Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

BA (Hons) Childhood Studies

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In this Section:

  • Do you want to understand children and childhoods?
  • Do you want to explore child development and how children learn?
  • Do you want to know what child welfare really means?
  • Do you want to help children and young people achieve their goals?

Are you thinking about a career working with children and young people, but wonder what kind of professional path might be right for you? 

If so, BA Childhood Studies is the perfect course choice.

BA Childhood Studies will give you an in-depth understanding of the factors that shape children's lives from birth to 18.

You will consider how children develop and learn. We introduce you to the major theories of social, emotional and cognitive development, and help you to critically assess a range of ideas, approaches and applications. 

You will explore children and young people's education. Through the study of pioneering international case studies, you will develop expertise in teaching and learning, equipping you to meet the needs of children in the 21st century.

You will investigate child health and welfare. We help you to analyse welfare policy and practice, navigate the current legal and regulatory frameworks, and relate this knowledge to professional and real-life situations.

You will examine how culture and society can shape childhood and youth experiences. We look at how certain factors, such as class, race, gender, disability, religion or nationality, can impact upon a child's education and identity, and discuss ways that you can support children from a range of diverse backgrounds.

You will consider what childhood means to different people, nationalities and institutions, and how the meaning of childhood has changed over time and still continues to do so. We explore the history and cultures of childhood, and how legal, social and cultural organisations view childhood in different ways.

Together, we analyse the latest research on children and young people so you develop independent critical thinking skills and have a sound academic base to use in your future career. We show you how to conduct your own research, so you have the tools to work within the complex area of policy and provision for children. We provide extensive academic support, so you get the help you need when you need it. 

Our course brings together world-leading experts in sociology, education and psychology so you can become a well-qualified childhood specialist with the wealth of knowledge needed to work with children and their families across a range of professions.  

BA Childhood Studies will help you to discover the right career path in the field of children and youth provision, whether you choose to enter the workplace, study for a PGCE or pursue a career in research after you graduate.

International Foundation Year Scholarships

Scholarships are available for International Foundation Year students who enter into year one of this programme in September 2016. Find out more.


BA Childhood Studies is a three year full-time course, or a six year part-time course. If you choose to take a study or work abroad opportunity here at Leeds, this will add another year onto your degree course.

We designed our modules to relate to each other so you acquire a sound knowledge of the subject as a whole. 

Year One

Compulsory modules

Children, Young People, Families and the State adopts a sociological and social policy perspective to understanding childhood. It provides you with a theoretical grounding for the exploration of key issues relating to childhood studies.

What is a Child: Child Development and Learning explores psychological approaches to understanding childhood. Key theories which have been influential in developmental and child psychology will be described and evaluated, and key debates on the contribution of different influences on development will be introduced.

What is a Child: Social Construction of Childhood provides an introduction to sociological and anthropological theories of childhood, including historical dimensions and cross cultural perspectives. Key theories which have been influential will be described and evaluated.

Play and Learning examines the long-standing role of play in children and young people's learning at home, at school and on screen. You will gain an increased understanding of the role of play in children and young people's lives.

Optional modules

You then choose one to two of the following optional modules.

  • Building a Career from Education Studies
  • Children's Rights and Social Justice
  • Social and Cultural Worlds of Childhood and Youth

Discovery Modules

If you choose one optional module, you will be required to study a Discovery Module from across the university.

Year Two

Compulsory modules

Health, Well-being, Childhood and Youth provides you with an in-depth understanding of the different models of health and the range of physical, psychological, sociological and cultural factors that influence children and young people’s health and well-being.

International Perspectives of Pedagogy and Practice constructs a conceptual framework that will be used to analyse examples of teaching and learning practices (pedagogy) drawn from across the world. You will be introduced to the idea of pedagogy as a means through which educators can reflect on and develop their practice.

Approaches to Research: Theory and Practice analyses examples of the theoretical and applied aspects of educational and social research. You will be provided with an introduction to the main research methods and ethics and will critically examine other people's research processes and methodologies before developing your own research question and methodology.

Psychological Approaches to Understanding and Supporting Children’s Learning brings together theory and practice through exploring children's learning from a psychological perspective. You will be introduced to influential psychological theories which have informed current understandings of children's learning and development. The module covers key areas of cognitive development including language and memory.

Optional modules

You then choose one to two of the following optional modules.

  • Literacy and Learning
  • Inclusive Education
  • Supporting Families

Discovery Modules

If you choose one optional module, you will be required to study a Discovery Module from across the university.

Year Three

Compulsory modules

Dissertation is a piece of written work of 12,000 words, and can be researched on a topic from a childhood, education/care and culture perspective of your own choice. It is designed to allow you to produce an extended piece of written work on a topic of special interest to you.

Critical Debates in Childhood and Youth: Research draws on ideas about childhood and child development to enable you to analyse the emerging debates about children and young people. It will provide you with an opportunity to explore how researchers engage with the supposed problem(s) of youth in relation to issues such as crime, sex, drugs and youth culture. 

Optional modules

You then choose two to three of the following optional modules.

  • Spaces for Children and Children’s Spaces
  • Supporting Learning in Children with Additional Needs
  • Growing Up in the Digital Age
  • Advanced Career Development – Business Awareness
  • Ecological Approaches to Child Development

Discovery Modules

If you choose Discovery Modules from across the university to make up the balance.

It is also possible to study this programme through a part-time route, the programme content is the same but you will study at a lesser intensity. For more information about how to apply, support available and the part-time student experience, please visit the Lifelong Learning Centre’s website.

Ruth SpillmanThanks to my undergraduate research scholarship I can research something that I am passionate about. It has also allowed me to meet with people that are experts in the field and that have been able to give me some great advice.

Ruth Spillman

Taught by experts

The Childhood Studies team at Leeds is comprised of world-renowned academics, conducting research at the cutting edge of their discipline.

Our research and teaching expertise supports you in acquiring both broad and specialist understanding of children's lives including, for example, children's rights, education and welfare, cultures and creativity, spaces and participation, families, inclusion, equality and diversity. 

Supportive environment

While encouraging you to become a self-motivated learner, our supportive team of staff will guide you through your studies, helping you to develop the skills you need to become an independent critical thinker and part of the University of Leeds learning community. 

As our school only runs three undergraduate courses, you have the benefit of being one of a relatively small number of undergraduate students within the school, yet also part of the large University of Leeds cohort. Many of our students say this is incredibly beneficial to their university experience: the school feels like "a family", yet they still have access to all the benefits of studying at a large institution.     

Practical experiences

We also ensure that our modules equip you with practical experiences that prepare you for a future of working with, or for, children. Our students progress to careers such as research, education, play work, family support, creative and arts projects and roles in a range of children's charities.

International perspectives

We designed BA Childhood Studies so that you also study European and International perspectives on childhood, education, development, and welfare and policy issues so that you are equipped to take up opportunities in the globalised workplace.

NEW: Leeds International Foundation Year Scholarship for BA Childhood Studies

The School of Education is offering a scholarship of £2,000 to any self-funded International Foundation Year (IFY) student who successfully completes the IFY element and progresses into level 1 of the BA Childhood Studies degree in September 2015. This will be renewed for progression to levels 2 and 3 subject to students achieving a yearly attainment percentage of 60%. The scholarship will be withheld in a year where a student fails to achieve 60% but will be reinstated the following year if the student's performance recovers to 60% or above.

These scholarships are awarded automatically (no application is required) to any student classified as international for tuition fee purposes and not in receipt of any other University of Leeds award. Find out more about Leeds International Foundation Year.


If you study BA Childhood Studies with us, you will develop skills and knowledge that will provide an effective foundation for careers relating to children and young people, such as teaching and education, social care, nursing, speech therapy, special needs, social work and child welfare, play therapy, the leisure industries and child law.


A number of our BA Childhood Studies graduates decide to apply for a teacher training place on our School’s Primary PGCE programme.

Should you wish to pursue a PGCE after graduation, our school will assist you with your application. As some PGCE primary programmes now require a minimum number of placement hours in a UK primary school setting as part of their entry requirements, we can give you support and advice to help you to organise a placement that works for you. In the past year, many of our students have successfully gained their primary school experience through placements organised by Volunteer Leeds.

You may also want to consider an appropriate working abroad opportunity or youth volunteering project that will strengthen your PGCE application and show you have areas of understanding and expertise that will promote national curriculum goals and objectives within an educational environment.

BA Childhood Studies core career skills and knowledge

You will understand …

  • the history of the idea of childhood and youth
  • how society and culture continually reconstruct ideas about childhood
  • how understandings of childhood impact on law, politics, policy and practice
  • how cognitive development theories relate to learning and teaching
  • the major theoretical models of language development
  • the historical, social and political context of early years education in England, past and present
  • the development of Foundation Stage and Key Stage One and Two curricula, assessment and pedagogy
  • the role of child welfare organisations, and the practice and policy issues that face child welfare practitioners
  • the current legal and regulatory framework for State intervention in the family
  • the role of research evidence in developing pedagogic practice.

You will be able to demonstrate an awareness of …

  • how a child’s social and cultural setting influences their development and learning
  • the nature of cultural diversity in contemporary societies
  • the different types of research strategies and methods used in educational research
  • the difficulties of researching aspects of children’s social, emotional and personal development
  • the nature of quality provision in early years and primary education
  • alternative international perspectives on childhood, development and education.

You will be able to …

  • reflect upon how primary education should evolve to meet the needs of children in the twenty-first century
  • evaluate developmentally-appropriate and subject-led curricula for young children
  • analyse how cultural products aimed at children rest on both modern and universal assumptions about childhood
  • recognise the importance of key social categories, such as gender and ethnic identity, within a child’s early understanding of self and others.

You will know how to …

  • critically evaluate a range of cultural products to assess how they present and convey childhood
  • describe current models of teacher education and training, and evaluate their possible impact upon primary schooling
  • use examples from different societies to illustrate alternative solutions to diversity issues
  • use ICT to interrogate electronic data sources, analyse data, and present data and findings
  • select and develop appropriate research tools for research questions, and collect, analyse and synthesise data into coherent reports.
Amy MillarIf you have a strong desire to work with children in the future but are unsure of which field, I would definitely recommend this course. It gives you insight into all ares of working with children.

Amy Millar

Childhood Studies gives you an insight into all areas of working with children. You study childhood from multiple viewpoints, including educational, social and psychological aspects. 

Our students' view of BA Childhood Studies

BA Childhood Studies students Isobel Lacey and Grace Musto talk about their time at the School of Education on graduation day. They reflect on how they settled in, the differences between school and university study, and how they made the most of their time at Leeds.

Our academics' view of BA Childhood Studies

As the course is so multi-disciplinary, we asked our academic teaching team to say what childhood studies means to them ... so you can get an idea of the range of perspectives the course covers.    

Dr Paula Clarke says ...

"To me, Childhood Studies enables us to explore children and young people’s lives, experiences and perspectives, and study children's development and learning and the factors which influence these."

Dr Sian Roberts says ...

"Childhood Studies is an important course for anyone wishing to work with children and young people, providing students with a thorough understanding of many aspects of children's lives and equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to make a difference to children in their future employment."

Dr Aisha Walker says ...

"For me, Childhood Studies provides the opportunity to gain understanding of children’s contemporary uses of technology and the impact of digital media on children’s lives."

Dr Mary Chambers says ...

"Childhood Studies enables enquiry into a broad spectrum of subjects that focus on the gaining of professional skills in order to understand and respond appropriately to diverse and differing needs of children."


Dr Mary Chambers
Director of Student Education and Associate Professor in Special Needs in Education
Tel: 0113 3433576
Email: M.E.Chambers@education.leeds.ac.uk

Dr Paula Clarke
Associate Professor in Childhood and Inclusive Education
Tel: 0113 3439410
Email: p.j.clarke@leeds.ac.uk

Dr Sian Roberts
Lecturer in Childhood Studies and Inclusive Education
Tel: 0113 34 34601
Email: S.Roberts@leeds.ac.uk

Dr Aisha Walker
Associate Professor in Technology, Education and Learning
Tel: 0113 3434633
Email: S.A.Walker@leeds.ac.uk

Dr Valerie Farnsworth
Research Fellow
Tel: 0113 3434689
Email: V.L.Farnsworth@leeds.ac.uk


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