Can you describe your journey into working in Early Years?
After completing my Level 3 qualification full time in college, I went straight into employment in a day nursery. There, I worked with all the different age groups from 0-5 years, before becoming the Room Leader of the baby room, an age group that soon become my biggest area of interest. Whilst working full time, I studied for a Foundation Degree in Early Years by going to University in the evenings. After two years, I completed this and went on to ‘top up’ to a full BA Hons, also whilst working full time. Shortly after starting this, I moved to a new setting, working with the owner to set up the nursery as the Deputy Manager. Once my degree was completed, I was promoted to Manager and held responsibility for the day to day running of the Nursery before moving to set up a Nursery from scratch for an independent school. I worked there for 7 years, building a team, working closely with parents and families, navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and providing Outstanding care and education for the children who attended.
What is the best thing about working in Early Years?
There is truly never two days the same! Our work is with children, who are known to be unpredictable, and this is what keeps the work interesting and us early years practitioners on our toes. I love it when I plan something and the children are so excited to take part, and it’s even better when they take their learning in a completely different direction. Observing and supporting them and seeing the world through their eyes, is the most rewarding and heart-warming part of the job. Also, I can’t think of many other jobs where you can have water fights or do silly dances or sing Disney songs at the top of your lungs and it be completely normal!
What do you look for when recruiting in Early Years?
Working in early years, although rewarding and fun, is also hard work. Therefore, you must have a passion for wanting to provide the best opportunities possible for children and have the drive to continue to learn and develop yourself to do this. I’ve always looked for someone who shows care and consideration to others, can be empathetic and, very importantly, can work as a team player. You are never alone when working in early years, so your ability to communicate with others and work towards a shared goal is vital. Additionally, you must have a great sense of humour!
What advice would you give to someone starting out in Early Years?
- Wear comfortable shoes and invest in a good coat. You will spend time outside in all weathers, so you need to ensure you are dressed for it. The children never seem to get cold!
- Take your time to progress and keep your knowledge up to date. You can see from my journey that it took time for me to work my way up so meanwhile, I invested in my own career by continuing to upskill through professional development. This doesn’t have to mean doing a degree, free webinars and online articles can be a great source of information.
- Get to know your team. There’s no denying it, the hours can be long and therefore you will spend a lot of time with the people you work with. So, make sure you look out for each other and work to all your different strengths as this will not only help you, but it will benefit the children.
- Be prepared to get messy! I can’t think of a day when I didn’t come home with some sort of craft material still stuck to me.
- It will be a rollercoaster of emotions. Nothing quite prepares you for saying goodbye to children who are moving house or going to ‘big school’, and on those days, you might need a few extra tissues in your pocket. But you will never laugh as much as you do when you are at work in the Early Years and that is what makes it so, so special.