Children's centres: Early years opportunities for teachers

What does the role of a children’s centre teacher involve?
I work alongside early years practitioners in day care and crèche areas by offering advice on planning and assessment. I’m also going to support new ‘play and stay’ sessions where parents are encouraged to play with their children during fun, stimulating sessions.  Additionally, I’ll be working with outreach workers on parenting classes. The job involves a lot of meetings and attending training and is not as hands-on as a teacher in a school. For half of the week, I work in the children’s centre, and in the attached nursery school for the remainder of the time.

What were you doing before you became a children’s centre teacher?
Following a period in the commercial sector as a quality manager, I decided to train as a teacher and so took the graduate teacher programme.  I then taught a reception class in a multicultural school for three years before deciding to become a teacher in a local authority children’s centre.

What’s best about your job?
It’s great to work with children from nought to seven years of age.  Usually, as a teacher in a school you work with defined age groups.  Work life balance is a lot better, too, as I don’t have the usual stresses and demands of teaching.  Flexible working hours are another great bonus. I love the opportunities I now have to work with people from different agencies. It’s been great having the freedom to access different courses

What’s worst?
Not having your own classroom to escape to!  I sometimes also feel a bit isolated as you are not in a school surrounded by other teachers for support. 

What are the challenges?
We’re going through lots of changes now because all of the children’s centres in Stoke-on-Trent are being privatised.  Consequently, there are many staff changes and uncertainty about jobs which is quite stressful. Luckily, there’s a really useful new network for children’s centre teachers to share ideas and experiences.

Which teachers consider a move to a children’s centre?
Well, there’s so much freedom to use your own initiative.  Plus there are flexible working hours, a chance to work with different age groups and their parents.. 

How can they get into it?
Check local authority websites for job vacancies. 

Lisa Fox teaches at Treehouse Children’s Centre and Bentilee Nursery School, Stoke-on-Trent.

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