University of Chester

Programme Specification
Early Childhood MA
2014 - 2015

Master of Arts

Early Childhood

Early Childhood

University of Chester

University of Chester

Chester Riverside

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

3 years Part-time; 1 year Full-time

6 Years

Variable - January - April - September



17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Education & Children's Services Academic and Professional Programmes

National Framework for Higher Education Qualifications

University of Chester

Academic & Professional Programmes MAB

Friday 1st July 2011

The Faculty of Education and Children’s Services already has vibrant provision in terms of Continuous Professional Development with the MA in Education, as part of the range of existing CPD, enabling candidates to engage successfully with postgraduate level study. The opportunity for a focused specialism in Early Childhood is seen as an important element of the Faculty's academic portfolio. It allows undergraduate students in the final year of study to consider a postgraduate route in the field of early childhood. It enables graduates in the children’s workforce, with an increasing focus on continuing study and professional development, to pursue these aims. The MA Early Childhood also affords prospective students, from unrelated backgrounds, the opportunity to secure their knowledge of the distinct specialism of early childhood.

To secure professional learning consistent with a Masters level philosophy, the programme aims to:   

  1. Promote scholarship of Early Childhood practitioners around current knowledge and critical understanding of childhood  in different contexts;       
  2. Cultivate original thinking of early childhood practitioners relating to contemporary debates around early childhood and their development;        
  3. Facilitate critical reflection of their professional practice linking to theory and policy at different levels;       
  4. Stimulate research and enquiry into early childhood learning and development in a wide range of contexts;        
  5. Influence impact and change in early childhood provision in line with the changes driven by contemporary issues.

Knowledge and Understanding

Knowledge and Understanding

  • Critically engaged with theoretical frameworks and literature;
  • Harnessed insights into subject knowledge;
  • Critically reflect on the ways in which research methodology supports professional enquiry;
  • Applied critical considerations when undertaking research;
  • Made effectual use of professional learning to assess impact on practice.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills

Thinking or Cognitive Skills
  • Made critical use of research evidence;
  • Formulated valid conclusions that link theory to practice;
  • Thought independently about essential issues, concepts and ideas.

Practical Skills

Practical Skills
  • Critically reflected upon aspects of professional practice in the light of key theoreticalperspectives;
  • Made effectual use of professional learning to assess impact on practice.

Key Skills
  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Literacy and Technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

  • Written to academic standards required at M level;
  • Engaged in meaningful debate and critical discussion;
  • Read critically;
  • Synthesised written and oral information;
  • Maintained a learning journal where appropriate.
Application of Number
  • Selected and used appropriate research methodology, methods and applications for data handling.
Information Literacy and Technology
  • Used the university’s VLE to access information;
  • Used electronic research skills;
  • Accessed data bases for research and information;
  • Used the University’s e portfolio to maintain a professional learning journal, where appropriate.
Improving own learning and performance
  • Critically reflected on professional practice;
  • Developed new pedagogical and leadership skills;
  • Used initiative and managed own learning;
  • Made independent use of supervision.
Working with others
  • Engaged in group presentations and disseminations;
  • Worked with professional colleagues to share ideas, research and good practice.
Problem solving
  • Generated and applied new knowledge;
  • Analysed complex concepts.

Transferable Professional Skills

Transferable Professional Skills
The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:
  • The exercise of initiative and personal responsibility;
  • Decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations;
  • The independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

The qualifications offered are in line with QAA (2008) The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ). The programme is at Level 7 of the FHEQ. It has a Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert) and a Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) as exit points. Participants may exit with credit for single modules.

Modules are at 20 Credit Accumulation Transfer (CAT) points and 10 European Credit Transfer (ECT) points; the dissertation is at 60 CAT and 30 ECT points. The taught modules earn 20 CAT points and attract sixteen hours of tutor contact time through lectures, tutorials and seminars.

Students studying in part-time mode normally take one year to complete a PG Certificate, two years for a PG Diploma and three years to complete an MA within a maximum registration period of 6 years. The full-time route takes one year.

Named Pathways

The MA Early Childhood is the named award.

Credit accumulation for a named award

In order to gain a named award students must successfully complete the required credit of the award:     

  • For an MA Early Childhood, 180 CAT points in the subject, 60 of which must be through a dissertation which takes the subject area as its focus:        
  • For a PG Dip Early Childhood, 120 CAT points in the subject area:      
  • For a PG Cert. Early Childhood, 60 CAT points in the subject area.

In terms of delivery, each module on the MA in Early Childhood is taught over 2 Saturday Schools. This distinctive and highly successful delivery pattern is an attractive option in terms of flexibility, enabling students to achieve Higher Education qualifications whilst remaining in the workplace. It is accessible and ensures that students, who have the ability and motivation to gain a higher education qualification, have the opportunity to do so.  

MA Early Childhood Delivery Pattern (Part-Time Students) Minimum 2 years, Usually 3 years

MA Early Childhood Delivery Pattern (Full-Time Students) 1 Year

The full time pathway of the MA Early Childhood will be available for September 2013, subject to levels of recruitment. This opportunity for a focused specialism in Early Childhood will enable undergraduate students in the final year of study to consider a full – time postgraduate route in the field of early childhood.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
ED7704 7 The 21st Century Child 20 Comp
ED7705 7 Leadership and Management in Early Childhood 20 Comp
ED7708 7 Technology and Childhood 20 Comp
ED7709 7 Children and Communities 20 Comp
ED7710 7 The Developing Child (0-5 Years) 20 Comp
ED7711 7 Researching Early Childhood 20 Comp
ED7712 7 Dissertation 60 Comp

In order to gain a named award students must successfully complete the required credit of the award:
For an MA Early Childhood, 180 CAT points in the subject, 60 of which must be through a dissertation which takes the subject area as its focus;
The awards

Final Academic Award

CAT Points

MA Early Childhood


Postgraduate Diploma Early Childhood


Postgraduate Certificate Early Childhood


The admission criteria for student entry to the MA Early Childhood will normally be:

A Bachelors degree. All applicants should normally have at least an upper second class Honours degree in an appropriate discipline. Where the first degree is lower than a 2:1 honours degree and/or more than 10 years old the following may be taken in its place:

  • other more recent qualifications (or a substantial amount of study) at levels 6 or 7 (e.g. PGCE, Masters)
  • a reflective portfolio documenting experience of at least 3 years work at a professional level within the last 5 years

Applicants shall also satisfy the requirements for English Language, where English is not their first language (IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 570 (230 computer-based) is the minimum requirement). Students presenting international qualifications which are not judged to be the equivalent of an Honours degree, would normally be required to undertake and attain a good pass on at least one 7 level module as a condition of entry.

Students with additional needs should declare this at the time of application, and an assessment made by Student Support and Guidance of the University's ability to support these needs.

The MA Early Childhood Programme draws on and extends the Subject Benchmark Statements for the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies QAA (2007) but as there are no QAA benchmark statements for postgraduate study in Education or Early Childhood, the QAA (2010) Master’s Degree Characteristics contextualise the level of study within the new programme.

This qualifications at Masters level is awarded to students who have demonstrated:       

  • A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at the forefront of the Early Childhood field of study and area of professional practice;         
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship;         
  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in Early Childhood;      
  • Conceptual understanding that enables the student to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in Early Childhood;
  • An ability to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

Typically, holders of the qualification will:       

  • Be able to deal with the complex issues both systematically and creatively, making sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non specialist audiences;      
  • Be able to demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional level;       
  • Continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level;        
  • Have the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of initiative and responsibility, decision–making in complex and unpredictable situations and the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

The MA Early Childhood complements existing APP Programmes and is within the compass of the current staffing expertise. There are a number of tutors and active researchers in the field who will contribute to the programme. Tutors in the Faculty have experience in the delivery of professional development for those practising in this field and are skilled at working to meet the needs of part-time students.

The MA Early Childhood adheres to the Learning and Teaching Strategy for the Faculty of Education and Children's Services which commits to pedagogical principles which:      
  • Promote professional engagement and reflective practice;      
  • Encourage independent and autonomous learning;         
  • Support continuing professional development;     
  • Value students' professional experience and prior learning;        
  • Support diversity and personalised learning;       
  • Encourage dynamic and participative learning;
  • Promote collaborative learning;
  • Encourage Internet and Web-based approaches;         
  • Support reflective and Practitioner enquiry.

The MA Early Childhood at the University of Chester includes a range of approaches to learning and teaching:

  • University-based Modules- These modules are held at the University in technology rich environments. A range of methodologies are employed which take account of best practice and maximise active learning, sensitive to the learning styles and needs of students (Faculty Learning, Teaching and Assessment Policy). These methodologies include lectures, seminars, group work, directed tasks, independent research and individual and group tutorials.
  • Independent Study -Independent Study enables a participant to work with a supervising tutor who offers support as participants work towards completing an assignment on a chosen topic. This will count towards academic credit;
  • Electronic Support Materials - The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is an essential feature of the Programme. Each module has a dedicated module site in which a range of support materials is accessible. On the module site, specific information about the module is also available.

Electronic Tutorial Support - Participants are able to contact their module tutor or module supervisor by email whenever they wish. Tutors will endeavour to respond to participant queries within 3-5 days but often sooner. Tutorial support includes face-to - face tutorial support meetings and the opportunity for participants to engage with On - Line Tutorial Support. This allows for a tutorial dialogue to continue between module tutors/supervisors and participants. It is an important feature of the Programme in that it enables participants to access tutorial support remotely.

The MA Early Childhood adheres to the Assessment Policy of the Faculty of Education and Children's Services and to the University Regulations pertaining to the assessment of students. Central to the Faculty of Education and Children's Services' learning, teaching, and assessment strategy is the concept of tutor-supported, student-centred learning. The Faculty is committed to the view that students should become increasingly autonomous learners enabled to develop and enhance knowledge and transferable skills as they become more mature, reflective and critical readers and writers. The QAA (2008) recommends that ‘programmes need to be able to demonstrate how the design of curricula facilitates academic and intellectual progression\'. The MA Early Childhood team has taken account of this in the development of assessment strategies on the programme. 

In general terms, students are assessed on their ability to:         

  • Demonstrate a systematic knowledge and understanding, in breadth and in depth, of issues related to Early Childhood;         
  • Critically analyse a range of literature from covergent and convergent sources and research evidence related to the field of Early Childhood;       
  • Effectively utilise the transferable communication and rhetorical skills of speaking, listening, reading, writing, and arguing;
  • Conduct independent and collaborative research, using relevant skills and methods in the field of Early Childhood.

The assessment methods used in each module correlate with the learning outcomes for that module. An appropriate range of assessments is used to enable students to demonstrate their achievement of the stated module learning outcomes. In line with University of Chester policy, not all learning outcomes may be explicitly assessed. Where appropriate, formative assessment is used to support student learning and to ensure that subsequent teaching addresses the identified needs of the students. Students are kept informed about assessment requirements and the formal assessment requirements are described in each module descriptor.

As well as the generic assessment criteria, students will be provided with assignment specific criteria. This will be provided in module handbooks, available to students at the beginning of each module. Reassessment will, as far as possible, follow the original intention as detailed in the module descriptor and will be in accordance with University Regulations regarding the assessment of students. Where a form of assessment cannot be repeated, for example, as with some presentations, an alternative will be prescribed which gives the student a similar opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the specified module learning outcomes.


All modules have a handbook that complies with University and Faculty Guidelines. All handbooks are available to students in hard copy. In addition, they are accessible on the dedicated module space on SharePoint (The University's VLE).

The module handbook includes:       

  • Module aims and learning outcomes;       
  • Outline content;       
  • Assessment method;       
  • Dates and procedures for submission of work;        
  • Recommended reading;
  • Links to relevant documentation and University Policy eg. The Diversity and Equality Policy, The Disability, Gender and Race Equality Scheme, guidance on regulations governing the assessment of students.


All assessed work is graded according to a percentage scale 0-100 using the University\'s level 7 grading criteria linked to the QAA requirements for level 7. All marking procedures comply with the Faculty Assessment Policies. Feedback to students is typed and available electronically using a standard pro-forma. Feedback is given in the context of the module learning outcomes assessed and the Level 7 criteria. Areas for improvement and development are presented as targets. Feedback on the work is intended to identify strengths and points of development. All students complete an assignment front cover sheet on which they describe how they have addressed previously identified targets. Assignments are not pre-marked.  Students may receive formative, verbal feedback on plans or on a specified amount of work identified by the tutor.

The MA Early Childhood programme adheres to University Policy on the assessment of students. All work is first marked and an appropriate sample, in line with university regulations, is monitored. All dissertations are double marked, usually by the supervisor and then by another marker. A representative sample of work is made available to an external examiner and includes all fails and distinctions.

Assessment criteria are communicated to students through Programme and Module handbooks. Assignment guidance explains the important features of each assignment. Feedback and assessment judgements are made using module specific interpretations of the following criteria:

  • Knowledge  & understanding
  • Research i: reading & use of other appropriate resources
  • Research ii: methodology
  • Critical analysis & interpretation
  • Communication skills & presentation
  • Critical reflection: personal &/or professional application & evaluation.
The programme employs a range of assessment methods, which are linked to the University’s level 7 assessment and marking criteria and include:
  • A Digital Presentation using a technology of choice;       
  • Critical Analysis;      
  • Essay;       
  • Case Study;        
  • Dissertation.

Students who successfully engage in the MA Early Childhood Programme will become reflective practitioners and critical thinkers who can articulate their views with confidence and conviction. They will have expert knowledge of the political arena of learning, teaching, care and early years’ provision. They will have read widely and engaged with theoretical frameworks which have challenged their values, beliefs and understanding. They will have become confident researchers, finding solutions to challenges in their professional settings and practice. Their professional integrity will have been affirmed and they will have secured a professional confidence to embrace and manage change and to lead others, should they choose.

Graduates from the MA Early Childhood Programme will be able to choose from one or more of the following progression routes:

  • Remain as a practitioner within the context of early years;
  • Gain promotion within early years’ settings;
  • Move to work in Higher Education as a teacher or researcher;
  • Move to work in a range of situations, for example, social work, research, childcare, behaviour therapy, play therapy and family support.

The government has confirmed its commitment to a graduate – led workforce in the early years and furthermore has verified the continuation of investment in training for Early Years professionals. The political drive to raise the qualifications and skills of early years’ workers is reflected in the proposal for the new MA in Early Childhood.    

The University of Chester is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

This programme brings a much-needed Masters progression route with a focus on the distinct field of Early Childhood and a successful weekend delivery pattern to enhance accessibility. It is delivered by committed, high calibre staff, who are active researchers in the field of Early Childhood.      

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