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Social work with children, young people and families in Scotland

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Social work with children, young people and families is a contested area of practice. Social workers need to have a sound knowledge of theories and practice in childcare and child development. Taught primarily through online activities, you will explore the complexities of social work practice with children, young people and families. This course is specifically designed for students in Scotland and meets the requirements of the Key Capabilities in Childcare and Child Protection at Level 8. 

Modules at Level 2 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

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No current presentation - see Future availability

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2013.

What you will study

Underpinning this course are five themes:

  • the application of knowledge, skills, values and technology to work with children, young people and families
  • critically engaging with the interrelationship between diversity, inequality and practice
  • knowledge and understanding of child care and child protection required by social workers
  • deconstructing and reconstructing practices and services with children, young people and families
  • critical application of life course and social ecological perspectives to constructions of childhood, youth, parenting and family life.

Eleven online learning guides will help you to work through four areas of work involving two newly published course books, additional readings and audio visual materials.

1 Effective communication

This area of study is designed to introduce you to the course and its themes. Initially you will have an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the study materials, structure, learning outcomes and your tutor group. There will also be activities if you wish to update your IT skills that essential for study. The course themes will be introduced with an emphasis on some key theories that can help you deconstruct and reconstruct practice and services. An important issue here concerns the historic and cultural meanings attributed to childhood, youth and family in different spaces. You will be encouraged to examine your own values and the value base underpinning practice.

2 Knowledge and understanding

This area of study teaches the importance of dialogue, knowledge, skills and learning as a basis for good practice and to support effective assessment, planning and engagement across a range of services for children, young people and families. You will consider different ways of researching, reviewing and reflecting on practice. Audio-visual materials will be used to illustrate the importance of communication skills between practitioners and with service users. The implications of information-sharing between state agencies will be considered, including its impact on citizenship and democratic participation.

3 Professional competence and confidence

This area considers how services and support for children, young people and families develop in relation to social change and legal and policy frameworks. You will have the opportunity to examine general principles and influences (e.g. the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) as well as law and policy specific to Scotland that can shape universal and specialist services. Safeguarding is a topic that illustrates the application of policy at the level of face-to-face practice. You will examine the roles and responsibilities of practitioners ensuring they work together to protect children and young people from harm. Some of the implications and dilemmas for practitioners and service users resulting from the implementation of policy frameworks will be considered. Resilience will be introduced as a practice concept that illustrates the interrelationship between policy, practice and the agency of children and young people.

4 Values and ethical practice

In this final area you will consider a wide range of spaces or contexts where the lives of children, young people and families are affected by socio-economic factors and social policy. You will be encouraged to investigate the meanings children and young people and their carers/parents attribute to the spaces in which they live. You will use contemporary research and audio-visual accounts from practitioners and children and young people to examine important issues including health and well-being, identity, social cohesion, fear, crime, family relationships, migration and transitions.

At the end of the course you will be encouraged to reflect on your learning and consider your next steps as learner and/or practitioner.

Vocational relevance

This course is a compulsory module in the BA (Hons) Social Work (Scotland). It will also be of interest to people working with children, young people and families in a range of professional settings in Scotland such as residential childcare workers, family support workers, social work assistants and others.


This is a Level 2 course and you need to have some knowledge of the subject area obtained either through Level 1 (SCQF level 7) study with the OU, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

This course is open to any student living or working in Scotland but is of particular relevance to people studying, or hoping to study The Open University qualification BA (Hons) Social Work (Scotland).

If you are registered on the BA (Hons) Social Work (Scotland) you should have completed Stage 1 before studying this module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio-visual components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and scientific, diagrammatic or foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

A series of online learning guides will lead you through the different components of the course. Two course books, a course guide, and a DVD. You will also have access to a website through which details of assessment, teaching and library resources are available. Electronic versions of most of the printed study materials are provided on the website.

You will need

The audio-visual components of this course are embedded within online learning guides. Some of these can also be delivered on a DVD video that will play on a standard DVD player and television. If you want to view this on a computer, it will need a DVD-ROM drive and software for viewing DVDs. All the material on the DVD can also be accessed directly from the relevant sections of the online learning guide.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2007 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.6 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and who you can ask for advice and guidance. Much of your tuition is delivered online so some of the contact with your tutor will be through email, online tutorials, and online discussion forums, although phone communication may also be used. We will also offer face-to-face group tutorials that you are encouraged to attend. Where these are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the course.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in October 2013 when it will be available for the last time.

Students also studied

Students who studied this course also studied at some time:

How to register

We regret that we are currently unable to accept registrations for this course. Where the course is to be presented again in the future, relevant registration information will be displayed on this page as soon as it becomes available.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code K229
Credits 30
OU Level 2
SCQF level 8
FHEQ level 5
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

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