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Introduction and guidance

Introduction and guidance

Supporting children’s development is an introductory course for anyone who is interested in children’s development, especially support staff in schools, such as teaching assistants. It builds on your knowledge and skills to develop a deeper understanding of children from the early years to school leavers. You will be introduced to some core ideas surrounding development and learning, behaviour, special needs and disabilities.

Each section of the course offers short, interactive quizzes to test your knowledge.

Successful completion of the course will enable you to achieve an online badge and a statement of participation. This course does not carry any formal academic credit. However, it does provide a way to help you progress from informal to formal learning.

Guidance for accessing alternative formats

You can download this section of the course to study offline. The alternative formats offered that will best support offline study include Word, PDF and ebook/Kindle versions of the materials. The other alternative formats (SCORM, RSS, IMS, HTML and XML) are useful to those who want to export the course to host on another learning management system.

Although you can use the alternative formats offline for your own convenience, you do need to work through the online version of the course for full functionality (such as accessing links, using the audio and video materials, and completing the quizzes). Please use the downloads as convenient tools for studying the materials when away from the internet and return to the online version to ensure that you can complete all activities that lead to earning the badge.

In order to access full functionality in the online course, we recommend that you use the latest internet browsers such as Internet Explorer 9 and above and Google Chrome version 49 and above.

If you have difficulties in streaming the audio-visual content, please make use of the available transcripts.

Structure of the course

This course has five sections, with each section focusing on a particular aspect of supporting children’s development.

  1. Developing and managing relationships  looks at the stages of child development through the use of case studies and an introduction to child development theory. It considers the roles of family, as well as support workers, in relation to this development.
  2. Encouraging reading considers how children learn to read and develop literacy skills from when they are babies to secondary school.
  3. Behavioural management looks at possible causes of children and young people’s behaviour and some common strategies for managing behaviour. 
  4. Special needs looks at what we mean by special educational needs and disability (SEND) and the role of teaching assistants in supporting children with SEND.
  5. Professional development plan (PDP) looks at the importance of reflecting on your own practice and how drawing up a PDP can help you to think about your personal and career development.

Together they amount to approximately 15 hours of study time. Each section has a mixture of reading, video clips, activities and quizzes that will help you to engage with the course content.

A further section, Taking my learning further, will enable you to reflect upon what you have learned within this course. It also directs you to relevant websites and resources, which further relate to the development of your learning and career prospects.

Once you have studied a section, you will be asked to complete a short online quiz of no more than five questions per section. This helps to test and embed your learning.

Supporting children’s development is designed to allow you to dip in and out of the resources, so that you can study in small chunks to fit around your work and life commitments. If you choose to complete all sections of Supporting children’s development and collect the badge, you can download a statement of participation that recognises your achievement. You may find this useful to show your employer as evidence of your learning. For more information on how to obtain your badge, read What is a badge?

Navigating the website

To find your way around this course, you simply click on the links. The home page has links to all the sections, quizzes and relevant resources. When you are in a section, the left-hand menu has links to that section’s topics and its associated quiz. The menu also has links to the other sections of Supporting children’s development and to the resources section.

If you feel unsure, practise hovering your mouse over a link in the menu and clicking on it. This is the easiest way to move from page to page. You can also click on the ‘Next: … ’ link at the end of each page of text. Don’t worry about breaking a link or damaging the web page – you won’t. Have a go as soon as you can before you begin your study.

Why study this course?

Jennifer Colloby, one of the contributors to this course, will now give you a bit of background into why you might like to study this course.

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If you are already a teaching assistant, you will find it helpful to consider how your role and experience match the topics covered in the course. The guided activities throughout this course will help you to learn and reflect on your own role. If you are in a paid teaching assistant role, completion of Supporting children’s development will allow you to demonstrate to your employer your understanding of children’s development. Your employer might also ask you to study this course as part of your induction into a new role, or for your professional development.

Throughout the course you will find activities that ask you to write down your thoughts and feelings based on the issues being discussed. There will be a few simple questions that encourage you to focus your thinking. It would be helpful for you to spend some time thinking about what you have learned within each section, and how it relates to your current role.

These activities are not there to test you, but designed to help you reflect in more detail upon what you have read. These activity spaces are entirely for your own use to help you recognise what you have learned, even if you haven’t yet encountered it within your role. Nobody else will see what you write here. The aim is to help you become more reflective, by bringing together aspects of both your personal and professional experience so you can review and learn from them.

Learning outcomes

After completing this course you will:

  • have gained an insight into the varying perspectives of children from early years through to secondary school
  • be able to reflect on personal experience and practice, identify strengths and weaknesses, and apply this to your practice issues
  • understand how some theories attempt to explain children’s development
  • be able to reflect on the value of the work of teaching assistants, the support skills involved, and think about your future role.

Before you begin

Spend a few moments thinking about your current learning needs and opportunities by doing Activity 1 below.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Below is a link to a short questionnaire to get you thinking about:

  • What are your current priorities for learning?
  • How does studying a short online course fit into your everyday lifestyle?
  • What goals are you hoping to achieve by studying this course?

Hopefully, by the end of the course you will be able to reflect on your answers.

We hope you enjoy the course!


This free course was written by Isobel Shelton and Sue McKeogh (staff tutors at The Open University). Contributions were made by Katie Harrison (teacher and member of the ATL Union).

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence.

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence (not subject to Creative Commons Licence). Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this free course:

Every effort has been made to contact copyright owners. If any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.


Course introductory video © The Open University