Early years teacher

nursery teacher early years practitioner
Education and training

Career outlook for early years teacher

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would do fun activities with babies and children to help them learn and develop.

You’d come up with creative ideas for activities to help them talk, count and read. You’d help them understand more about the world and themselves.

You would work with pre-school children, for example in a council or private nursery, or a pre-school centre, and with the youngest children in primary school, up to eight years old.

There’s national guidance from the Scottish Government about education for young children. It emphasises that children are learning from the moment they are born, and that early learning and childcare are very closely linked.

You’d encourage the children to play and share with other children to learn good behaviour and co-operation. You’d make sure that it’s a safe, supportive environment where they can happily try new things.

For children aged three and over, you’d organise activities to fit with the guidance in the Curriculum for Excellence, but you’d still have a lot of freedom to decide what and how the children learn. You’d need to integrate literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing into your teaching.

As an early years teacher you’d help every child enjoy learning, achieve their best and be ready for the next stage in primary school. You’d find ways to help all the children do well and develop their knowledge and skills regardless of their circumstances or abilities.

As well as teaching the children, you would:

  • Plan and prepare activities and materials
  • Set out activities before classes and tidy up afterwards
  • Check the children’s progress, identify problems and find ways to resolve them
  • Discuss children’s development and progress with parents or carers

You’d need to attend meetings and training courses. You’d work closely with parents, teachers and other professionals.

Children’s safety is very important so you’d work closely with other professionals such as social workers to make sure the children are protected.

You would also work with and supervise nursery workers, teaching assistants and volunteer helpers.

Working conditions


Full-time teachers in schools work an average 37 to 40 hours a week although hours may be longer, depending on workloads. Typical class times start between 8.30am and 9.15am and finish around 3.15pm to 4.30pm. Nurseries can be open from around 7am in the morning to 6pm in the evening. You would normally work up to eight hours a day within these times. Some settings are also open on Saturdays. You would also spend time outside these hours planning, preparing and assessing activities, and attending parents' evenings and training sessions.


Nursery age children often go to school or nursery for just part of the week and sometimes only for a morning or an afternoon, so you may teach more than one group in a day.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Positive attitude
  • Reflecting
  • Mediating
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Creative
  • Observation
  • Empathising
  • Developing a plan
  • Motivating others

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.


You would need a degree in Primary Education (SCQF level 9/10) or a Professional Graduate Diploma in Education - Primary (PGDE) (SCQF level 11 ).

To enter a BEd degree in Primary Education (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and Highers at BBBB to AAABB or a relevant HNC/HND.

To enter a one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education - Primary (PGDE) requires an approved degree and relevant experience. The course will prepare you for teaching children in the 3-12 years age range.Entry for courses is very competitive and as a result actual entry levels are often higher than the minimum.

If you do not have the entry requirements for a degree course, you may be able to get into a one year Access course (SWAP) in Primary Education (SCQF level 9/10) or a Professional Graduate Diploma in Education - Primary (PGDE) (SCQF level 11).

Useful subjects

  • English (require Higher at B or above)
  • Maths (require SCQF level 5 at B or above)
  • Science subject (Biology, Chemistry or Physics)
  • Language (usually French or Spanish)
  • Social Studies subject (such as Psychology or Sociology)

While all learning can be of value in this role, subjects linked to health and wellbeing and creative development may also be expecially relevant. 

You will also need

  • To be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland
  • Knowledge of the education system

Once you have completed your teaching qualification if you want to teach in local council schools you must complete a probationary period to demonstrate that you meet the Standard for Full Registration of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland). 

Experience of working with children/young people in a similar environment is desirable.

Helpful to have

Qualifications that show strengths in arithmetic, mathematics, reading and writing are valuable as key elements of a teacher’s job.

To specialise in nursery teaching, qualifications and experience with pre-school children.