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Routes into childcare

Accessing the tools and training you will need

If you're interested in starting or developing your career in early years, Essex Adult Community Learning (ACL) deliver courses to provide you with the tools you will need to succeed in this rewarding sector. Courses are available at all levels, from entry level for those who are not yet working in the sector, through to professionals wishing to develop their knowledge and progress in their career.

View a full list of early years courses in Essex on the ACL Essex website. 

A wider range of opportunities in Essex can also be found at Essex Opportunities and also through your local Higher Education (college) provider.


Apprenticeships are training programmes that combine on the job training with study. They are for people aged 16 or over. Apprenticeships can help you progress into full time employment or further study. More information on apprenticeships is available online, including guidance, regulation and the latest news.

Find an apprenticeship

ACL Essex offers a range of apprenticeships for people looking to improve their career prospects. It has apprenticeships for 16 to 18-year-olds and for anyone aged 19-years-old and over.

ACL Essex's apprenticeships include:

  • placements in business, accounting and finance, project management, administration, team leading, management and customer service
  • placements in early years and educational settings
  • placements in health, medical and social care

National Apprenticeship Service has a list of vacancies across the UK.

Some employers offer their own apprenticeships and you can find opportunities listed on Essex Schools and Early Years Jobs.

T Levels

T Levels are one of your options after you have finished your GCSEs.

Entry requirements for each course are set by the individual school or college. Check with your local school or college to find out their entry requirements for the Education and Early Years T Level. Further information on T Levels and what you will need before you start is available online.


Volunteering in a childcare setting may offer you the relevant experience to help you to decide if you would like to pursue a career in the sector. You would work alongside staff to support children in their play and may help to set up and clear away. Some training opportunities are also available to volunteers through ACL Essex.

To find a volunteering opportunity, please visit volunteer Essex or speak to your local childcare provider.


You may be able to get help with the cost of your course, dependent on your circumstances or previous qualifications. Please contact your training provider to discuss potential financial support that may be available. You can find more information on further education courses and financial support online.

Childminder start-up grants

Following the announcement of the new start-up grant for Childminders at the Spring Budget on Wednesday 15 March 2023. The Department for Education will offer £600 to new childminders who register with Ofsted, and £1,200 to new childminders who register with a childminder agency. This will be payable to any individual who has completed their childminder registration on or after Wednesday 15 March 2023.

New childminders will be able to apply for the childminder start-up grant from autumn 2023. Find out more about the childminder start-up grant.

Poppins Bursary

The Poppins Bursary provides funded development opportunities and training for those looking to enter, or currently working in the early years sector. It supports training initiatives for early years settings, with the goal of enhancing the range and quality of services offered in our communities.

Register for the Poppins bursary online.