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How to be the best Early Years Practitioner

11 min of reading
26 February 2024
A woman building a toy wooden house with a blonde child, surrounded by toy building blocks like the best early years practitioners

Working in a nursery is not for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to put others’ needs before their own and help children take their first steps, make their first friends, and discover a world of fun.  

If you want to become an early years practitioner or are currently qualifying, you have an exciting journey ahead. Being the best early years practitioner you can be requires hard work and dedication.

We share tips and advice on how to be an outstanding practitioner, read on to find out how.   

In this article:

    What is an Early Years Practitioner?

    An early years practitioner works with babies and children up to age 5. They are responsible for the children’s well-being, safety, and development in their care. This is a demanding but extremely rewarding vocation.  

    In the UK, the average early years practitioner salary ranges from £14,000 to £23,000 for a full-time position. The hourly rate varies depending on the qualifications held. There is a lack of understanding surrounding the challenge and skills required to be an outstanding early years practitioner.  

    Early years advocate and founder of Oliiki, Clare Stead, explained this in a recent interview about the importance of practitioners for baby brain development. Highlighting the misunderstanding behind the value an early years practitioner brings to a child and their family. 

    “We must raise the professional conversation when we interact with parents of the nursery. The development our early years practitioners are planning and delivering daily must be recognised and celebrated.”

    What's the different between a Level 2 and a Level 3 Early Years Practitioner?

    In short, the difference between a Level 2 and Level 3 early years practitioner boils down to qualifications. A Level 3 practitioner is known as an early years educator and will have completed Level 3 (or have other qualifications to satisfy the requirements). They will be used in staff planning as a Level 3, and their wage will reflect this.  

    A Level 2 early years practitioner will have fewer supervisory responsibilities than a Level 3. Level 2 is often the entry-level qualification when beginning a career in the early years. Level 2 and 3 practitioners can work in various environments, including nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups, social care settings, and hospital provisions.   

    Early years practitioners’ roles are diverse, depending on the age range they work with. Their days will be filled with supporting children to achieve their potential, interact with new experiences and build the foundations their adult lives will rely on. 

    Looking to get into the early years? Sadly we can’t get you a job, but we can explore how to become an Early Years Practitioner in the UK.  

    How can you become an Early Years Practitioner?

    To work in a nursery, you can gain qualifications through a college course, a childcare apprenticeship or through previous experience you may have. Department for Education (DfE) requirements must be satisfied to be included in ratios.  

    To become an early years practitioner (Level 2), it typically takes 12 months to complete the course, including on-the-job learning time to study and complete tasks. 

    A Level 3 early years educator course is 18 months long and has similar study requirements (this level also asks for Maths and English qualification proof).  

    Many local nurseries are always looking to fill vacancies for Level 2 and Level 3 practitioners. If you’re interested, contact a nursery advertising and chat with the manager to learn more about their career opportunities.  

    How to be the best Early Years Practitioner

    Like any career, it takes hard work and determination to become the best in your field. To become an outstanding early years practitioner, you must be aware of several areas 

    If you’d like updates on these areas straight to your inbox, subscribe to our free Blossom blog 

    Let’s look at the areas you should know about:  

    • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) 
    • EYFS activities  
    • Staying up to date with early years news 
    • Maximising your study potential 
    • Learning from others 
    • Efficient admin processes  
    • Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and progression 

    SEND top tips for Early Years Practitioners

    The number of children identified with SEND is steadily increasing. The top 3 main areas of SEN Support are:  

    • Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) 
    • Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) 
    • Moderate learning difficulties (MLD) 

    Supporting children with SEND in the early years can be challenging, especially with a limited budget. Awareness of the early identification signs for different SEND needs is essential 

    You cannot be expected to be an expert on every SEND need, but having some background information and top tips is useful 

    Top SEND tips for early years practitioners:  

    • The need that is being presented may not be the primary need 
    • Approach all displays of behaviour or communication with curiosity  
    • Record all information, it will help to build a bigger picture  
    • Build positive relationships with the families  
    • Recognise every child is unique and may display their needs differently 

    EYFS activities to try in your nursery

    Having a bank of EYFS activities up your sleeve is essential when working in a nursery. To be an outstanding practitioner, you must go beyond the fun activity and understand the why and purpose of the activity, game or task.  

    For example, EYFS messy play activities are exciting, and children love to play with different textures and materials. However, are you aware that children are beginning to develop the dexterity and hand strength needed to grip a pencil by playing in the sand 

    We have a range of EYFS activities for you to try, from seasonal early years activities to tuff tray ideas—access hundreds of activities, games and tasks to try in your nursery via our blog. 


    Stay up to date as an Early Years Practitioner

    The 2024 changes in the early years will impact your training as a practitioner or even how you operate in the nursery on a day-to-day basis. Staying up to date with government changes and proposals is helpful to your professional development and can prepare you to help parents and carers if asked.  

    Know how to study as an Early Years Practitioner

    If you are completing your early years practitioner qualifications, you will be required to study. Now, for some, this may seem daunting. But this needn’t be the case!  

    A large proportion of adults are unaware of how they learn best. School learning may have fallen into a one-size-fits-all approach when you were at school (although the focus on meta-cognition in the National Curriculum is trying to move away from this), meaning you may need help understanding how you learn best.  

    There are quizzes you can take to find your learning style and lots of helpful study tips available online (like using online timers and breaking your study into small, manageable tasks).  

    Learn from other Early Years Practitioners

    Your work colleagues are an invaluable source of knowledge. But simply saying ‘learn from your peers’ doesn’t provide much direction on how to do so.

    When looking at the other nursery workers on your team, consider the individual skills you would like to build as an early years practitioner. 

    Here are some areas you may want to find an ‘expert’ in:  

    Identify the areas you would like to develop as an early years practitioner and find a colleague to help you. Can’t find someone for a particular area? Work with your nursery manager to find a mentor from another nursery or local childcare provider so you can pick their brains and learn from them. 

    Remember, the only silly questions are those you don’t ask! 

    Be efficient with paperwork

    EYFS paperwork can be challenging to keep on top of. Regularly updating a child’s all about me information, recording of incidents and nappy changes can become overwhelming. It is important to look at the tools you have available to make your EYFS paperwork as simple as possible.  

    Nursery software is designed to make life easier as an early years practitioner. Blossom’s nursery software allows managers and practitioners access various features that will save time when recording a child‘s observation, contacting parents, recording attendance, and so much more.  

    Want to see how Blossom can help improve your paperwork efficiency? Have a look through all of our nursery software features.  

    Early years CPD: Know the options available

    The field of early years is constantly changing. New qualifications, funding and progression routes are available to those in early years. It is important to know your interests in EYFS and how you can progress in the direction you’d like.  

    Your nursery may also offer a bespoke CPD plan to help you continually improve as a practitioner.  

    For example, if your strength and passion lie in SEND and early identification, you should be aware of the EYFS SENDCo funding and support available from the DfE 

    a 30min session
    no strings attached