Business development

As an early educator, how do you know which nursery will fit you best?

Part two of a three-part series addressing recruitment and retention in early education
Part 2 of tackling the recruitment crisis
July 13, 2022
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In a rush? Here's the quick run down.
  • In part two of this series on the recruitment crisis in the early years by guest contributor Valentina Grizner, you’ll find advice for practitioners and early educators looking for a role.
  • Decide your ideal role and values. What ethos are you looking for in a setting? Knowing what you want in a role can help narrow down your search and improve your chances of finding the right fit.
  • Chat to families that attend the settings you're looking to apply to, read the reviews and reports, and find out what they're like as an employer by speaking to their current staff.

Looking for work in early education? You've come to the right place.

First, the good news: there are plenty of interested settings with roles to fill. Early education staff are in high demand right now, so you won't have to look far to find a nursery that's recruiting. Whether you're browsing on job websites or social media, or simply looking for openings in your immediate community, you've got a lot of leverage as a talented early educator.

But not all nurseries are made the same. Especially if you're looking to make a career in early education, you'll get the most out of your work if you pick a setting where you can stay, grow and hone your skills for several years at least. That's why it's so important to pick the right fit, to make hanging around the easy choice.

So let's get into it — how do you decide which nursery will be the best fit for you?

What matters most for you in early education?

Firstly, you need to identify what is important to you, both in terms of your career goals and your ethos.

Are you keen to develop professionally and build your career further within the childcare industry? Or would you prefer to be part of a tight-knit team in a small setting?

Would you rather focus on the little ones’ development and well-being as an exceptional educator, or are you ready to take the next step and become a nursery manager or deputy?

Whichever group you're starting out as, a nursery assistant, a post-graduate early years teacher, or looking to start managing a setting, it’s really important to find a vacancy aligned with your values.

I asked a few practitioners what is most important for them when they are looking for a new role and they said:

  • A happy place where they can progress personally and professionally
  • A setting with low staff turnover and great benefits
  • A setting that's focused on keeping little ones safe and teaching them through play and creative methods.

An early years practitioner teaching children in their setting

Where do you look for job postings?

As with any other employment sector, jobs are advertised using a variety of different platforms, such as Indeed, Reed, LinkedIn, or even social media. I found an early years practitioner role advertised on Gumtree - and stayed with that nursery for many years!

And, when early years providers are recruiting, these are often featured on their own websites under the “careers” or “join our team” section. However, for those who don’t know the company or don’t live near the location, these jobs can go unnoticed in their search.

A specialist recruitment agency for early years staff can prove to be useful, as they work with employers from a wide geographical area and features a range of early years opportunities, providing more choices for job seekers - more on that below. There are many traditional agencies across the country, so again, it is best to do research on these companies and what they offer.

The big ideas

Advice for working with a recruiter

Zen Educate is an online platform that connects teaching assistants with schools and also has a HUGE focus on early education.

Their recruitment specialists can match you with an Outstanding nursery setting easily and efficiently, based on your experience and preferences. Of course, I’m biased as I’m also part of their expert team, but whilst our number one priority is to find you the role you want, we are also transparent.

By saving money for nurseries on recruitment fees (which is our mission - so far we have saved over £3 million for schools!), this allows us to give you a fairer pay.

We take care of your vetting, provide a CPD-certified safeguarding training and carry out your interview, so you are good to go and the nurseries can have you for a trial day (paid, of course) or even trial week, which can potentially extend into a long-term, full-time position.

Whether you are looking for temporary or long-term roles across the sector, we have got you covered!

What to research about a nursery

Prior to applying for a role, look up the nursery’s website and do some research. Keep your eyes peeled, as some nursery settings hold open days for practitioners, where you can have a sneak peek into their daily life and meet the team.

Do they follow a specific curriculum?

Wonderful! You can already start brushing up on your knowledge and learn something new and exciting - whether it supports the Montessori methodology, the Reggio Emilia approach, aspects of the Waldorf teaching or something completely creative and child-led, investigate it further and see what suits you best.

What is unique about their early years provision?

Is it an outdoor nursery or forest school? Do they do daily cooking classes and monthly bake sales? Or teaching through play and art? All of the above - splendid!

Read the reviews

Look up the Ofsted report and check out what parents have to say. See if it's possible to get some feedback from current and former employees or other professionals in the Early Years workforce who work with the setting.

Group picture of early years staff in their nursery with children

Find the place that makes you wish you were a child again

Personally, I like to think of nurseries from three different perspectives.

Firstly, as an educator, as I explained my thought process above.

Secondly, as a child - if you were a toddler, would you enjoy spending time here? (Give me all the paint and glitter! Let’s make mudpies and give shelter for the stick insects so they don’t get caught in the rain! Arranging flowers and polishing mirrors during the Montessori work cycle is SO MUCH FUN!).

And lastly, as a parent - if you had a little one, would this environment make you feel comfortable? Here's an opportunity to use your risk assessment skills as an early educator, to understand this environment from a child's point of view.

Preparing for the interview

Once you secure an interview, don’t forget that you are interviewing the nursery management to see if they're a good fit for you, as well as the other way around. Depending on the size of the setting, you may meet the manager or a member of human resources, but either way, make sure to prepare with relevant questions.

You might want to ask about:

  • Their policies,
  • The benefits they offer
  • Opportunities for progression, including how they would support an apprentice and early years assistant. (Even if this is not relevant to you, it can tell you a little about how well the setting values CPD and professional development)
  • What training is offered, including induction for new employees
  • What their staff turnover is like
  • Team building and social events,
  • Mental health and well-being, including how they support staff members’ health

It's also worth asking who in the organisation is ultimately responsible for recruitment, so you know who to contact to follow up and potentially discuss feedback (and hopefully a job offer!)

A group of Early Years children playing outside on a flat ladder obstacle.

If you want to pursue a career in early education…

If you are a newcomer to the profession, don’t be concerned that without many years of experience in early education, you could be at a disadvantage. Emphasising transferable skills from previous work experience is a good way to overcome this.

Candidates that have had teaching jobs previously, will already have the communication and listening skills required, even if they have been teaching older children, rather than little ones.

Experience with children in any setting is an advantage - even if it is just babysitting or helping out with young children within the family. Having a background in drama, music or art is also a huge plus!

All in all, working in early education is not an easy job, but it is extremely rewarding and there are endless opportunities to progress. And what is more wonderful than knowing that we are contributing to the education of the future generation from the very early stages?

download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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