Early years and nursery teacher training

What is Early Years Initial Teacher Training?

Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) programmes provide pathways for those who wish to work with children aged from birth to five years old. Early years teachers tend to be employed in nurseries. In England and Wales, it can lead to Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS).

Nursery pre-school teaching equipment

Why become an early years teacher?

It is vital that children receive the best education possible at a young age. Good development early on makes it far more likely that they’ll achieve later in life. 94% of children who do well at age five meet the expected standard for reading at Key Stage 1. Early years teachers are responsible for early child development, so it’s necessary that they are skilled, competent and passionate.

How to gain Early Years Teacher Status

If you’re seeking a career in early years teaching in England or Wales, you can choose to gain Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS). The following sections outline the different ways you can achieve EYTS.

Click to skip to:
Undergraduate routes
Graduate routes
Assessment only
Entry requirements

Note that EYTS qualifies you to teach children up to five years of age and no older, so you should only go down this route if you are sure this is the age group you want to teach. If you wish to study primary education, you will need to achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which you can gain as a graduate.

Undergraduate routes to EYTS

Many UK universities offer three- or four-year full-time undergraduate courses in early childhood development-related subjects. You can gain EYTS alongside your degree.

How to apply: Applications for undergraduate courses are made via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Use our Course Chooser to find an appropriate course.

Funding: You are entitled to the same funding as other undergraduates. See our section on fees and financial support for more information.

Graduate routes to EYTS

Postgraduate study

Similar to the PGCE, you can undertake one year of full-time postgraduate study which leads to EYTS. Courses are longer if studied part-time.

At a university, you’ll be taught the theoretical knowledge required for early years teaching.

To develop professional practice whilst on the course, you’ll have block work placements in a minimum of two early years environments.

How to apply: Applications are made directly to the university.

Funding: Training is fully funded by the National College of Teaching and Leadership via a £7,000 grant. The following bursaries are also available: £5,000 for applicants with a first class degree; £4,000 for applicants with a 2:1; and £2,000 for applicants with a 2:2.

School Direct (Early Years)

This is a graduate entry route enabling you to train in a group of schools or nurseries with the guarantee of employment after EYTS is achieved.

How to apply: Applications are made directly to providers.

Funding: Training is fully funded by the National College of Teaching and Leadership via a £7,000 grant. The following bursaries are also available: £5,000 if you have a first class degree; £4,000 if you have a 2:1; and £2,000 if you have a 2:2.

Read more about School Direct for primary and secondary education.


There is a one-year part-time course for professionals already working in an early years setting. This is a perfect option if you need a bit of extra training in order to fulfil and demonstrate the Teacher’s Standards (early years).

How to apply: Applications are made directly to Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) providers.

Funding: £14,000 is available from the National College of Teaching and Leadership. £7,000 covers course fees and the other £7,000 covers costs incurred by your employer.

Assessment only

This is a self-funded option which takes place over three months. It is ideal for graduates with extensive experience in an early years setting, who can meet the Teacher’s Standards (early years), and don’t need any extra training.

Entry requirements

  • All practising and prospective early years teachers must have GCSEs A–C (or equivalent) in Maths, English and Science
  • For undergraduate entry, it will depend on the chosen university or college
  • For graduate entry training, you must possess a good honours degree
  • You will have to pass the professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy
  • You must demonstrate evidence of pre-entry work experience with children of a relevant age
  • Respect, fondness, and empathy for children aged from birth to five are required
  • You are subject to DBS as part of the admissions process.

For primary and secondary teaching, see undergraduate routes or postgraduate routes into teaching.