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BA Early Years

Do you work with young children? Do you want to boost your career and develop your practice? This degree course provides a solid, practical grounding for practitioners working in a wide range of early years settings - including home-based carers and classroom/teaching assistants specialising in early years. You'll develop your critical understanding of early years practice and frameworks from ethical, social, legal, and political perspectives; and gain the knowledge and skills needed to work collaboratively and equitably within an integrated, interdisciplinary workforce. The BA (Hons) Early Years is considered 'full and relevant' for the purposes of registration and regulation - which means you'll count in the qualified ratio of staff at Level 3. It also prepares you for further research, study, enquiry and practice.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q51 Made up of: 300 or 360 credits

You must be a current practitioner in the field with at least six months' full time (or a year's part time) recent experience, which you'll need to verify. During your studies, you'll need to be working directly with young children (aged between birth and seven years) for a minimum of five hours a week in an early years education setting (in a paid or voluntary capacity) in order to complete the work-related and work-based assignments. If you're studying outside the UK you must be working in an English-medium early years setting and following a UK (eg. Early Years Foundation Stage) or Republic of Ireland (ROI) curriculum. Confirmation of this will need to be provided. If your work setting is unable to provide appropriate support you will not be able to undertake the whole programme.

Note: anyone working in an early years setting needs to meet the 'fit person' criteria, which includes criminal record clearance for the country in which you're working. It's your responsibility and that of your employer to ensure you meet these requirements - not the OU's. You should contact the relevant agency in your country for more information if you are in doubt about your eligibility, or to find out more.

Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

Early years professionals work in many roles in group settings (such as nurseries and children's centres) and as home-based carers - playing a central role in children's development from birth to five years. They also lead practice and support other practitioners. This BA (Hons) Early Years is designed to contribute to the development of a highly skilled and effective workforce across the UK - and to integrated, coherent services for children. It's ideal if you want to achieve Early Years Professional (EYP) Status via the Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP). For further information about EYP Status see the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) website. Outside the UK, this degree course is relevant to anyone working in British Forces schools, or in English-medium early years settings in Europe.

This degree course may be helpful if you're interested in further training as an Early Years Teacher. However, since the OU doesn't offer teacher training for this age range, we cannot guarantee automatic progression to ITE training programmes. Check with your local ITE training provider about their entry policy. For up-to-date information see the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) website in England; the Teach in Scotland website in Scotland; and the Teacher Training & Education in Wales website. More information can also be found about routes to entering teaching by downloading our Becoming a Teacher booklet.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

  • to develop and enhance theoretical, practice and research skills and knowledge about working with children and families in a wide range of settings
  • to develop your interdisciplinary research, knowledge and policy base underpinning multi-agency working.

Learning outcomes

The degree provides opportunities for you to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills and other attributes in the following areas:

Knowledge and understanding

You will develop knowledge and understanding in the following areas:

  • the emotional, physical, intellectual, social and moral learning and development in the lives of children from birth to twelve years, and an opportunity to learn about other age groups as part of contextualising your studies
  • the principles, theories and research that underpin and inform policy and practice, and how these inform the range of complex issues that impact on effective communication with children and support transitions
  • the relevant curriculum across the UK for children from birth to eight, including observation and assessment strategies and procedures
  • the way ethnicity, religion, caste/class, gender, sexuality and disability impact on children and their development, and the implications of differentiation, inequality and exclusion and strategies designed to tackle these issues. This will include safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, and understanding the importance of children's voices and perspectives
  • interdisciplinary research, knowledge and policy, and provision relating to regulating/promoting and safeguarding children's status, welfare and learning. This will include how these impact on children (and adults) within different contexts and an appreciation of multi-agency working
  • further develop your research skills and show how research can contribute to both academic and professional understanding of the lives of children.

Cognitive skills

You will develop your ability to:

  • analyse and evaluate concepts, theories policy and practice critically and systematically, and understand and analyse the different approaches to the study of children, childhood and families
  • identify connections and discontinuities between knowledge and its application in practical contexts, and critically analyse conditions and processes that lead to effective inter-professional collaboration and multi-agency working
  • select and critically analyse information, principles, understandings, ideas and evidence, and formulate proposals and apply them in discussions, arguments and practice
  • identify and reflect on your own and others' values and positions, and assess these in relation to policy and practice
  • identify and reflect on your own and others' values and positions, and how these impact on practice and show evidence of reflective practice through written case studies, assignments and projects
  • critically read and evaluate research literature, formulate projects using appropriate methodologies, and interpret and apply research findings to practice.

Practical and/or professional skills

You will develop the ability to:

  • acquire and critically apply the research, analytical and evaluative skills needed for effective practice and the promotion of equality across specialist services and work with children. This will include team work and project work, valuing other professionals and supporting and/or supervising colleagues as appropriate
  • evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to problem-solving as they relate to different employment roles. This will include managing and organising time, resources, records and information to support decision-making, and developing a skilled and ethical approach to working with children
  • demonstrate the experience, knowledge and skills that underpin good practice and apply theory to practice. This will include developing effective communication and engagement skills
  • carry out aspects of work roles in relation to children and their families to the standards expected in employment. This will include understanding the importance of information-sharing and developing critical analytical practice in listening to children, promoting children's well-being, and multi-agency working
  • design, implement, monitor and assess programmes to support children's development and learning. This will include critically analysing policies, practice and evidence bases for listening to children, promoting children's well-being, and multi-agency working
  • appreciate the importance of evidence-based practice and the difficulties associated with research.

Key skills

You will develop the ability to:

  • organise, synthesise and interrogate opinions and arguments, associated with children's development and learning and childhood. This will include taking account of appropriate conventions for academic writing
  • communicate and write accurately and clearly in styles that take account of purpose and content, including interpretation of graphical and numerical data when appropriate
  • read independently and purposefully, identifying and recording what is relevant from a range of resource material and different media, and responding sensitively to diverse viewpoints
  • participate effectively in communities of practice in face-to-face communication and through computer-mediated communication
  • develop and apply information literacy and ICT to identify, search for and critically evaluate information in complex contexts. This will include using ICT skills within work-based learning modules
  • analyse tasks and make plans to tackle them. This will include planning and managing time, reflecting on and learning from personal experience, and applying own learning to theoretical and practical issues
  • reflect on the learning process, consider your personal progress and personal experience, identify strengths and weaknesses, and apply your learning to practical issues. This will include actively seeking and learning from feedback to improve performance
  • manage research information and data, and reflect on the role of the researcher.

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