This qualification has two stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll start Stage 1 with two modules that explore how children learn; and the importance of children’s play.
- Then, in Stage 2, you’ll study a module that further develops and broadens your knowledge and understanding of young children’s lives and learning, followed by one from a list of options.
You’ll develop an understanding of early childhood from a range of perspectives. Drawing on theory and research, you’ll examine how children grow, develop and learn. Your study in this stage completes with a specific focus on young children’s play and creativity within the context of the family and early childhood settings.
You’ll start Stage 2 with a module that investigates critical issues in early childhood and extends themes introduced in Stage 1. For your final Stage 2 module, you’ll have a choice of education, childhood and youth options.
We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 15 March 2022.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Diploma of Higher Education in Early Childhood uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying online – some modules have a mixture of printed and online material, and others are entirely online. Online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- working in a group with other students
- face-to-face tutorials/day schools/workshops and/or online tutorials; face-to-face events may be replaced with an online alternative where necessary
- practical work
- finding external/third party material online
- using technology for research purposes involving access to catalogues and databases online
- continuous and end-of-module assessment in the form of essays, short answer questions, and in some cases an examination
- using feedback: continuous assessment involves receiving detailed feedback on your work from your tutor and using this feedback to improve your performance
- engagement with learning and assessment within a pre-determined schedule or timetable – time management will be needed during your studies and the University will help you to develop these skills throughout your course.
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.
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; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.
It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.
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 evidence of your previous study.
For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.
On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our Diploma of Higher Education in Early Childhood.
If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.
There are no formal entry requirements to study this qualification.
You do not need to be working with young children in order to study this qualification; however to enhance your learning in core practice-focused modules, it is strongly recommended that students gain direct experience with young children (birth to 7 years). Students not working with young children (employed or in a voluntary capacity) will need to negotiate opportunities to gain such practical experience.
It is your responsibility and that of your employer – not the OU’s - to ensure the necessary Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (or equivalent if not working in England) required for the setting and country in which you’re working is obtained and that you meet the ‘fit person’ criteria for work with young children. If you are in any doubt about your eligibility, or to find out more, contact the relevant agency in your country.
Preparing for study with an Access module
Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.
You’ll also benefit from:
- feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
- support from a dedicated team throughout your study
- detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is either:
People, work and society Access module
What you will study
This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to studying with The Open University; you'll get to cover a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.
View full details of People, work and society Access module
Psychology, social science and wellbeing Access module
Skills for career development
This diploma of higher education is designed to contribute to the development of a highly skilled and effective workforce and to integrated coherent services for young children and their families. In addition to specialist knowledge and understanding of early childhood, you’ll also develop a range of key communication, IT, numeracy, analytical, critical thinking and time management skills – all attributes that are highly valued by employers across all sectors.
This DipHE is relevant for existing early years practitioners (normally with a Level 3 early years qualification) or those interested in finding out more about young children’s learning and development. It provides a foundation for entry to a range of careers working with and for young children and their families. It is also suitable for those wanting to move into careers in teaching, health or social work.
In England this course does not provide Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) or Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). GCSE passes at Grade 4 (C) or above in English and Maths are normally required for post-graduate study and for teaching a GCSE Grade 4 (C) pass in Science is also a requirement.
In Scotland, this qualification does not lead to Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) registration. However, if you’ve already achieved SSSC registration through related qualifications, such as HNC Childhood Practice, you might be able to transfer credit to this qualification. GCSE passes at Grade 4 (C) or above in English and Maths are normally required for postgraduate study and for teaching a GCSE Grade 4 (C) pass in Science is also a requirement.
Further information about Early Childhood qualifications can be found:
- For England, on the Department for Education (DfE) website.
- For Wales, on the Care Council Wales (CCW) website.
- For Scotland on the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) website.
- For Northern Ireland, on the Department of Education (DENI) website.
This diploma qualification may also be helpful if you’re interested in further training of Early Years Initial Teacher Training (Early Years Teacher Status – birth to 5) or postgraduate qualifications in primary teaching with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). However, 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 visit the Department for Education website in England; the Teach in Scotland website in Scotland; the Department of Education in Northern Ireland; and the Teacher Training & Education in Wales website.
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.
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):
- nursery worker/manager
- family support worker
- child psychotherapist
- careers adviser
- advice worker
- probation officer
- social worker
- education welfare officer
- learning mentor
- community development worker.