kid painting in nursery

How to become a nursery nurse

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!” So, you fancy yourself as a bit of a Mary Poppins? Life as a Nursery Nurse is all about making learning fun, yet ensure it’s also educational. Think you’ve got what it takes? Let’s find out…

What will I be doing?

 As a Nursery Nurse you’ll be caring for children up to the age of seven years old from various backgrounds. You could work in a variety of environments, from nurseries or pre-schools run by local authorities, to privately-owned or specialist schools. The majority of Nursery Nurses work with healthy children, caring for them on a day-to-day basis and catering to their varying abilities.

However, it is also possible to specialise within the role, and work with children who are disabled, encounter learning difficulties or have mental health issues.

As a Nursery Nurse it is your role to ensure the physical care and safety of the children you are responsible for. You’ll keep them happy and engaged throughout the day, whilst ensuring they are developing both socially and educationally.

This means you’ll be there for the children, offering practical interaction, supporting their emotional needs through a nurturing environment, and providing guidance.

What is the typical salary of a Nursery Nurse?

 Typically you can expect to earn around £10,000 to £22,000 as a Nursery Nurse, but this often varies depending on location, experience, specialism and the nursery you work at. As a junior or trainee Nursery Nurse you can expect to start on around £10,000 – £14,000 a year. Many people in this career earn themselves additional salary through working overtime hours or taking on private nanny jobs.

There are also promotional opportunities as you gain experience and work up the career ladder.

This sounds like the right opportunity for me, how do I get started?

 To become a Nursery Nurse, you need to achieve at least a Level 3 in a recognised child care qualification and having GCSEs in Maths and English at A* to C grades, are often preferred.

You can gain these qualifications through various methods:

  • CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Child Care and Education
  • BTEC National Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning and Development
  • NVQ Level 3 in Children’s Care, Learning and Development

Studying a level 3 Child Care qualification, will ensure you are equipped with:

  • Knowing how to support children’s early education and development
  • Understanding the importance of promoting health, safety and welfare to children, team members, parents and guardians
  • Being able to carry out observations and assessments of the children and classroom environment
  • Being able to provide effective care, teaching and learning
  • Preparing young children for the next stage in their education

Whilst studying, many start as Nursery Assistants or take part in apprenticeship training roles, which means they are able to earn whilst they study. Additionally, you’ll need to have background checks carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

 Are there any key skills I should have to do this role?

 As you’ll be working with young children, there are certain qualities and skills you should have as a Nursery Nurse. These skills are what employers will often be looking for in an interview situation:

  • A patient, caring, calm, yet assertive and responsible, nature
  • A passion to work within the Childcare and Education industry and with young children
  • Excellent knowledge of health, safety and hygiene
  • Excellent communication skills
  • General fitness, as you’ll be on your feet and moving around for the majority of the day
  • Ability to work in a team and individually
  • A positive, can-do, enthusiastic approach to tasks

What will I be doing on a daily basis as a Nursery Nurse?

 As with any career that works with children, your day will be varied and often un-predictable! The hours can be full or part time, depending on the requirements of your employer. Some of the tasks you can expect would be:

  • Planning lessons that engage the children in a different, fun and educational activity, whilst working to the Early Years Foundation Stage standards on child learning
  • Supervising lessons that may include arts, crafts, music, cooking, educational games or sports
  • Assisting children to really develop in their numeracy and literacy skills
  • Providing a story-time, where you read to children daily
  • Taking children on local outings
  • Watching children through the day, ensuring their safety, cleanliness and manners
  • Entering any issues into reports and communicating them to your manager amd the child’s parents or carers
  • Maintaining a clean, tidy and organised nursery
  • Ensuring all children are fed and, drink throughout the day regularly
  • Assisting with any toilet training
  • Assisting or directing your nursery assistant(s)

Later in my career, are there any progressions available?

The more experience you gain, the more senior roles you can begin to apply for, which offer increased salaries. Many Nursery Nurses go on to teaching or high-calibre nannying jobs, both in the UK or abroad. Similarly, many go on to specialise in more niche care such as charities, social services, family centres or hospitals, to address more specific needs of children.

The good points…

You get to work in a flexible, creative environment all day, every day. You’ll find being a Nursery Nurse is very rewarding, particularly as you see the children develop in both social and educational situations.

The best part is when their parents come in and thank you for all your hard work – you may even get some end of year presents for being the best Nursery Nurse!

…and the bad

You need to be constantly on your toes, watching young children at every minute of the day. Children are very unpredictable so you need to be ready for anything at any time. They’ll need a lot of attention throughout the day and at times you may find this exhausting.

Children are also known for picking up a lot of germs, so you may find yourself feeling under the weather a lot more than you are used to.

A career as a Nursery Nurse sounds great, but is it really for me?

Every day you need to be filled with lots of energy, enthusiasm and motivation. You must be organised with your lesson planning and oh-so creative, having skills such as singing, dancing, drawing, acting and a master at playdough!

Perhaps most importantly, you need to be a model for appropriate behaviour, which means being kind and warm-natured but firm. Remember, you’re going to be responsible for a lot of little ones under the age of 7, so between you and your nursery assistant, you’ve got to have the children under control from the beginning, with clear rules as to what behaviour is appropriate and what isn’t.

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