Working with under fives - Early Years

Find out about careers working with children under five.

Early years practitioners provide care, early learning and play opportunities for children under the age of five years. 

Where you could work

  • ·Day nurseries – working with children from birth to five years. They are generally open all year round, Monday to Friday, 8.00am until 6.00pm, offering full day or half day sessions. They are mainly run as private businesses with some run by voluntary or community organisations and some based in Children’s Centres. Most have separate rooms or areas for groups of babies, toddlers and pre-school children.
  • Pre-schools (also known as playgroups) – working with children aged two to five years. They generally operate during school term time and offer morning and/or afternoon sessions. They operate from a variety of locations including community centres, church halls and scout halls and are usually run by voluntary community groups.
  • Nursery classes and schools – working with children aged three to five years. They are open term time only. There are two different types of nursery classes and schools: Maintained nursery classes operate in some schools and are run by the Local Education Authority and open term time only. Parents sometimes have the choice of flexible session times. Nursery units of independent schools and private nursery schools offer flexible sessions - morning, afternoon or all day. Some are open all year round, but some are term time only. 

What the job might entail

  • Encouraging children to develop social skills and discover more about the world through play
  • Meeting the care needs of the children such as changing nappies and preparing bottles or baby food
  • Helping children to develop their independence by learning skills like dressing themselves, using cutlery and using the lavatory
  • Ensuring appropriate health and safety and child protection requirements are met
  • Working in partnership with parents and carers to enhance their child’s development and wellbeing
  • Contribute to an effective system of observation, assessment and planning that meets individual children’s needs
  • Working in partnership with other professionals involved in the child’s care eg social workers, health visitors or speech therapists.

Opportunities for career progression

There are good opportunities for promotion, and with further qualifications and training you can progress to being a qualified early years / nursery practitioner, supervisor, early years professional, deputy manager or manager of a nursery. Find out more about the roles and qualifications in the childcare sector.