How to become a nursery nurse

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At a glance

What a nursery nurse does and what experience or qualifications you’ll need to become one.

What is a nursery nurse?

A nursery school nurse leads a music lesson © moodboard @

A nursery nurse works with young children - ranging in age from birth to around seven - helping them to develop and learn.

Nursery nurses work in state-run day nurseries, privately-run nurseries, family centres (such as Sure Start children’s centres), primary schools (in the Early Years stage) and hospitals. They can also work for families as nannies.

Typical duties include:

  • Taking care of young children - playing with them, as well as feeding and changing them.
  • Planning activities - such as singing, cooking, arts and crafts - to encourage children’s development.
  • Reading stories and providing other activities to develop language skills.
  • Helping children to learn number skills, eg using counting games.
  • Keeping records of children’s progress and sharing that information with parents.
  • Being aware of health and safety and making sure children are safe - and reporting any concerns (such as signs of abuse).

Why might I want to become a nursery nurse?

If you’re looking for a job to do while your children are growing up, being a nursery nurse might possibly suit you. The skills required will be many of the ones you have acquired as a parent.

Also, some nursery nurse jobs are flexible (eg part-time and full-time roles), and some will be term time only. For these reasons, being a nursery nurse can fit in well with parenting your own children while they’re still at school.

And working as a nursery nurse can open up a wide range of opportunities when your children are older - for example, you might get a full-time job in a hospital, or go on to work as a nanny.

How do I become a nursery nurse?

You’ll need to train at college to become a nursery nurse. There are several routes you can follow (eg NVQ, GNVQ and BTEC qualifications) but the main qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is the National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB) Diploma in Nursery Nursing (which is a two-year course if you do it full time, or three or four years part time).

In Scotland, you can take a National Certificate or National Qualification course in childcare, which lasts one year, and then spend a further year doing a Higher National Certificate in Early Education and Childcare.

Entry requirements can vary and some course providers may prefer you to have three or four GCSEs (A-C) or equivalent qualifications. You should check with each college for their exact requirements.

A college will look for the following life skills in applicants:

  • obvious enjoyment in being around young children
  • energy, patience, enthusiasm and kindness
  • practical skills
  • willingness to work hard
  • good imagination
  • willingness to be part of a team

A college will also be looking for practical experience. Raising your own children will obviously be highly relevant, and it would help if you’ve also done voluntary work around children (perhaps you’ve run an activity for children in your local neighbourhood or been a volunteer at your child’s school).

You may be able to find work in a nursery as a trainee and attend college part-time to work towards qualifications, which could be helpful as a parent.

And, as with all jobs which involve working with children, you’ll need to have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check in place before you can work as a nursery nurse.

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