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Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT)

If you want to work with pre-school children, find out about early years teacher training in England.

Early years teacher teaching kindergarten children


  1. What qualifications do you need to be an early years teacher?

  2. How do you get Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS)?

  3. What do Early Years Initial Teacher Training courses cover?

  4. Undergraduate routes to EYTS

  5. Postgraduate routes to EYTS

  6. Entry requirements

  7. University early years teacher training table

What qualifications do you need to be an early years teacher?

In England, Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) is a teaching award specific to working with children from birth to five years old. Early years teachers tend to be employed in nurseries. They’re largely responsible for early child development, so they must be skilled, competent and passionate.

EYTS qualifies you to teach children up to five years of age, so only go down this route if you’re sure it’s the age group you want to teach.

If you want to teach at primary level, you’ll need Qualified Teacher Status (QTS); if you don’t have QTS you won’t be employed to teach reception in a maintained school. It also means you won’t have the same pay structure and salary progression as QTS teachers.

How do you get Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS)?

To become an early years teacher you’ll need to take an Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) course. Courses are available at undergraduate or postgraduate level; we cover the options below.

Whichever training course you take, they all follow the same criteria to ensure you meet the required Teachers' Standards (early years). You’ll be assessed on your work with children aged 0–5 years, though some courses may offer experience of the 0–7 age range.

What do Early Years Initial Teacher Training courses cover?

Child development will be an essential part of the course.

Key areas of learning in the early years foundation stage are communication and language, physical development, and social and emotional development. You’ll support and develop children in these areas through specific learning in literacy and maths, expressive arts and design, and helping children to make sense of their world.

You’ll be expected to build a foundation from which you can spark children’s enthusiasm for learning, develop their curiosity, and help them to form relationships and thrive in them.

As a teacher, you’ll learn about the role of the early years’ teacher. This includes how to plan work with children and assess their progress, learning to evaluate your own practice, and how to use evidence and research to inform your teaching. You’ll also learn how to support children with special educational needs and disability.

You’ll also need to engage with the progression of children into school education, gaining familiarity with Key Stages 1 and 2 through visits to schools or observation of lessons.

You’ll get at least 24 weeks in early years settings if you’re on an academic course. If you’re taking an employment-based route it’ll depend on the programme, but you’ll need to experience different settings and different age groups.

Undergraduate routes to EYTS

Early years teacher training is often a pathway offered as part of an Early Years degree. Look for a degree offering an 'Early Years Teacher Status' route or pathway, which you can opt into from your second or third year. You’ll then achieve EYTS alongside your degree.

Degrees may also cover the competencies required to give you early childhood Graduate Practitioner status – showing employers you've achieved a recognised benchmark standard. Such degrees are only available from members of the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network.

If taking EYTS as an undergraduate, you may be able to follow this with a PGCE in primary teaching to gain QTS and open up more employment options.

Applications for undergraduate courses are made via UCAS. You’re entitled to the same funding as other undergraduate students.

Postgraduate routes to EYTS

There are three routes open to postgraduates: ‘graduate-entry’ courses, employment-based training, or an ‘assessment only’ route for those with considerable experience in the sector.

Your choices are likely to depend on your experience and whether you want an academic qualification as part of your training.

Graduate-entry courses

Graduate-entry courses may be provided by universities or by school-centred initial teacher training providers (SCITT). Courses usually take one year full-time.

A university course may include a PGCE academic qualification, as well as leading to EYTS. You’ll attend university to learn the theoretical knowledge needed for early years teaching. To develop professional practice while on the course, you’ll have work placements in a minimum of two early years environments.

If you train with a SCITT provider, you’ll benefit from the experience of practising teachers but may not get an academic qualification such as an early years PGCE. However, a PGCE isn’t necessary to get early years teacher status.

Applications are made directly to the provider, whether a university or SCITT.

If you're taking a graduate-entry course, your fees will be paid by the government. You may also qualify for a bursary of up to £5,000. The amount will depend on your degree classification and is only available to those with a 2:2 or higher. Student finance is not available.


One-year, part-time courses are available for professionals already working in early years settings. This is a good option if you need a bit of extra training to fulfil and demonstrate the Teacher’s Standards (early years).

Similar to graduate-entry courses, employment-based training may be offered by universities or SCITT providers, with applications made directly to the provider.

In terms of funding, you’ll be paid a salary and government money will pay your fees. There’s also an incentive paid to your employer to cover costs when you have to be on placement.


This is a self-funded option that takes place over three months. It’s ideal for graduates with substantial experience who can meet the Teachers’ Standards (early years) without any further training.

As part of this route you’ll need to compile a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate how you’ve met the Teacher’s Standards (early years). You’ll also have assessors observe your practice.

Providers of ‘assessment only’ programmes may have different entry criteria and offer different levels of support, such as mentoring or assistance with portfolios.

Child's hands painted with smiley faces

Entry requirements

Below are the minimum course entry requirements; providers may have additional or specific requirements.

  • You’ll need at least a grade 4/C in GCSE Maths, English and a science (or equivalent qualifications)
  • For graduate entry, you must possess a good honours degree
  • You’re subject to Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS), health and other background checks as part of the admissions process

You’ll also need to demonstrate pre-entry work experience with children of a relevant age, plus knowledge and understanding of early years.

University early years teacher training table

Figures below show the number of trainees qualifying through universities in 2019/20 (HESA Feb 2021; rounding will affect totals). Figures are lower than for other ITT courses, however entrants to EYITT courses increased by more than 75% in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic (Department for Education ITT census, 2020/21).

Institution PG UG Total
Bath Spa 10 0 10
Bedfordshire 15 5 15
Brighton 15 0 15
Canterbury Christ Church 0 0 0
Chester 10 0 10
Derby 0 5 10
Gloucestershire 0 15 15
Greenwich 10 5 10
Kingston 10 0 10
Northampton 0 5 5
Nottingham Trent 10 0 10
Plymouth Marjon 20 0 20
Portsmouth 0 10 10
Reading 10 0 10
Sheffield Hallam 10 0 10
Staffordshire 0 0 0
Sussex 20 0 20
University College London 15 0 15
Wolverhampton 0 5 5
TOTAL 145 60 205

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