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BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies

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West Suffolk College


Three years full-time.

Four and a half to nine years part-time.

Typical Offer: 

112 UCAS tariff points (or above)

BBC (A-Level), DMM (BTEC).


This course is delivered at the University of Suffolk at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds.

If you don’t meet the above entry requirements, we may still be able to consider you. If you’re interested in applying, call our Clearing Hotline to discuss your suitability for study.


The Early Childhood Studies (ECS) degree course covers higher education levels 4, 5, 6 and is designed for anyone who wants a career working with or for children and/or their families. The primary focus is children from birth to eight years but it also covers conception through to when a child is approximately eleven years of age (the natural completion of the primary education stage).

The degree takes a multi-disciplinary approach and offers a fascinating and stimulating course of academic study. This means it includes educational, health, welfare, psychological, sociological, legal, philosophical, political and economic perspectives. A holistic philosophy permeates the programme.

ECS degrees enable students on graduating to go into a range of careers in the early years as well as completing post graduate qualifications, in order to work in the education, health and social care fields. Careers including Primary Teacher Training, Family Support and Social Work, Early Year’s settings, International, National and Regional Aid work with children and their families, Post-graduate study and research are all possible.

Course modules

All modules generate either 20 or 40 credits as stated below. Students must gain 120 credits at each level to progress to the next level.

At Level 4, (Certificate Level) emphasis is placed on ensuring a sound knowledge of principles underpinning key subject areas and the development of key skills. The main teaching methods are lectures, seminars, group work, presentations and individual activities.

At Level 5, (Diploma Level) students are expected to develop an enquiring attitude to their studies and should corroborate or challenge assertions made. Students will be taking more responsibility for their own learning through extended personal reading and wider ranging module tasks. The main teaching methods are as in level 4 with the addition of discussions and debates. There is an increasing expectation that students will contribute actively to learning through reading and student-led seminars.

At Level 6, (Honours Level) students are required to take major responsibility for their own learning, exhibiting autonomy and contribution to the development of peer learning through seminar presentations and self-directed activities. Considerable emphasis is placed on developing the ability to critically analyse and evaluate information from a range of sources and in a variety of formats, in order to draw conclusions.

A range of assessment strategies are used throughout the course; this could include essays, reports, presentations, reviews, case studies, portfolios, dissertation and exams.

Full downloadable information regarding all University of Suffolk courses, including Key Facts, Course Aims, Course Structure and Assessment, is available in the Definitive Course Record.

Foundations of Study and Research (Mandatory)

This module is designed to provide students with an important set of study skills that are relevant across all modules. Particular emphasis is placed on developing student’s academic and critical writing skills. Practical exercises are designed during teaching sessions to give students the opportunity to experiment, practice, and reflect on their developing study skills. The module is designed to provide students with on-going and regular assessment and feedback on learning.

The Early Childhood Course places a strong emphasis on group learning and this module enables students to begin to learn important group work skills that aim to promote collaborative learning. In addition to general study skills the module will provide an introduction to core research study skills. Understanding research is fundamental to social sciences and a core discipline of early childhood studies. The course requires a firm foundation in thinking about research concepts, and the values and ethics of research involving children. To illustrate and explore research and ethical issues the module will introduce basic research concepts and a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The module provides a foundation to research skills and methods which will be further developed in the level 5-module, Research in Early Childhood.

Sociology of Early Childhood (Mandatory)

This module seeks to introduce students to the sociological study of young children and early childhood. Initial sessions will introduce sociology as a discipline and highlight the role of the sociological imagination in critically exploring the social category of childhood and young children’s everyday lives. The social structures which define, govern and locate children and childhood are examined including for example the family, the early years setting and the school. Students will also be introduced to aspects of wider historical and social change and their impact on children and childhood such as processes of globalization.

There will be evaluation of the social construction of childhood across time and space and the impact of dominant discourses surrounding childhood on young children’s everyday lives. This is combined with exploration of the New Sociology of Childhood and Children’s Rights Approaches including notably children’s voices, participation and agency. Students will be encouraged to examine the intricate relationship between children’s everyday lives and the wider social structures and institutions which both inform and situate childhood.

Developmental Psychology (Mandatory)

Developmental psychology seeks to explain how the interaction between biological, social and cultural factors affects lifelong patterns of change in the individual. This module investigates psychological development of young children, including explanations of both typical and atypical developmental patterns in theory and practice.

Developmental psychology investigates development from a number of perspectives: biological; behavioural; psychodynamic and cognitive; each of these perspectives is characterised by a particular theoretical orientation of how development occurs, different views on the factors most responsible for the patterns of change and different approaches to care and educational practice.

Developmental psychologists use a range of research methods, including experiments and observations, in their attempts to devise theories to explain this process of change. This module will include a review of some of these key methodologies thereby enabling students to understand the research evidence underpinning the theories being studied.

Students will bring their own varied experiences to this module and will be encouraged to reflect upon this both to understand theory and practice as well as to question the validity of their assumed knowledge. This evaluation can be used to inform their future working relationships with children in a variety of professional settings.

Early Childhood Education (Mandatory)

This module is an opportunity to introduce students to early childhood education and the underpinning values of professional practice. Students are encouraged to consider how the theoretical study of the child underpins the early year’s curriculum and adult role. The module will also support students in adopting a professional approach to work with young children, and the development of employability skills specifically Communication and Working with Others. 

Children and Social Policy (Mandatory)

This module initially explores the historical development of services and provision for children through the establishment of the Welfare State. The module then considers how the dismantlement of welfare consensus through the rise of neo- liberalism challenged notions of social rights and focused on individualism and retrenchment. Having clarified this ideological shift, the extensive reinvestment into childhood over the past two decades can be contextualised.

These key debates in social policy are used to explore policy development which aims to address the welfare of young children. Contemporary services and provision which aim to address health inequalities, care or control the institution of the family, promote education attainment, and tackle the social consequences of child poverty will also be examined with the understanding of the radical shift in ideas of social welfare in the recent past. A key aspect of the module throughout remains the dynamic relationship between the child, the family and the state.

Health in the Early Years (Mandatory)

This module aims to provide an introduction to the study of child health and well-being for students of early childhood. This module seeks to explore the biological, ethical, socio-cultural, environmental and economic determinants of health in the early years, supported by the disciplines of biology, psychology, social policy, sociology and medicine. Initially the module begins by focusing on promoting a detailed understanding of the normal biological processes associated with foetal, neonatal and infant health.

Later on in the module, additional considerations that impact upon the developmental progress of the child, such as the importance of health choices made by the parent on behalf of the child, are critically evaluated in relation to the potential impact of these decisions for the child’s short and long-term health and well-being. Issues such as choices provided to women in childbirth, the impact of societal and cultural ideas upon early feeding choices and the ethics of U.K.-based antenatal and postnatal screening programmes are also critically
discussed and evaluated.

By laying the biological and theoretical foundations for optimum early child development students are given the opportunity to explore specific topics of interest in more depth. During the course of the module students will extend their knowledge in more detail, further developing their understanding and ability to meet and promote the child’s developmental, health and safety needs whilst also understanding the importance of listening to, and acting upon, the child’s wishes and feelings, set in the context of children’s rights and public health paradigms.

Safeguarding Children (Mandatory)

Safeguarding children is a rapidly changing area of legislation, policy and practice which this module aims to keep pace with. The module provides students with an historical policy context in which to understand the origins of safeguarding children and the social construction of abuse. The shifting power relations between the state, professionals, families and children is a core theme that is critically explored through an examination of the legal framework, particularly the Children Act (1989) and Children Act (2004) and also Child Abuse Inquiry reports.

Reflecting contemporary safeguarding policy, the module explores the related themes of early intervention, prevention, and child protection as every professions responsibility. At the core of safeguarding children is developing a theoretical understanding of why children are abused, the ability to identify signs and symptoms, and understand the impact of abuse and neglect on children’s wellbeing.

There is a strong focus on how to safeguard young children through the critical examination of risk assessment models that are applied to a range of case studies.

The module will help prepare Early Years Practitioners with a sound understanding of the inter-professional and inter-agency context of safeguarding children. It explores the different roles of practitioners and critically evaluates current inter-professional practice including the move towards greater integration and co-location of front line children’s services. To reflect the importance of working together, students are expected to work in groups and research and present a specialist safeguarding topic which is formatively assessed.

Play and Learning (Mandatory)

‘Learning through play’ is an acknowledged phenomenon in early childhood. This module will explore whether ‘play’ and ‘learning’ interact to further children’s development. Students will be encouraged to reflect on and explore historical and cultural perspectives on play and observed play behaviour, as well as significant theoretical views on the role of play in a child’s development. The importance of the social context, and the contribution of adults and early years’ professionals in promoting inclusive approaches to learning while taking account of children’s holistic needs, is examined. Practice implications are considered in terms of the curricular frameworks used in early years’ settings. Overall the module aims to explore the relevance of theory to practice and extent to which young children ‘learn through play’.

Children's Geographies (Mandatory)

This module explores children’s everyday lives within various cultures, spaces, places and environments that they inhabit as such understanding is critical to making their worlds safer, facilitating their participatory roles in society, and implementing policies relevant to their geographies. Recent years have witnessed a proliferation in academic work and research into the children’s lives that examine the diverse experiences of children in numerous spatial locations. These include historical and contemporary constructions of childhood, drawing on sociological, cultural and anthropological theories, discourses and ideologies. There will be a focus on providing core theoretical frameworks for the consideration of a wide variety of conceptual issues have emerged recently from a variety of academic perspectives which are important to understanding children’s everyday lives and therefore, to students of ECS.

Children's Rights and Citizenship (Mandatory)

This is a blended module offering a variety of effective and engaging approaches to student learning in traditional face to face sessions and online through the UCS VLE LearnUCS. This module seeks to follow on from Level 4 modules in the sociology and social policy of early childhood. It sets out to investigate the nature, philosophies and significant processes of children’s rights with in depth exploration of children within their day-to-day social and cultural environments.

Students are presented with opportunities to view children’s rights from a variety of perspectives and consider the relationship between rights, responsibilities and citizenship. The module takes a critical stance and provides some challenging ideas on the wide-ranging developments concerning children in the fields of politics, social policy, sociology and geographies that have spurred significant growth in the social study of childhood. Related to this rights perspective is the analysis of agency, both social and political where children’s capacity to exert agency is evaluated. This module explores those whose life experiences can be considered as conflicting in some way with the dominant social construction of childhood.

Research Methods in Early Childhood (Mandatory)

Drawing on the foundations of social science research and recent theoretical developments in researching childhood (James, Jenks and Prout, 1998), this module is specifically designed for students on the Early Childhood Studies BA (Hons) degree route(s). This module focuses on research methods in general but will also cover methods and methodologies specific to understanding childhood and the child-centred participatory (participant-led) approaches. In exploring a range of research methods, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of the research process and issues related to doing research with children.

The module offers a range of lectures on the application of research theory, concepts, practices and approaches, as well as a wide variety of group activities to provide students with knowledge, understanding, and practical experience. This module promotes cooperative student work, enables students to develop practical skills in a range of both quantitative and qualitative methods for conducting their own research and writing of a research report based on their own area of interest. This module builds further on the skills acquired in the level 4 module Foundations of Study Skills and Research and feeds directly into the level 6 Dissertation module.

Social Psychology and Children (Mandatory)

This module provides an introduction to the study of social psychology. It explores a range of differing perspectives, methodologies and current debates within this field that relate to children and childhood. It examines different levels of analysis, from the individual child to social, cultural and environmental influences and emphasises the transactional nature between the child and their social environment.

The module focuses on children’s personal and social development within the context of relationships and interactions with others, seeing the child as an active and creative participant within their social worlds.

Children are by nature social beings influenced by many factors including individual differences, relationships with others, social interactions, biological predispositions, emotional intelligence, cultural differences and many more. This module will develop understanding of these processes as an integrated whole, being closely interlinked and interdependent. By studying this module students should develop an understanding of different debates and approaches to designated topic areas within the study of social psychology and children, and develop critical, analytical and evaluative skills.

Developing Practice* (Optional)

If students select this module they will not take the 2 optional 20 credit modules.

Dissertation (Mandatory)

This module builds on previous study undertaken by students at level 5, and takes as its basis the theoretical knowledge acquired in research methodology, principles, values and process together with skills in the critical evaluation of published research. It provides students with an opportunity to carry out an in-depth investigation on a topic of their own choice, and seeks to equip them with the skills of project planning, design, analysis and critical evaluation. The module involves independent study under the guidance of a research supervisor. Students are expected to engage in a wide literature search, to support either a literature based, primary or secondary research study.

Early Childhood Intervention (Mandatory)

Allen contends that ‘Early Intervention enables every baby, child and young person to acquire the social and emotional foundations upon which our success as human beings depends’ (2011: 3). Early Childhood Intervention is therefore positioned as central to supporting young children’s wellbeing and their ability to fulfill their potential.

This module encourages students to critically explore and evaluate current debates that surround early intervention, relevant theories, policy and practice in relation to young children and their families. Ecological models are used to examine and develop understanding of the complexity and diversity of family life, especially when planning the delivery of family focused provision. A range of interventions are reviewed in the light of the holistic needs of children within an increasingly inclusive and culturally diverse society, and changing trends in supporting families.

Current theoretical and statutory frameworks are presented alongside models for interdisciplinary and participatory partnership working. Students explore the interactions and connections between children and their families and service providers within the wider societal context. Students relate an understanding of family functioning and modes of working with children and families through reflection of their own personal/professional experiences and through analysis of case studies.

Young Children's Cultural Worlds (Mandatory)

This module seeks to follow on from Level 4 modules in the sociology and social policy of early childhood and other Level 5 optional modules students may have taken including children’s geographies, children’s health and wellbeing and children’s rights and citizenship. Although all of these modules adopt an interdisciplinary approach they draw heavily on the fields of sociology, anthropology, human geography, cultural studies and social policy; this module will maintain this theoretical base.

The aim is to provide students with an opportunity to explore contemporary issues in the lives of young children. It will as such cover a wide variety of topics dictated to some extent by the very latest academic and current affairs coverage relating to the early years. This will currently include for example children and friendships; the sexualisation debate, children’s literature, the politics of family life, children art and visual cultures; immigration and community etc. The module aims to explore these and other issues with a critical stance; evaluating dominant discourses of childhood and examining assumptions regarding children’s vulnerability, dependency and autonomy.

In examining these contemporary topics students will be expected to engage with concepts and theories which explore both the micro-social interactions of young children’s everyday lives as well as the wider social structures and landscapes within which children and childhood is situated. 

International and Comparative Education (Optional)

The provision of education for young children has developed due to a range of factors and influences (political, economic, environmental, socio-cultural and technological). This module sets out to develop students’ knowledge, understanding and critical awareness of these factors and influences and the impact they have on young children’s education in different countries.

By exploring education around the world in an attempt at comparison, it should also support a better understanding of our own education systems and provision and invite reflection on possible developments. 

Professional Practice in Early Year Contexts (Optional)

The BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies is based on a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the child and childhood. Students are encouraged to link the theoretical study of the child to practice and to take a critical stance in respect of issues affecting early childhood.

The current Level 5 Practitioner Options module provides the opportunity to gain NVQ L3 equivalence and is nationally recognised.

This module is a further opportunity for students to develop their practice or ensure they have relevant and validated practice experience in their final year as an undergraduate. This module will support and develop students’ potential for employment. It will provide the opportunity to develop reflective practice and support employability skills: Improving Own Learning, Communication and Working with Others in Early Years Settings.

Leadership and Management in Early Years Contexts (Mandatory)

This module seeks to increase students’ knowledge and understanding of the diverse range of factors that leaders and managers of practice in early years settings need to consider to develop and maintain quality provision for all young children. Students consider and apply some of the general principles relating to the effective management of organisations in order to develop awareness of unique features of early years settings.

Students are encouraged to develop hypothetical scenarios to demonstrate their theoretical knowledge of leadership and management elements. They consider stakeholders’ perspectives exploring factors that contribute to effective team working and partnerships. Issues for management of change are addressed with promotion of a positive working environment. The resultant knowledge and understanding will enable students to recognise necessary organizational, leadership and management issues for provision of quality practice. 

Career opportunities

ECS degrees enable students on graduating to go into a range of careers in the early years as well as completing post graduate qualifications, in order to work in the education, health and social care fields. Careers including Primary Teacher Training, Family Support and Social Work, Early Year’s settings, International, National and Regional Aid work with children and their families, Post-graduate study and research are all possible.

Fees and finance


  • Full-time tuition fee: £9,250 p.a.
  • Part-time tuition fee: £1,454 per 20 credits (Please contact the Infozone for further information)
  • International tuition fee: £11,790 p.a.

Further Information                                       

  • Tuition Fees
  • Financial Support 
  • Loans and Grants
  • At University of Suffolk, your tuition fees provide access to all the usual teaching and learning facilities that you would expect. However, there may be additional costs associated with you course that you will need to budget for. 


    Entry requirements

    If you don’t meet the above entry requirements, we may still be able to consider you. If you’re interested in applying, call our Clearing Hotline to discuss your suitability for study.