Career Progression - from unqualified to nursery manager


Career Progression - from unqualified to nursery manager


The first step to deciding on a career working with young children is having a passion and enthusiasm for them.  Often I’ve heard people say to me in regards to my career “how do you do it?”, or “I don’t know how you do it!” If the thought of working with noisy, messy little ones, seeing the wonder and excitement of them exploring new things, the joy of seeing them learn and progress, fills you with dread, then this isn’t the career for you.  When the going gets tough, that drive, the wonder and joy you receive from working with them, will see you through a very much rewarding role.

Desirable Qualities

When deciding if this is the career for you, you might want to think about other desirable qualities to possess.  If you have a healthy balance of the following then you’re on the right path!

Patience and humour – sometimes children don’t listen and this can get frustrating.  You need the patience to keep going, keep repeating and be consistent in helping their progress and development.  Being able to see the funny side certainly helps!

Good communication – this is essential.  You will need to communicate effectively with the team you work with for best efficient practice and also with the parents/carers you will be talking to about their child’s development. The ability to interact well with both children and adults alike is paramount.  You will need to be a people person and adapt your language so it is age appropriate for the children to understand.

Creativity and flexibility – You will need to be able to think quickly, problem solve and adapt to any situation that arises. The ability to be silly, to be a performer is always useful when it comes to engaging the children in terms of singing songs and storytelling.  You need to be able to make learning fun!

Good instructional skills – You need to be comfortable directing the children and giving discipline where needed in an appropriate manner.

The Qualifications

The CACHE level 2 Early years Educator is the best entry point to starting to get qualified as a Nursery Practitioner.  It is best to start here if you haven’t studied in a while or don’t have much previous knowledge of children. Think of it as an access module or building block to further study. The level 2 is the equivalent of 4-5 GCSEs and can take 6 months to a year to complete, depending on your rate of study.  Ideally, you will already be working in an early years setting as this is an on the job qualification where you will have a tutor come and observe you at work. As well as written assignments.

To give you an example of what it would look like for a tutor to come and observe you, whilst studying for my own qualifications, I decided to do an activity with the children where I supervised them making fruit kebabs with wooden skewers.  The idea was that the children would thread the fruit on the skewers whilst talking about healthy eating and helping them with their fine motor skills. 

It just so happened to go wrong where one of the children managed to stab themselves with the end of the skewer whilst trying to thread a piece of apple! This may sound shocking but I acted calmly and swiftly by taking that child to the toilet to grab a piece of paper towel to apply pressure and stem the bleeding.  I offered cuddles and reassurance along the way. This links back to being able to think quickly on your feet and problem solve. The positives to come out of this incident were that I managed to tick off the first aid part of one of my modules and just needed to look at my activity to adapt the fruit from hard apple to soft fruits.

The next step is the CACHE level 3 early years educator and this is equivalent to two ‘A’ levels.  It will take about a year to complete and will also allow you to be a deputy manager or room leader.  You will gain deeper knowledge of childcare, learning and development and gain further confidence in your role as a Nursery Practitioner. This qualification will also require on the job training and observation from your tutor, as well as written assignments.

If you want to progress further, the next step is to become a Nursery Manager.  The qualification needed for this is a CACHE level 4 early years educator. This is the equivalent of a foundation degree.  The entry requirements would be to have completed your level 3 CACHE and to have built up your experience in working in an early years setting.  It would follow the same format as the level 2 and 3.

Lastly, there is the level 5 CACHE early years educator.  This qualification will further extend your knowledge and experience in developing your skills as a manager.  It is at higher education level, equivalent of a diploma. It also would follow the same format as previous levels.  With this you are open to more career possibilities such as owning your own nursery if you have that entrepreneurial spirit.

Achieving these qualifications is an essential part of being a Nursery Practitioner, coupled with building your experience. You can of course choose how high you go but most settings will look for a level 3 as a minimum. This also opens you up to more job roles such as being a deputy manager or room leader as well as a key worker.

Working as a Nursery Practitioner is a very rewarding and enjoyable role, if you think you have what it takes then get your journey started today!


Many thanks to Julia Mallard for this insightful blog post.