employment if you show a willingness to achieve qualifications. You can search for training providers in the courses section of this website.

There are a wide range of opportunities to continue your professional development throughout your career. Some of this training is provided and funded through the local authority and information is sent regularly to employers. See theTraining and Qualifications factsheet for more details.

What shall I do next?

If you want to find a job in a nursery, pre-school or out-of-school club use this website to search for jobs.

Alternatively contact childcare settings in your area to discuss options for gaining experience (voluntary or paid work). Each local authority has an online directory of childcare settings in their area;


If you need any more help contact your council.

Printer Friendly Version

Click the button below to print out a 'printer friendly' version of this factsheet.


Career Guide