Different roles in early education, childcare and playwork


Add to shortlist

There are a number of different roles in the early years, childcare and playwork sector. Read more about some of them below:


Nursery nurse

Nursery nurses are qualified members of staff, usually holding a level 3 qualification. They are normally responsible for the care, education and all-round development of the children. They can work in a variety of settings including:

  • Local authority nursery schools (sometimes referred to as maintained)
  • Private day nurseries
  • Child and family centres
  • Community nurseries
  • Pre-school

Nursery assistant

Nursery assistants tend to work in the same settings as nursery nurses in a less senior role. They are often members of staff who are relatively inexperienced or who hold a low level of qualification. They are likely to be training for a level 2 qualification and will be well supervised.

Deputy nursery manager

The deputy nursery manager would be expected to run the nursery in the absence of the nursery manager and need experience in supervising staff. A comprehensive knowledge of childcare and early education issues is also essential, as well as Level 3 qualification.

Nursery manager

Nursery managers have been qualified for at least two years and have managerial experience. To run the nursery on a day-to-day basis they need good administrative and communication skills plus team leadership abilities and comprehensive knowledge of childcare and early education issues.

Pre-school leader

Pre-school leaders are employed in pre-school or playgroup settings and work with children aged between two and five years. The sessions can be full-day or part-day such as 2½ hour sessions. The emphasis is on learning through play and parental involvement in all aspects of the playgroup is encouraged. The pre-school leader organises and plans appropriate learning and play activities for the children, supervises staff and reports to the pre-school owner or Chair of Trustees. Pre-school leaders will have a level 3 qualification and will have suitable experience of working with children.

Pre-school assistant

Pre-school assistants are employed in the same settings as pre-school leaders in a less senior role. Most employers will prefer assistants to hold a qualification or undertake training at level 2. Many parents begin a career in childcare as pre-school assistants working at their local playgroup.

Playwork leader

Playwork leaders work in a range of settings including hospitals, community centres, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, holiday playschemes, women's refuges, adventure playgrounds and junior youth clubs. They normally work with children aged 5 to 15 outside school hours. The playwork leader manages the provision on-site and provides a range of safe and developmental play opportunities suitable to the age range. A playwork leader would normally be qualified to level 3.

Playwork assistant

Playwork assistants support the playwork leader in their work.  Most of their job is face to face work with the children. Playwork assistants will hold, or be encouraged to work towards, a level 2 qualification.


Childminders usually look after other people's children in the childminder's home. They are self-employed and will take care of a limited number of children. They often form networks to help support each other.  Childminders must complete a Childminders Introductory Course CYPOP5 and have a suitable first aid qualification before registering with Ofsted.

You can find out more on our childminding pages.

Crèche worker

Crèche workers are employed in a variety of settings with attached crèches, sports centres and supermarkets. Many crèches prefer workers who hold qualifications. Crèche workers take care of children from across the age range.


Nannies care for children in their own home. In some cases, the family prefer the nanny to live-in. Many nannies register with agencies to help them find suitable employment. Agencies generally prefer nannies to hold relevant qualifications at level 2 or above. There is no registration requirement for nannies at the moment but they could choose to register on Ofsted's voluntary register, which will enable parents to take up the Working Tax Credit (if eligible).

Page last reviewed: 29/02/2024

Skip back to top of page