Developing flexible learning degree programmes for early childhood practitioners: using students’ perceptions to inform programme development and promote widening access.

Glenda Wyn Tinney, Ann-Marie Gealy


For over 10 years the School of Early Childhood, UWTSD has developed undergraduate flexible route degree programmes, allowing students to maintain employment while studying fulltime. The programmes are innovative in terms of modes of delivery and a focus on bilingual / Welsh medium provision. Questionnaire research with cohorts of School of Early Childhood, UWTSD students undertaking flexible route programmes in 2009 and 2014 provided both quantitative and qualitative data highlighting students’ perceptions and experiences of accessing higher education provision. The data collected indicated that students perceived barriers and challenges when retuning to higher education study similar to those discussed in widening access research literature including a lack of confidence and financial constraints. The feedback from the questionnaires also provided suggestions for how admissions staff and lecturers could support these students to access flexible provision including the development of friendly, individualized admissions days, targeting promotional material at childcare and early years settings and being sensitive to the particular needs and challenges of studying alongside work and family commitments. Students also provided suggestions on how to improve or develop programme delivery.

These findings have allowed School of Early Childhood staff to consider how the students’ experiences shape the success of the flexible route programmes and to develop systems to respond to the needs highlighted by students and thus to promote widening access to education by non-traditional groups. This research has also encouraged the development of new innovative programme models.

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