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Foundation Degree in Early Years

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The first few years of children’s lives are crucial to their development and opportunities in later life – and the adults who work with them are ideally placed to make a difference. If you’re looking to extend your expertise as an early years practitioner, this Foundation degree course will help you build on your knowledge and skills. It is suitable for experienced practitioners working with young children in a wide range of early years settings (such as nurseries, playgroups and children’s centres), including home-based carers and classroom/teaching assistants specialising in early years. It will build on your knowledge of children’s development and learning, as well as developing your understanding of policies and practice in early years settings. You’ll also learn professional and practical skills like planning, assessment and teamwork. The Foundation Degree in Early Years also prepares you to engage with further study, enquiry and practice.

The programme of study for this foundation degree is also offered as the Diploma of Higher Education in Childhood Practice (W01) for those living and working in Scotland.

Fees and facts

Where will you be resident whilst you study?

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Fee: Choose country above to see fee and ways to pay.
Study method: Flexible, part-time study through distance learning.
Type of qualification: Foundation Degree
Foundation Degree

Foundation degrees are nationally recognised qualifications focusing either on a particular job or profession; they combine work place learning with academic study. Designed and developed with external partners, you must be working either as a paid employee or as a volunteer in a related work setting.

A foundation degree is equivalent to two thirds of an honours degree. They aim to enhance the professional and technical skills of staff within a profession or those intending to go into that profession.

You can use a foundation degree to:

  • change careers or progress your current career
  • gain technical and professional skills
  • gain professional recognition
  • achieve a full honours degree through further study.

Most of our foundation degrees are also offered as diplomas of higher education for those living and working in Scotland.

Code: X01

Entry requirements

You must be:

  • a current practitioner (paid or voluntary) with at least six months full-time or 12 months part-time experience of working with young children in a registered early years setting (or an experienced practitioner with at least three years full-time or five years part-time experience in a registered early years setting if you are following the With credit for prior experience pathway)
  • over the age of 18 years at the date on which you begin studying for this qualification (or over 21 years old if you are following the With credit for prior experience pathway)
  • working in a setting following a UK or Republic of Ireland curriculum and which uses English as the language of tuition.

While studying the core modules, you must be:

  • working in a registered early years setting with young children aged from birth to seven years (Foundation Stage or Key Stage 1 or equivalent) in either a paid or voluntary capacity
  • directly involved in activities to support young children’s care and learning for a minimum of five hours a week
  • able to work with groups of three or more children on a regular basis.

You must have the agreement and support of your employer/supervisor before registering for this qualification.

Your employer must confirm their support for your study, verify your experience and whether you meet the pre-requisites to study the core modules by completing a Permission Agreement Form.

You and your employer are responsible for ensuring that:

  • you meet the ‘fit person’ criteria required for the setting and country you are working in  ( If you are in doubt about your eligibility, contact the relevant agency in your country for more information.)
  • you obtain the necessary criminal record clearance.

If you are a Nanny/Foster Carer working with a child (birth to six years), you must be able to undertake 3–5 hours paid or voluntary work each week in a registered early years setting where you have access to groups of children and support from experienced professional colleagues. The home of a parent/foster carer or nanny is not – on its own – an acceptable setting.

If you meet these entry requirements and wish to apply for this qualification please email our Student Registration & Enquiry Service or call +44(0) 845 300 60 90.

Career relevance and employability

The Foundation Degree in Early Years has been developed in association with employers and professional associations, and is considered a ‘full and relevant’ qualification for the purposes of registration and regulation – which means you’ll count in the qualified ratio of staff at Level 3.

In Northern Ireland, although the degree is not a recognised qualification for classroom assistants in Northern Ireland, it would enhance their work with Key Stage 1 children.

This degree is also appropriate if you are working in a British Forces school or an early years setting in Europe following a UK or Republic of Ireland curriculum and which uses English as the language of tuition.

Further development

This Foundation Degree can be a step to becoming a specialist Early Years Teacher (to work with babies and children). On completing your studies, there are several options for topping up to a full BA degree – you’ll need to choose your route carefully and we recommend that you discuss your choices with one of our advisers. Further information about pathways and providers can be found on the Department for Education website.

This degree may also be helpful if you’re interested in primary teaching (3-8 years) with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). However, since the OU doesn’t offer teacher training for this age range, 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; and the Teacher Training & Education in Wales website. More information about routes to entering teaching can be found by downloading our Becoming a Teacherbooklet

There’s more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU’s Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.


This Foundation Degree in Early Years is accredited by the Teaching Agency (TA).

Register your interest

For academic year 2014/15, registration opens on 24/04/2014. If you would like to be kept updated, you can register your interest now.

Credit for previous study elsewhere

If you have already completed some successful study at higher education level at another institution you may be able to transfer credit for this study and count it towards this qualification. If you wish to apply to transfer credit you must do so as soon as possible, and before you register for this qualification.  

If you are awarded credit for study completed elsewhere, you may find that you need to study fewer OU modules to complete this qualification. This may also mean that the next start date and the maximum time limit for this qualification are different to those shown above.

Visit our Credit Transfer site for more information and details of how to apply for credit transfer.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

Read more detailed information about the learning outcomes, and how they are acquired through teaching, learning and assessment methods.

On completion

On successful completion of the required modules you will be awarded a Foundation Degree in Early Years and will be entitled to use the letters FD (Open) after your name.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the following regulations:

These regulations are also available on our Essential Documents website.

If you have a disability

Choosing the qualification that’s right for you is very important. Depending on your disability, long-term health condition, mental health disability or specific learning difficulty, you may need to consider any challenges posed by:

  • the learning objectives: for example, to gain an honours degree in a language you must be physically able to speak the language
  • how the modules are taught: for example, some of our science qualifications require that you complete laboratory work
  • any work-based competency requirements.

Choosing the right qualification can be a complex mix of the subject requirements and the support you may need. To help you assess whether the qualification you are interested in will work for you, further advice is available from:

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study for this qualification. For most OU qualifications a Microsoft Windows (new since 2007), Apple Mac (OS X 10.6 or later) or Linux computer should be adequate. However, some qualifications require more specific IT equipment, in which case you will need additional software to use an Apple Mac or Linux computer. A detailed technical specification for your modules will be made available when you register. Please note, technical specifications do change over time to match computer developments and the way we teach.

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.

Your questions

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