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BA (Honours) Early Years

Do you work with young children? Do you want to boost your career and develop your practice? This course provides a solid, practical grounding for practitioners 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. 

Key features of the course

  • Relevant to schools and early years settings following a UK/Republic of Ireland curriculum (taught in English)
  • 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*
  • Prepares you for further research, study, enquiry and practice; and for careers in teaching, health or social work.

*New GCSE requirements from September 2014 may affect eligibility. See Careers section for more details.

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Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
How long it takes
Part time – 6 years
Full time – 4 years
Time limit – 10 years
Study method
Distance learning
Course cost
See Fees & funding
Entry requirements
For details see Am I ready?

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Start dates

Credit transfer: apply by 04/12/2014

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Course details

This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits (equivalent to one year's full-time university study). Stage 1 provides the underpinning knowledge and skills needed for more advanced study at Stages 2 and 3.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

You’ll examine the role of the early years practitioner, the range of education and care provision, and the importance of early years environments for enabling young children’s learning and development. Finally you’ll develop your reflective skills in relation to: working with parents, colleagues and other professionals; play, learning and development; and safeguarding children.

Compulsory modules (120 credits)

Experienced practitioners will start in February with The early years: developing practice (APEL route) (EZL100), an APEL version (accreditation of prior experiential learning) of the first module. This enables you to demonstrate core subject and practice knowledge gained through your role and responsibilities, and appropriate study skills. Please note that studying this APEL module cannot be funded with a student loan or any financial support.

Stages 2 and 3 (240 credits)

Your course of study at Stage 2 will be dependent on the setting in which you work and your professional interests – choices include diversity and complexity in children’s lives; working with children and families; children’s experiences in today’s world; and teaching and learning in primary schools. You’ll then undertake work-based learning to investigate your own practice. At Stage 3 you’ll focus on supporting the development of a skilled, effective, and multi-disciplinary professional workforce for children. At this point it is possible to claim the BA Early Years without honours. To complete the honours degree you'll be introduced to a range of research methods and analytical techniques relating to children and young people.

The modules quoted in this description are currently available for study. However, as we review the curriculum on a regular basis, the exact selection may change over time.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; e-learning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – reducing the number of modules you need to study. It’s not just study completed at a university that can be considered, you can transfer study from a wide range of professional qualifications as well. A full list of the qualifications and institutions we can consider for credit transfer can be found on our credit transfer website.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide original evidence of your previous study. We will compare this against the learning outcomes for your chosen qualification and inform you of any award.

For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

Classification of your degree

On successfully completing this undergraduate course, you'll be awarded the BA (Honours) Early Years degree. You'll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.

The class of degree (first, second or third class honours) depends on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the following regulations:

These regulations are also available on our Essential Documents website.

Compare this course

Entry requirements

You must be:

  • a current practitioner (paid or voluntary) with at least six months full-time or 12 months part-time experience of working with young children in a registered early years setting 
  • at least 18 years of age at the date on which you begin studying for this qualification. 

If you wish to claim accreditation of prior learning (APEL) you must be:

  • an experienced practitioner with at least three years full-time or five years part-time experience in a registered early years setting 
  • at least 21 years of age at the date on which you begin studying for this qualification.

In order to assist you in determining whether the APEL route is appropriate for you, it is essential that you accurately complete the EZL100 self-assessment questionnaire. Please download and save to your computer for completion.

While studying the core modules, you must be:

  • working in a setting following a UK or Republic of Ireland curriculum and which uses English as the language of tuition
  • working in a registered early years setting with young children aged from birth to seven years (Foundation Stage or Key Stage 1 or equivalent) in either a paid or voluntary capacity
  • directly involved in activities to support young children’s care and learning for a minimum of five hours a week
  • able to work with groups of three or more children on a regular basis.

You must have the agreement and support of your employer/supervisor before registering for this qualification.

Your employer must complete a Permission Agreement Form to confirm their support for your study, that you meet the pre-requisites to study the core modules, and to verify your experience.

You and your employer are responsible for ensuring that:

  • you meet the ‘fit person’ criteria required for the setting and country you are working in (if you are in doubt about your eligibility, contact the relevant agency in your country for more information)
  • you obtain the necessary criminal record clearance.

If you are a nanny/foster carer working with a child (birth to six years), you must be able to undertake an additional 3–5 hours paid or voluntary work each week in a registered early years setting where you have access to groups of children and support from experienced professional colleagues. The home of a parent/foster carer or nanny is not – on its own – an acceptable setting.

If you meet these entry requirements and wish to apply for this qualification please email our Student Registration & Enquiry Service or call +44(0) 300 303 5303.

General study skills

Anyone can study with The Open University, but if it's a while since you did any academic work it's worth checking that your time management, computing and English skills are up to speed. Visit Can I do it? to find out more.

Help! I'm not sure I'm ready!

Study for free

If your study skills are a bit rusty or you want to try out Open University study before committing yourself, don't worry! You can get started with an Access module – fascinating courses designed to introduce subject areas, build your confidence and prepare you for further study.

For this qualification, we recommend:

People, work and society Access module

What you will study

This is a multidisciplinary module that allows you to develop your subject knowledge and your general study skills. It provides an excellent introduction to a wide range of subject areas, including children and young people, health, law, management, psychology and social sciences.

The module is divided into four blocks:

Block 1: Individuals

In this block, each discipline discusses individuals from a subject-specific perspective or point of view. In Social sciences the individual is presented in relation to cultural and group identities. In Childhood, identity formation is demonstrated through relationships and maturation processes. Lifestyle choices are discussed in relation to individual biological and psychological factors in Health. Psychology takes you on a journey through ways of understanding how individuals think and perceive their world, while Law takes a life course approach to individual rights and responsibilities. Finally, Management takes a very practical view of how you as an individual can begin to organise and develop yourself and others.

Block 2: Families and relationships

Here you’ll encounter a range of perspectives from each of the subject areas on the theme of families and relationships. In Childhood, family and relationships are presented from the point of view of an adult who wants to understand more about the lives of children and young people. The Health perspective explores how family life affects health and considers the care demands on families during illness. Psychology reveals how interaction is key to understanding how families are built and sometimes fall apart. You’ll explore division of labour in families from a Social sciences perspective, and how the nature of family life shapes life chances. In considering parental rights and responsibilities, Law discusses serious cases such as child neglect and abuse. Finally, Management looks at relationships at work and how to manage them effectively.

Block 3: Organisations and communities

This block begins with a Management perspective on organisations, in which you will consider characteristics typical of organisations, including structure, culture, and management tools. Also, you’ll discover how adults support transitions for children and their families when children enter school for the first time or move between different educational settings. In Health, the school is again a focus, along with the built environment, this time for considering health influences and interventions. Having approached organisations and communities from a largely experiential perspective, the block then presents Law, and how rights and responsibilities influence and constrain practice in organisational settings. In Psychology, you consider how roles and groups develop within organisations, coming to a working understanding of certain observable behaviours. Finally, Social Sciences present how people can organise themselves to bring about social change.

Block 4: Society

This block opens with an examination of how social scientists view and consider society, including different types of cultures and how aspects of different cultures spread to different countries. The concept of multiple self is discussed in Psychology, showing how individuals can adapt and change when moving to a different culture. Next, you will consider the growth of fast food diets in Western society, their effect on children and young people, and action to foster healthy eating habits. Health is considered by debating the impact of government policy on the health and well being of society. In Law, you’ll consider the laws of negligence and duty of care within society today, drawing on real life cases that English law courts have judged.

The module includes a DVD and website which include further study materials and resources as well as online quizzes and interactive exercises to help test your understanding.

As you study this module you will build your confidence and develop your study skills, including:

  • reading and interpreting information
  • producing written communications
  • time management and organisational skills
  • problem solving.

You will also have the opportunity to gain skills such as working with audio and visual material, using online forums and searching the internet for information. This experience will provide you with a gentle introduction to using a computer to support your study, and will equip you with the basic computing skills you will need for the next step in your studies.

Please note that you will need access to the internet and a computer to study and pass this module. You will need to use a computer early on in the module but not straight away, so if you don’t currently have one you’ve got time to make arrangements. You can use your own computer or one at a library or drop-in centre.

On successful completion of this module you will receive an Open University Access Module Certificate.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
6 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Your next step

Call us on +44 (0)1908 659253 or request a call back. Our friendly team of advisers will discuss your study options with you, and help you decide on the best starting point for you. Or come and meet us at an event near you.

How much will it cost?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

*The fee information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees information for courses starting between 1 August 2015 – 31 July 2016 will be available in March 2015.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification upfront.
  • If like most OU students studying part time, you study an average of 60 credits a year – you’ll study for six years to complete a degree. Our typical fee for 60 credits is £2,632*.
  • Our current fee is £5,264* – based on 120 credits of study – which is equivalent to a year's full-time study.
  • The total cost of your chosen qualification starts from £15,792* based on our current fees.

Additional costs

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.

Ways to pay for your qualification and other support

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how you can pay. That’s why we offer a wide range of flexible payment and funding options to help make study more affordable than you might think. Options include Tuition Fee Loans (also known as student loans), monthly payment plans and employer sponsorship. 

We’re confident we can help you find an option that’s right for you.

Just answer these simple questions to find out more about the options available to you for courses starting before 1 August 2015. Updated information for courses starting after this will be available in March 2015.

How many credits are you planning to study per year? You will need [xxx] credits to complete this qualification

Part time study

Full time study

Do you already hold a degree?

Are you employed?

British Forces

  • Only currently serving members of the British armed forces, who are temporarily and unavoidably working abroad and using BFPO addresses, are eligible to pay UK course fees for the total time spent outside the UK. Other students who are able to use BFPO addresses need to contact the Student Registration and Enquiry Service (SRS) Pricing Area Team on +44 (0)300 303 5303 for UK fee eligibility to be assessed.
* The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.

An OU qualification will always help you stand out from the crowd, now and in the future – whether you’re just starting out, developing your career, or changing direction entirely.

Skills for career development

This degree is designed to contribute to the development of a highly skilled and effective workforce and to integrated coherent services for children. In addition to specialist knowledge and understanding of the early years, it emphasises independent thinking, develops analytical and communication skills and will help you become a clear and confident writer – all attributes that are highly valued by employers.

You will acquire a broad set of employability skills, including:

  • analysing, critically evaluating and effectively communicating information to others
  • competence in team and project work, supporting and/or supervising others
  • organising, synthesising and questioning opinions and arguments
  • evaluating the appropriateness of different approaches to problem-solving
  • managing and organising time, resources and information to support decision-making
  • reflecting on your own learning and performance and taking steps to improve it
  • using ICT effectively and being able to interpret data.


Career relevance

This degree is relevant to anyone working in schools or early years settings which follow a UK or Republic of Ireland curriculum, and which use English as the language of tuition – including British Forces schools and relevant settings in Europe.

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 seven years. They also lead practice and support other practitioners. 

Note: from September 2014, entrants in England to the BA (Honours) Early Years without a previously achieved Level 3 Early Years qualification will additionally require GCSE passes at ‘C’ or above in English and Maths for their degree be considered a ‘full and relevant’ qualification and to be able to count in Level 3 ratios

Other careers

The BA (Honours) Early Years may be helpful if you’re interested in further training for Early Years Initial Teacher Training (Early Years Teacher Status -Birth to 5) or post graduate qualifications in primary teaching with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). However, we cannot guarantee automatic progression to initial teacher education (ITE). Check with your local ITE training provider about their entry policy. For up-to-date information see the Department for Education 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.

Many graduate-level jobs are open to graduates of any discipline, particularly in business, finance, management consultancy and the public sector. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.

In addition to improving your career prospects, studying with the OU is an enriching experience that broadens your horizons, develops your knowledge, builds your confidence and enhances your life skills. 

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser.  Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree):

  • early years coordinator
  • nursery teacher
  • early years teacher
  • day nursery manager
  • play specialist
  • child development officer
  • children’s centre manager
  • primary teacher
  • child carer
  • special educational needs teacher
  • special needs coordinator
  • learning mentor
  • educational psychologist
  • paediatric nurse
  • child protection officer


Want to see more jobs? Use the career explorer for job ideas from the National Careers Service, PlanIT Plus in Scotland and Prospects across all nations. You can also visit GradIreland for the Republic of Ireland.