England.  Change location

Developing subject knowledge for the primary years

Qualification dates
Start End

In this module you will develop your knowledge, skills and understanding of supporting children’s learning by developing your knowledge in mathematics, language & literacy, science and computing & ICT. You’ll examine the curriculum in different settings; explore the factors that affect children’s learning and examine how the role of subject knowledge varies over time and across nations.

You’ll develop skills including evaluating and communicating information effectively to others and using a range of digital technologies effectively for study, online collaboration and to support your continuing professional development. You will identify strengths and areas for development; seek and learn from feedback and critically reflect on your own subject knowledge and attitudes.

What you will study

At the beginning of the module, you will audit your subject knowledge in maths, science, language and literacy. You will take steps throughout the module to improve your knowledge in these areas, as well as in computing and ICT. Three module readers and dedicated online forums, moderated by subject-specialists, will support your subject knowledge development.

The module is structured around five themes:

  • subject knowledge and curriculum 
  • maths
  • English
  • science
  • computing and ICT

This is a practice-focused module because as you develop your own subject knowledge, you will maintain a focus on supporting children’s learning in schools and early years settings. This module supports the professional development of practitioners, but it is also appropriate if you do not work or volunteer in school on a regular basis. If you do not have regular access to a setting, it is recommended that you arrange to be in school for at least two days per block (a minimum of 10 days). During this time you will observe policy and practice in relation to supporting children’s learning, interview teachers and carry out activities with children.

A wide range of interview and observational audio-visual and written resources are included in the study materials. They focus on practitioner perspectives and practice as well as children’s learning. Throughout the module you will draw on these resources as well as on any personal experiences you have of supporting children in primary education settings.

You will learn

By the end of the module you will have developed your subject knowledge in the essential curriculum areas of maths, language and literacy, science and computing & ICT and your understanding of:
  • how your subject knowledge supports children’s learning
  • issues, theories and research that underpin practice in supporting children’s learning in the essential curriculum areas
  • the principles that underlie primary curriculum frameworks.
You will also have demonstrated:
  • sound knowledge and critical understanding of relevant theory that underpins good practice in supporting children’s learning
  • cognitive and key skills appropriate to study at undergraduate OU level 2 (SCQF Level 8).

Entry requirements

There are no formal academic or experiential requirements to study this module.

However, we strongly advise you to arrange a placement in an education setting1 for children aged between 3 and 12 (that follows a formal primary phase curriculum) – for example a school – for at least 10 days to observe learning and teaching and gain exposure to a practice context.

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

1Access to settings will require you to meet the ‘fit person’ criteria, in your country, to work with children. You and your setting are responsible for ensuring you meet these requirements, not the OU.

What's included

Three printed subject readers (for English, mathematics and science subject knowledge), also available as ebooks; all other study material is provided online via the module website which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will give you advice and guidance on the study requirements and will mark and comment on your written work. Your tutor is particularly concerned with helping you with your study methods and providing feedback on your assignments. All group tutorials will be online at points throughout the module. These will be supplemented by a smaller online tutor group forum where you'll gain support from your peers and tutor.

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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E209 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Developing subject knowledge for the primary years (E209) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2033.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Student Reviews

See what other students thought.