How to become an early years teacher

Does the thought of becoming an early years teacher appeal to you? Our guide has everything you need to start your journey.

What qualifications do I need to become an early years teacher? 

Just like all initial teacher training (ITT) courses, a trainee early years teacher will need to have a degree, and a Grade C/4 pass in English, maths and science GCSE. Before the course begins, you will also need to pass the professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy.

Can I become an early years teacher without a degree or my GCSE passes?

If you do not currently have a degree, you will have to study and obtain one before being able to enter an ITT course. Alternatively, you could study for a specialist degree which would qualify you to teach early years (as explained below). 

More information about studying for a degree can be found on the UCAS website. If you already hold a degree but do not have the relevant GCSE grades, you can find out how you can go about securing these qualifications via the Gov.uk website.  

How can I train to become an early years teacher?

There are several options available to those wishing to train in the early years. All of the options require you to evidence that you have met the early years teachers' standards (EYTS). 

The one you pick will depend on how much experience you already have, and whether you're currently employed in the early years sector.

  • Graduate entry – university-based

This route will involve one year of full-time study and comes with a £7,000 grant to cover your course costs. There are additional bursaries available depending on your degree classification.

  • Graduate entry – employment-based 

For experienced trainees who are already working in an early years setting, this route provides you with the extra training you’ll need to demonstrate the EYTS.

There is funding available of £14,000, which covers the course fees of £7,000 and a £7,000 contribution to the costs incurred by your employer for your training. 

  • Undergraduate

This is a full-time degree course, and will last three or four years. By the end of the course you will have a degree in an early childhood-related subject, and you will have met the early years teacher standards (EYTS). You may qualify for a tuition fee loan available from Student Finance England.

  • Assessment only 

This is a three-month self-funded route for graduates working in an early years setting and already meeting the EYTS and therefore require no further training. This would suit an early years teacher from overseas who has a qualification not recognised in the UK.

Find more information on training providers for early years teachers.

Where can I work as an early years teacher? 

An early years teacher is qualified to work with children up to the age of five, so you would be qualified to work in a pre-school setting, and in the foundation stage of a primary school.

Once qualified as an early years teacher, you will have a range of options available to you.

"Our graduates have gone on to secure employment in a number of different settings,” explains Fiona Willett, strategic director of Essex Primary SCITT.

“Some are working as early year teachers in nurseries in the private and voluntary sector, many are nursery managers, and a number are working in academy primary schools as foundation stage teachers," explains Willett. 

Does an early years teacher have qualified teacher status (QTS)? 

Although an early years teacher won't hold QTS, they will have EYTS. This does mean that pay is set by the employer. However, after two years working in a school, a teacher with EYTS might be eligible to apply for QTS via the assessment only route.

This would mean you would hold EYTS and QTS, and be eligible to progress up the qualified teacher pay scales.