Early Childhood Studies

Portobello Institute

Early Childhood Studies

This contemporary MA in Early Childhood Care & Education is designed for professional early years practitioners working within the early childhood workforce, including those who may not be working directly with children.

Currently there is an emphasis on continual professional development within the Education and Health sector, and this master’s programme provides opportunities for students who have successfully completed, a degree in Early Childhood Studies or a relevant discipline to progress into management positions or follow more varied career pathways.

Build on your undergraduate knowledge

This Masters programme builds upon knowledge gained during undergraduate studies and experiential learning in the workplace. The blended learning delivery mode is a flexible study option for those seeking to fit learning around work and family. This course has been designed to reflect contemporary approaches and understanding of family life, childhood, pedagogy, and contemporary aspects of early education, from a psychological and sociological perspectives.

Advance your professional practice

The MA in Early Childhood Care & Education offers you an opportunity to advance your knowledge, understanding and professional practice through engagement with current research and thinking in early childhood. It also involves a reflection on, and analysis of, your own professional practice, supporting your personal development as well as putting you in a strong position for career progression in this sector. Additionally, staff holding post-graduate qualifications will be instrumental in upskilling the workforce to meet the government targets under First Five of 50% graduates working ELC sector by 2028.

Who will recognise my qualification?
Upon successful completion of this programme, you will be awarded an MA in Early Childhood Care & Education. This is awarded by University of Essex and is aligned with a level 9 Masters on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Qualifications Frameworks in Ireland and the UK

The Irish and UK qualifications authorities have collaborated on initiatives that promote the transparency, recognition and mobility of qualifications between our respective jurisdictions. The qualifications authorities in the UK and Ireland have agreed the qualifications frameworks in operation, Brexit will not impact this agreement. Further guidance on this framework is available at https://qhelp.qqi.ie/learners/qualifications-recognition-advice/comparing-qualifications-in-the-uk-and-ireland/Qualifications_Can_Cross_Boundaries.pdf

A commitment to equality, diversity, social justice and advocacy are themes central to this Masters programme. You will develop a detailed understanding of current research and contemporary thinking in the field of early childhood. You will appraise research and theory continuously and reflect on its impact on early childhood provision and practice with an emphasis on your own professional practice.

Developing a sophisticated understanding of the historical, economic, social, cultural and political contexts which impact the lives of young children and their families is a key benefit of studying this MA in Early Childhood Care & Education. You will also develop a comprehensive understanding of, and commitment to, issues of equality and diversity, social justice and advocacy in relation to the field of early childhood.

The main aims of this programme are to:

Enable students to further develop their specialist knowledge of early childhood studies, through engaging with modules that provide up to date knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to current issues appropriate to the professional practice context, and provide progression routes to M/Phil and PhD programmes.

Ensure that students develop a detailed understanding of current research and thinking in the area of early childhood.

Develop an enhanced critical and evaluative awareness of current issues within Early Childhood Studies.

Develop high levels of proficiency in Early Childhood studies, with individual personal and professional development planning needs, including leadership, problem solving, oral and written communication skills, and information and technology.

Develop an in-depth knowledge of developmental perspectives including developmental psychology, neuroscience and psychoanalytical theory and play.

Develop the ability to take leadership and responsibility for the extension of their own learning and to exercise independent judgement in the investigation, analysis, and evaluation of Early Childhood Studies.

Develop an in-depth and wide knowledge of Early Childhood Studies practice and the ability to critically reflect on their experience through critical analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Evaluate and appraise and continuously reflect on the impact of research and theory on early childhood provision and practice with an emphasis on students’ own professional practice.

Develop a sophisticated understanding of the historical, economic, social, cultural, and political contexts which impact the lives of young children and their families.

Develop a comprehensive understanding of, and commitment to, issues of equality and diversity, social justice, and advocacy in relation to the field of early childhood.

During year 2, you may choose between the following modules;

A Critical Underpinning of Ethics for Inclusion and Diversity
Psychology of Development and Emotional Well-being

Subjects taught

Year 1
Contemporary Childhoods in a Sociological Context
Pedagogical Approaches to Early Education

Year 2
Psychology of Development and Emotional Wellbeing
An Introduction to Research with Children and Young People
MA Dissertation
Critical professionalism in inclusive environments

Delivery Mode
This MA in Early Childhood Care & Education has been specifically designed for delivery by online learning, with one to one tutorial support and interactive modular webinars designed specifically to prepare you to complete the module. It is very suited to you if you are working full-time with limited spare time yet you want to achieve your Masters qualification.

Each module commences with an induction webinar and you will meet your lead lecturer during this session. You will be able to log-in and “attend” the lecture even if you are off-site or you can re-visit the lecture at a later date through our online portal. You can upload your assessments and your lecturer will give you feedback on whether you are on the right track before you submit the final version. Blended learning allows you to study at your time with support available throughout your learning journey.

What is a webinar?

A webinar, in the context of online learning, is a lecturer delivering a presentation or class online to a group of students. We use specifically designed e-learning software so you can participate in the class just as if you were present in the same room. You can ask a question of the lecturer at any stage during the class.

Interactive break-out rooms

The software is designed with “break-out rooms” where you can discuss a topic or complete a group exercise with a smaller group from your class. You will need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone that has internet connection, an audio facility so you can hear and speak during the class and a camera so your lecturer and fellow class participants can see you.

Secure online learning environment

The webinar is a secure online environment and only those permitted entry by the lecturer can gain access to the “classroom”. Webinars are recorded during each session and should you miss a session, you can catch up with the recorded session at a later date. You will only be able to access Webinars of the group you are assigned to.

Entry requirements

There are entry criteria available to students with differing qualifications however students must hold a relevant honours degree (at least 2:2) and it is preferable you work within the early childhood workforce.

Some of the modules require an observational visit to a setting offering care and education for children from birth to six-years-old. Where you’re not working directly with children you will need to be able to commit to this component of the programme.

Applicants who do not meet the criteria, may be eligible for advanced entry into the BA Ord or Hons in Early Childhood Studies. This programme is available through Portobello Institute.

Please note places on this course are restricted and places only confirmed once tuition fees have been received. Early Application is advised.

Application dates

Entry to this Masters is by direct application to Portobello Institute.


2 years blended learning.

Enrolment dates

Start Date: 14th October 2023

Post Course Info

Career prospects
As our society has become more diverse, there is a growing awareness of the importance of early years settings and the service provided not just to children and families but also to society as a whole. This has resulted in a growth in the number and variety of job positions available in the sector, some of these are new roles not previously imagined.

Broaden your career opportunities with a Masters

Employers in every sector are raising the educational requirements for emerging roles, the early years sector is not immune. A masters in Early Childhood Studies can open up a range of job opportunities for you both in and out of the early years setting that you may not have previously considered or even been eligible for.

Consider areas of administration, working as part of the inspectorate, tutoring on level 7 degree programmes, policy development, research into the early years sector, working as a Standards Verifier of external results; The opportunities are much wider than you possibly are aware of and all of these opportunities put your expertise and experience of the early years sector to good use, enhancing your career opportunities.

Be a leader of the early years sector

With an MA Early Childhood Studies, you have the opportunity also to lead and enhance the early years sector and gain the recognitions deserved for the early years profession. You will continue to have an impact on children at a critical part in their lives, but you can develop how and where you do this; taking on advisory and consultation roles, lecturing roles and inspectorate roles to lead change in the sector.

Command a higher pay scale

A Masters degree will immediately increase your earning potential due to the wider range of career opportunities that will now be open to you. This Masters in Early Childhood Studies qualification will elevate your employability and give you the opportunity to command a higher pay scale than your less qualified peers.

What will a Masters mean to me in practice?
All of the knowledge you will gain together with the experience you have, you will find beneficial when you are working with children or you have children or grandchildren of your own. Understanding why children behave in a particular way, how to support them during difficult times, being aware of what they are doing and why they do these things. You will see the bigger picture. As you advance through your Masters –everything that you absorb – psychology, research techniques, theory, curriculum design, classroom management, diversity, complexities of childhoods in context – will all come together to give you a well-rounded understanding of childhood learning and development.

Develop your leadership skills for quality provision

You will further develop your skills of reflective practice, leadership, innovation and quality provision. You will continue to develop and strengthen your powers of observation and assessment. Watching and assessing children is a big part of our practice, especially at early childhood level. Assessment of progress in these early stages relies solely on your sense of where their needs lie and will rely on your powers of observation. Your engagement with psychology and child development will enhance this area of your skills, making you a valuable asset to any part of the early years sector. This Masters will help you to become a careful, dispassionate observer of young children, effectively appraising their progress and highlight potential areas of concern.

Exit points on this Masters
After completing the two modules delivered in the first year of this course you will be awarded a Post Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Studies should you wish to exit the programme and not continue to second year. If you wish to exit the programme after completing a further two modules (four in total), you will be awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Studies. Students who complete four modules and the required dissertation project will be awarded a Masters in Early Childhood Studies.

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    Degree - Masters at UK Level 7

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