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Youth justice: theory, research and practice

This module is primarily designed for people working in youth justice and focuses on the overarching knowledge required to be an effective practitioner in this field. It explores the relationship between theory and practice, and how both of these impact on youth justice practice. 

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

The module will give you a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the way in which theory influences both policy and practice in the youth justice system. The module explores the social construction of youth and crime, and traces a number of responses to youth offending. Issues such as diversion, restorative justice and the politics of incarceration are explored in the context of the youth justice system in England and Wales. With reference to the Risk Factor Prevention Paradigm (RFPP) the module examines the nature of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative. Finally, the module examines some alternative approaches to youth justice using comparative analysis. By the end of the module you will be expected to have a broad understanding of the overarching knowledge necessary to practice as a reflective practitioner.

You will study five blocks, which are as follows:

  • Block 1 – Crime, youth and childhood – understanding theory and research
  • Block 2 – Explaining and responding to youth offending
  • Block 3 – Transitions: child development and the models of youth justice practice
  • Block 4 – Evaluating the evidence
  • Block 5 – Making sense of it all.

The module will use audio and visual material to enhance an investigation into a number of theoretical frameworks.

You will learn

Some of the learning outcomes for this module include:

  • A knowledge and understanding of the theoretical bases for youth justice work, including theories of: crime, crime prevention and the construction of ‘anti-social behaviour’.
  • A knowledge and understanding of the theoretical concepts that relate to childhood, identity  youth and ‘troubled’ youth, ‘risk’, children’s rights and responsibilities; child and adolescent development.
  • An understanding of the empirical and conceptual basis of the youth justice system in England and in Wales and the values on which they are based with reference to both geographic and historical comparators.
  • Knowledge of the function and operation of the youth justice system in England and Wales within the wider context of services for children and their families.
  • The interpretation of evaluation and research data including qualitative and quantitative data.
  • To be able to constructively reflect upon and plan for your own continuing personal and professional development.

Outside the UK

The module is for students working in England and Wales. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. There are also five online tutorials and two day-schools which it is recommended that you attend.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

You must submit the end-of-module assessment (EMA) online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school


If you are currently working in a Youth Offending Team and you would like to be sponsored for this module you should liaise with your manager about potential sponsorship.

Although this is an open access module, you would be better served if you have background knowledge, and preferably experience, in youth justice.

You are not required to have done any prior study, but please bear in mind that this is an OU level 2 module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 31/07/2015.

What's included

Module guide, assessment guide, five study blocks, two source books, two DVDs and a website.

You will need

A DVD player.

Access to a digital camera (or mobile phone with a digital camera).

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Descriptions of visual elements and written transcripts of any audio components will be available on DVD and the website. Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

Some of the material for this module is delivered in multimedia or online and you will need to make use of a personal computer and the internet. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in operating a computer or have concerns about accessing the types of study materials outlined you are you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.