Nurseries take care of children from just a few weeks old until the age of 4-7 (depending on the nursery), so they are usually very noisy and busy places! One thing’s for sure – no two days will be the same!
You don’t usually need any specific qualifications to start – employers generally want to see some evidence of education in the form of 3 or more GCSE passes, but specific childcare qualifications are unnecessary for somebody starting out as a nursery assistant. One thing that everybody who works with children is required to provide is a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, the cost of which will usually be met by your employer.
Aside from qualifications, to be a great candidate for any nursery jobs you may apply for you will need certain traits, such as:
- A caring and sensitive nature
- A love for spending time with children
- Ability to work as part of a team
- A positive, fair approach to discipline
- A good sense of humour
- Creativity is always a bonus
- The ability to relate to young children
- An awareness of safety and hygiene practices, although training on these areas will be provided
As a nursery assistant, you can expect to earn about £10k-£12k pa. Fully qualified nursery nurses can earn up to £18k and other nursery jobs, such as a nursery manager, can provide in excess of £30k. There are other jobs available in a nursery, such as cooks and cleaners, the wages of which are usually not far above minimum wage.
In nurseries, there are separate rooms for different age groups, the baby rooms having a higher staff ratio than the rooms for older children. The days are usually structured, especially so for the older children, but play is the focus for the majority of the time. Gone are the days of strict learning schedules for young children. Play-based learning has been proven time and time again to be more effective (and more fun for all involved!).
So what does the average day look like for somebody with a nursery job?
- Planning and facilitating activities such as arts, crafts, cooking, music and dancing
- Personal care such as changing, feeding, bathing, and assisting toilet training children with using the bathroom
- Reading stories in a group setting, or one-on-one
- Taking children on planned outings
- Playing outside
- You may be responsible for some paperwork
- Implementing health and safety guidelines
- Being aware of possible signs of abuse and neglect, and reporting any concerns you may have to the appropriate person
There are many opportunities for advancement in nursery jobs. From being a nursery assistant, you could qualify as a nursery nurse, then a senior nursery nurse, and move on to becoming a nursery manager or an EYP (Early Years Professional). To gain further qualifications, you may be able to train on-the-job (an apprenticeship), or work part time and attend a college course.