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Childhood Studies (0-11 years) BA (Hons) - University of Sunderland

Course overview

Childhood Studies is an excellent foundation for a wide range of careers linked to working with children and young people.

Childhood Studies links naturally with future careers in the areas of social care and education. Our course combines practical skills with academic rigour, helping you work more effectively with children in a variety of contexts.

The course is also a powerful means of self-development. Around 9 out of 10 students on Sunderland’s social studies courses report improved communication skills and more confidence in tackling unfamiliar problems, according to the National Student Survey (NSS 2014).

During the first year of the course you will refine your professional approach, building up the graduate attributes of a reflective practitioner. You will also cover a range of topics that include child development, early years, the primary curriculum and family studies. There is an optional field trip to New Lanark in Scotland where you will learn what it was like to live in an industrial setting and, for children, what it was like to study. The cost of this trip is normally £25.

The second and final years build on these foundations and extend them to cover legislation, health issues and equality and diversity. In the final year there is a project that develops degree-level research skills. In the first year there is a mandatory placement; there are also voluntary placements in the second year.

A particular benefit of Sunderland’s course is the broad knowledge of our academic staff. They have expertise across early years' provision, education, health and social care. Around 9 out of 10 students believe that Sunderland’s social studies staff are enthusiastic about what they teach and good at explaining things (NSS 2014).

There are also opportunities for students to fundraise for a variety of charities and gain direct experience of voluntary work. This charity work has been recognised in the media and by Barnardos, The Children’s Society, Grace House, and the Open Nest.

Graduates Ashleigh and Laura talk about the support they received on their courses at the University of Sunderland:

Course content

The content of the course combines degree-level knowledge about childhood studies with a firm grounding in transferable skills that are useful in many different careers.

Modules on this course include:

Year 1 (all core) (national level 4)

  • Issues in Family Studies (10 Credits)
  • Building Graduate Attributes for the Professional and Reflective Childhood Practitioner (10 Credits)
  • Values for the Professional Childhood Practitioner (20 Credits)
  • Introduction to the Primary Curriculum (10 Credits)
  • Introduction to Early Years Care and Education (10 Credits)
  • The Nature and Culture of Childhood (20 Credits)
  • An Introduction to Child Development (20 Credits)
  • Child Development: Theory into Practice (20 Credits) 

Year 2 core modules (national level 5)

  • The Child and the Social and Economic Environment (20 Credits)
  • Health and Childhood (20 Credits)
  • Child Law (20 Credits)

Strand Option modules:

1. Family and Community

  • Children and Families in the Community - Resilience, Welfare and Conflict (20 Credits)
  • Contextualising Children's Position within Society (20 Credits)
  • Contextualising Family Units and Diversity (20 Credits)

2. Policy, Provision and Practice In Early Years Care and Education

  • Play and Learning in the Early Years (20 Credits)
  • Observing, Assessing and Reporting Children's Learning and Development (20 Credits)
  • The Context of Young Children's Learning and Development (20 Credits)

3. Policy, Provision and Practice in Primary Education

  • Developing Learning within Childhood Curricula through Story (20 Credits)
  • Local Study Project (20 Credits)
  • The Nature of the Primary Curriculum (20 Credits) 

Year 3 core modules (national level 6)

  • Childhood Studies Research Project (40 Credits)
  • Equality and Diversity in Contemporary Society (20 Credits)
  • Provision in Education and Care (20 Credits)
  • Continuity, Consolidation and Critical Considerations for the Childhood Profession (20 Credits)

Strand Option modules:

1. Family and Community

  • Children and Families in the Community - Supporting Family Units and Protecting Children's Rights (20 Credits)

2. Policy, Provision and Practice in Early Years Care and Education

  • Leading Practice in Early Years Care and Education (20 Credits)

3. Policy, Provision and Practice in Primary Education

  • Effective Teaching and Learning in the Primary Classroom (20 Credits)

Teaching and assessment

Our teaching methods are designed to develop not only your knowledge but also skills that enhance employability. Methods include small group work, workshops, lectures, tutorials, computer-based learning, presentations and independent learning.

Assessment methods include essays, reports, group work, seminar presentations and self-evaluation. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate your evolving skills in effective communication and presentations.

To find out more about modules, credits and how you will be assessed, please see the page how courses are taught. Information about our policies relating to student experience and quality assurance processes can be found on the Academic Services website.

Key Information Sets

All UK universities and colleges display Key Information Sets (KIS) on their undergraduate courses. The KIS gives you a quick overview of some standard information about a course, and has a link to more detailed information on Unistats.

Facilities & location

Course location

The course is based at the Priestman Building on City Campus, just a few minutes from the main Murray Library and close to Sunderland city centre. Thanks to a major renovation programme, the Priestman Building provides state-of-the-art teaching space and resources as part of a vibrant and outward-looking learning environment.

University Library Services

We’ve got thousands of books and e-books related to social studies, with many more titles available through the inter-library loan service. We also subscribe to a comprehensive range of print and electronic journals so you can access the most reliable and up-to-date academic and industry articles.

Some of the most important sources for your course include:

  • Project Muse, which provides over 180 full-text humanities and social sciences journals
  • JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’), which provides access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences
  • Lexis, which provides access to legal information as well as full-text newspaper articles
  • Professional Development Collection, which features hundreds of education journals and reports
  • Psychology and Behavioural Sciences Database, which includes full-text journal articles on topics spanning emotional and behavioural sciences, psychiatry and psychology
  • Community Care Inform, which helps professionals who work with children and young people to make, and evidence, their decisions
  • EBSCO Professional Development Collection, which is a specialised collection of over 500 education journals

IT provision

When it comes to IT provision you can take your pick from hundreds of PCs as well as Apple Macs in the David Goldman Informatics Centre and St Peter’s library. There are also free WiFi zones throughout the campus. If you have any problems, just ask the friendly helpdesk team.


Priestman Building

City Campus, Green Terrace,
Sunderland, SR1 3PZ

Entry requirements

Our typical offer is 104 points from a minimum of two A Levels or equivalent (for example 1 x AVCE double award). Read more on the new UCAS Tariff point system for 2017.

We do not accept General Studies as one of the A levels.

We accept a maximum of 6 points from Level 3 Key Skills qualifications.

We also require three passes at GCSE grade C or above, which must include Mathematics and English Language, or a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number.

Other acceptable qualifications

BTEC National: 104 points from a BTEC Certificate or Diploma.

Access Courses: We would require successful completion of an Access to Higher Education course that is accredited by the Quality Assurance Agency. We would also require a minimum of grade C in GCSE in Mathematics and English Language or the equivalent as part of your course.

Scottish Highers: Our typical offer is for 104 points.

Irish Leaving Certificate: Our typical offer is for 104 points.

International qualifications: Please call the Student Helpline for advice on other acceptable qualifications. The number from outside the UK is +44 191 515 3000.

Any other qualifications: If you have any other qualifications not listed here, you may still be eligible. Please contact the Student Helpline for advice: 0191 515 3000.

Returners to Learning: If you are a mature student, you may benefit from our dedicated Returners to Learning Progression Scheme. For further information email or call the Student Helpline: 0191 515 3000.

If you wish to be considered for direct entry to a different year of a course, please contact the Student Helpline: 0191 515 3000.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

If you feel you already know some of the topics covered in this course, either due to previous learning or from experience of work, then you may not need to study all of the course.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is the name given to the process of gaining credit towards a qualification because of something you have learnt in the past. If you are eligible for APL you won't have to learn the same topic again, and so you can be exempt from a module, set of modules or year of a course. 

Read more about APL in the Quality Handbook (.pdf). If you think you may be eligible for APL, please contact the course leader.

Additional Requirements

All applicants to this course are required to have undergone the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Enhancement Check process prior to commencement of study on their chosen programme.

Applicants are also required to complete a medical pro forma.

The provision of DES Circular 9/93 concerning the disclosure of criminal convictions of those with access to children apply to all Education programmes.

Fees & finance

The annual fee for this course is:

  • £9,250 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £10,750 if you are an International student

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or International student, please see the International section of this website.

Scholarships and bursaries may be available to you – please see the Fees and Finance section of this website for more information.

Employment & careers

Half of Childhood Studies’ Graduates, highly employable, progress to Postgraduate Studies with high salaries.

The Childhood Studies course provides an excellent foundation for applying for work in a range of children’s services, such as health, social care, education, childcare or work with charities and voluntary organisations.

Please note that the course does not lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). If you are interested in QTS please see courses such as Primary Education (UCAS Code X122).

The course is relevant to the following roles (some of which may require further study or training):

  • Learning Mentor
  • Early Years Teacher
  • Primary Teacher
  • Special Educational Needs Teacher
  • Social Worker
  • Educational Psychologist
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Community Development Worker
  • Museum Education Officer
  • Youth Worker
  • Careers Adviser/Personal Adviser

University Language Scheme

It is usually possible to take a module from the free University Language Scheme. This can be studied on top of your 120 credits or in some cases, can earn credits towards your degree.

Language skills increase your international mobility and you can choose between French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic at a range of levels. If your first language is not English, please check with your tutor about entry requirements.

Staff and students talk about the benefits of the University Language Scheme:

Study Abroad

You can switch your studies to another country for one or two semesters during the second year. You can choose from over 150 universities in 20 countries, either English-speaking (such as Australia, Canada and the USA) or non English-speaking (such as Argentina, Brazil and Japan). This gives you an opportunity to get a broader perspective on childhood studies and gain international experience.

Student jobs, volunteering and paid projects (earn while you learn)

Our Careers & Employability Service advertises a variety of opportunities to earn money while you study.

Volunteering positions in local organisations, charities and community groups can help you to help other people while learning about your strengths and what you can offer. Past opportunities have included working with children and the elderly, conservation work and sporting activities.

CES also advertises details of paid part-time and vacation work in areas from call centre and retail work through to telesales and marketing and promotion and more.

Opportunities to work with companies on flexible, paid, part-time projects in areas such as IT, design, law, media, HR and event management, to name a few, are available too. These projects are a great chance to gain valuable work experience.


The University of Sunderland is committed to ensuring that every student has an impressive range of opportunities to enhance their CV and gain valuable experience. For more information visit:

The Enterprise Place

If you have a good idea for a new business and have the dedication and motivation to make it happen, then we want to hear from you. The Enterprise Place, based on-campus at St Peter's Gate Business Centre, is the perfect environment for entrepreneurial students and graduates to turn their business ideas into reality. You will have access to free hot desk space, IT facilities, specialist advice and support and business mentors and networking opportunities.

To find out more about how we can help you start a business, please contact the University's Enterprise Team:

Tel: 0191 515 3751

Graduate Nick talks about his Childhood Studies degree at the University of Sunderland and his plans for the future:


Support for your learning 

You can expect stimulating contact time that includes lectures, seminars and practical activities. There is also non-contact time when you will be studying on your own. If you have any particular problems with certain assignments, it’s usually possible to arrange one-to-one surgeries with tutors. 

From the start of the course you will be allocated a Personal Tutor. You’ll meet your Tutor at agreed times throughout each year of the course. Personal Tutors encourage your personal development and are a useful point of contact for any queries about your course, extracurricular activities and issues where they can point you towards specialist services at the University. These include student counselling, financial advice and chaplaincy support. 

Support for your development

To help ensure the course is meeting aspirations for personal development, we invite students to fill in questionnaires at the end of modules. This provides a structured way for you to keep us up-to-date with your views.

During your course, and particularly towards the end of it, we encourage you to make full use of the resources at our Careers & Employability Service. The Service helps you explore your options, clarify your ideas, develop a career focus and make effective applications.

Extracurricular activities

The University supports student-led initiatives that enhance the extracurricular activities available to you. Some of these are related to particular subjects while others allow you to pursue interests and social activities. It’s all part of the vibrant and life-changing atmosphere at the University of Sunderland.

For more information about all the support services you will have access to as a Sunderland student, please see Student support and guidance.

"Your experience of teaching on the programme will be excellent."

Academic - Childhood Studies Lecturer X310

Dr Bruce Marjoribanks

Childhood Studies, Senior Lecturer

"Are you interested in the way children grow, learn and develop in a diverse society? Studying on Childhood Studies will enable you to explore a wide range of issues relating to policy, provision and practice and you will gain critical understanding of topics such as child development, the culture of childhood, health, family law, transitions and diversity. You will also have the opportunity to choose one of our three specialist strands in early years care and education, the primary curriculum and families and communities.

"Your experience of teaching on the programme will be excellent. According to the National Student Survey, around 9 out of 10 students believe that Sunderland’s social studies staff are enthusiastic about what they teach and good at explaining things. Teaching on the programme is informed by the diverse experience of the team, who come from the fields of social care, education, health and early years. This expertise means that you will be encouraged to see issues from different professional perspectives and teaching is further informed by the research carried out by members of the team. Current projects include research on the experience of 11-14 year olds in their communities, an exploration of education for sustainability, phonics in the early years, the experience of international students and the nature of the early years' work force.

"Your insight into practice will be further enhanced by visiting practitioners who contribute to teaching on a regular basis.

"A degree in Childhood Studies will prepare you for employment in many different fields, with our graduates moving on to careers in, for example, primary education, early years' care and education and social care. Placements and visits throughout the programme will give you practical experience and you will be helped to develop skills that will enhance your employability. For example, around 9 out of 10 students on Sunderland’s social studies courses report improved communication skills and more confidence in tackling unfamiliar problems, according to the National Student Survey. We also have an active programme of extra-curricular activities."

"I was a student rep and this helped me to gain leadership skills and all issues which were raised were resolved and dealt with immediately, I think that is fantastic!"

Case Study - Louise Darwin, X310,CID1095

Louise Darwin

Graduate - BA (Hons) Childhood Studies and Postgraduate Certificate Early Years Teacher Status Graduate

"I chose to study BA (Hons) Childhood Studies followed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Early Years with Early Years Teacher Status at the University of Sunderland as it is a phenomenal place to become inspired and educated."

"Sunderland University was close to home and such a beautiful place to study, I had heard some fantastic things about the University and its ability to change people’s lives. The University has such a broad spectrum of varying experiences and the support provided for each individual student is amazing!"

"I was excited to start studying at the University in 2011, and when I arrived it certainly lived up to its expectations. Both courses I studied had the same tutors, all of whom provided me with so much support, encouragement, and inspiration."

"Studying Childhood Studies and the Postgraduate Certificate in Early Years with Early Years Teacher Status has given me an insight into all aspects of childhood and education, and enabled me to look at the world from a critical point of view. I now question all aspects of life and I am able to view children and their families holistically."

"I was a student rep and this helped me to gain leadership skills and all issues which were raised were resolved and dealt with immediately, I think that is fantastic!"

"I was given a fantastic job opportunity prior to finishing this course as an Early Years Teacher in a private setting. To all students who may wish to join the University, my best piece of advice is… GO FOR IT!!! You will love it!!"

"The best part is I know I’ll have my qualification for life and I can embark on the road to teaching when I am ready - Childhood Studies really did open more doors of opportunity for me than I could have originally imagined."

Sean Atkinson BA (Hons) Childhood Studies Graduate X310

Sean Atkinson

BA (Hons) Childhood Studies Graduate

"During my three years at the University of Sunderland I studied Childhood Studies with the intention of progressing on to a PGCE to become a teacher. The course appealed to me because I felt it would open more doors of opportunity after graduation, as it was more varied and covered a wider spectrum of issues and subjects rather than just solely teaching.

"The University offers state-of-the-art modern facilities and the course is purely coursework and assignment based. Although the assignments really push your knowledge, there isn’t the looming pressure of a ticking clock at the front of a silent room. You can fit it in with your lifestyle. For example, I always concentrated better on work at night than I ever did during the day. The modules are split up in to groups so it gives you the opportunity to meet everyone on your course and have more personal interactions with them. I’ve made some true friends for life through this course.

"The tutors on the course are fantastic and dedicated to ensuring each and every student reaches their full potential. No issue or question was ever a problem, they regularly set up workshop sessions for students who required inspiration as assignment deadlines approached, and they made the course genuinely interesting. The mix of assignments, group work, placements, podcasts and video-making set the course in a league of its own in terms of diversity. At the beginning of second year, you are given the option to choose a specialist subject to delve deeper in to – allowing you to effectively tailor the course to your own specific interest.

"Whilst at University I worked part-time in Marks and Spencer plc, Newcastle. As I approached the end of my degree, I decided to put the teaching vision on hold for a while because I wanted to have a break from studying in order to earn some money.

"I graduated in 2013 but did not apply for my PGCE and it was the programme leader who suggested I try my hand at progression in M&S as he recognised how much I enjoyed working there. This careers advice was invaluable and I am very grateful as I had not considered this as a career option. In my current role I am now a Manager at M&S and thoroughly enjoy my job role.

"My 2.1 classification in Childhood Studies helped me get to where I am now, as I believe senior management at M&S appreciated the patience and commitment which I had earned from my three years studying at Sunderland. These qualities have really helped me progress in my career, and it has shown me that employers do look upon a degree qualification as an indication that you are a hard-working and dedicated individual.

"The best part is I know I’ll have my qualification for life and I can embark on the road to teaching when I am ready - Childhood Studies really did open more doors of opportunity for me than I could have originally imagined."

"Having been a student at three different universities during my further education, it is easy for me to say that the staff at Sunderland are in a league of their own."

Health Allen - Graduate Childhood Studies X310

Heather Allen


"Choosing to study at the University of Sunderland was an easy choice for me. Being undecided about which area of childhood I wanted to work in, the option of studying a degree programme which covered all aspects was appealing. Looking back at my time at Sunderland, I can honestly say the diversity of topics I was able to study has given me an invaluable knowledge which helped to shape the professional I am today.

"Having been a student at three different universities during my further education, it is easy for me to say that the staff at Sunderland are in a league of their own. The commitment and dedication of the childhood studies team to every single student on my course was unquestionable. They are clearly dedicated to helping their students achieve their goals and, in my case, my dream.

"Having received the support throughout the childhood studies programme I was able to pursue my career in teaching, completing a SCITT course in primary education at another university.

"During my time at Sunderland we were all encouraged to get involved with raising money for children in our local area, which culminated in myself and two other students skydiving at Shotton Colliery Airfield.

"The modules I covered at Sunderland explored the lives of children not only in our modern and first world country, but also looking into the affects poverty and inequality can have on children around the world. This study inspired me to experience this for myself and having successfully secured my first teaching post at Fordley Primary School, Dudley, North Tyneside, I spent four weeks teaching children in rural Uganda. I was able to put into practice all of the skills and use the knowledge I had gained, to help children in one of the most impoverished countries in the world. The team at childhood studies helped to make this happen, giving me the knowledge that every single person in this world can make a difference to at least one child's life and I was lucky enough to be able to make a difference to the lives of 35 children, no matter how small that difference might have been, it mattered to them."

Staff profiles

Dr Wendy Thorley, Senior Lecturer and Specialism Strand Leader for Family and Community in the Childhood Studies programme, is well respected both regionally and nationally for her work supporting children and their families. 

Starting her career in the NHS, Wendy undertook a range of CPD initiatives to develop her teaching and learning expertise. She initially gained professional experience in nurse education before moving into primary education. She has held positions in local authority as well as social services and human resources, before consolidating her experience first in further education and then higher education.

Wendy‘s ability to incorporate a multi-agency perspective to her teaching is recognised and appreciated both by her students and her colleagues and was recognised by the Higher Education Academy when she was awarded the National Teaching Fellowship in 2013 for her innovative approach to teaching and her enthusiasm for enhancing student experience.

In addition, she has developed a Children Experiencing Loss and Trauma (CEL&T) website to bring together a range of information for professionals, para-professionals, parents and those interested in understanding more about children who have experienced loss and trauma.

During her time at Sunderland Wendy has been involved in several programmes as a consultant and programme leader, including: Applied Family Studies, Early Years Professional Status, Foundation Degree in Education and Care, BA (Hons) Education and Care, Higher Level Teaching Assistant and collaborative partnerships with further education colleges and Local Authority organisations for continuing professional development (CPD). In addition to her teaching commitments Dr Thorley has incorporated fund-raising activities with students, their families and communities to promote student identity with their programme, University and emerging professional identities. The success of this initiative has been recognised in several recent publications including ‘What Works? Student retention and success programme’ research project (2012, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, HEFCE).

She has also led her department in developing the use of technological innovations to enhance the student learning experience. Her innovative use of virtual learning environments for network peer and tutor support and the collection of student feedback has been commended by external examiners and has presented at a range of conferences, advisory meetings and publications.

Over recent years she has helped raise the profile of children who are Looked After or Adopted as well as children who have experienced loss and trauma at a national level; working alongside a wide range of organisations including PAC-UK, After Adoption, BAAF and Adoption UK. She has worked alongside adoptive parents who are part of the Department of Education’s Steering Committee which led to Pupil Premium support becoming available to all adopted children and post adoption support for families who adopt throughout childhood for children who are adopted. This ensures that the content of the modules she teaches is at the forefront of thinking and driving change and innovation in the sector which was highlighted within ‘Voices of Children: Listening to Children’ 2014 conference which she organised and held at the University of Sunderland.

Participants of the 'Voices of Children: Listening to Children' 2014 Conference:

Staff Profile - Childhood Studies

To ensure the conference did reflect the Voices of Children, she worked with Voices making Choices project in Northumberland Local Authority to enable young people in care to have an opportunity to talk about how they felt and what would help them. This conference was highly valued by those who attended. See full report.

Read more about Dr Wendy Thorley research.

Apply for this course

Interested in this course? Apply straight away through UCAS, or read our 7-step guide to applying to university.

Want to know more about this course or the University of Sunderland? Order a prospectus or come to our next Open Day to see the facilities and talk to academic staff:

    Next Open Day

  • Date: Thursday 23rd February 2017
  • Time: 3:00pm-8:00pm
  • Type: University Open Day
  • Location: Science Complex, City Campus, Sunderland SR1 3SD

Contact Sunderland

Programme Leader:
Bruce Marjoribanks 

Contact the recruitment team for further information about studying at the University of Sunderland:

Recruitment Team
Telephone: 0191 515 3000 

The details

Course Name Childhood Studies (0-11 years)
Classification BA (Hons)
Course Mode Full-time
Course Level Undergraduate
Duration 3 years
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 18 September 2017
UK/EU Fee £9,250
Intl Fee £10,750

Entry requirements

104 points

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