Bachelor of Education (Honours) in Early Education and Care

  • NFQ Level 8
  • Points Required 283*
  • Course Code AU919
  • Award Honours Degree Abinitio
  • Duration 4

Course Summary

The overarching aim of this degree is to foster and develop the knowledge, skills, competencies, and values of emerging Early Years Professionals to be independent and professional educators. The programme aims to meet the criteria for initial professional education, forming graduates who have the expertise to nurture and enrich infants' and young children's lives in early years learning and care settings.

Combining theory with professional practice, this applied degree supports graduates to become skilled, competent, ethical, and reflective practitioners. The programme provides a solid and broad foundation for supporting the child's life-long, life-wide learning experiences within the important contexts of the family, setting, community, and partnerships.

ATU Sligo is one of just three higher education institutes in Ireland to offer a Bachelor of Education in Early Education and Care, as opposed to a Bachelor of Arts more commonly found.


Within the Bachelor of Education (Hons) in Early Education and Care, the programme believes that every child is unique, every child has rights and agency, is both a knowledge holder and creator. These features are considered and fostered throughout the programme, focusing on the student developing knowledge, skills, competencies, and learning experiences that will support, nurture, educate and care for the health and wellbeing of each child.

The first two years of the degree introduce students to key theoretical concepts, knowledge and practices with the early education and care field of study. As students progress through their studies into the final two years of the programme, their ongoing skills, and competencies, particularly in leadership and management, are emphasised. The cross-disciplinary approach within these years strengthens and deepens knowledge. Students evolve as co-creators of knowledge into a growing community of practice within the programmes teaching and learning context.


Students gain an introduction to topics such as nurturing creativity and playfulness, children's play and pedagogy, early years language, literacy and numeracy. A STEAM module is also introduced which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and maths to develop children's natural skills as they explore, play, and try new things. 


Students study early childhood law, promoting health nutrition and physical activity in ELC settings as they develop their understanding of the national curriculum and quality frameworks in Ireland. A 13-week work placement gives students the opportunity to work as part of a team in an early childhood setting.


Professional leadership and advocacy for early learning and care environments, social policy and child welfare and protection are some of the many modules studied in Year 3. Conscious of the need to improve the time children spend outdoors, a module in outdoor and nature based early childhood education and care is included. Another 13-week placement takes place in Year 3 in learning environments aligned to the needs of the programme.


The final year brings together all the learning to date and develops the students understanding of philosophy, professional management and the emerging early childhood educator. A capstone project allows students to apply their learnings and undertake an inquiry project related to the ELC sector supported by supervision from a lecturer.


A Digital Badge is embedded in this programme. This equips graduates to work in a world of technology based on the principles of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) where we see every child as a unique capable individual, which is the lens and perspective we aim for our graduates to bring to their future careers.


This firm academic foundation is cemented by practice placements, which provide essential opportunities to link theory to practice under the supervision of a proficient practitioner. Students undertake a thirteen-week placement in both Year 2 and Year 3.


Students have the opportunity to complete a research project, which allows them to consider all their learning as a project of interest to them.


This programme is approved by the Qualifications Advisory Board (instituted to review Level 7 and Level 8 degree programmes for the Early Learning and Care Sector) as meeting the requirements of the Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines standards.

Entry Requirements

Entry requirements for CAO courses at ATU Sligo are available for download below:

Mathematics is not a requirement for this degree.


All entrants to this degree will be required to undergo vetting by An Garda Siochána. Students with a criminal conviction in Ireland or elsewhere may adversely impact on their ability to undertake a professional placement or to secure employment in the field of early childhood care and education.


A student on the BEd (Hons) in Early Education and Care must be Fit to Practice. ATU Sligo guidance on Fitness to Practice can be found within its policy.  Students will be required to read this Policy and acknowledge that they have read and understood this requirement.

Career Opportunities

With a Bachelor of Education (Honours) in Early Education and Care, there is focus on the education and the learning aspects of early childhood and care. This means our graduates can access a range of professional career opportunities including working in early childhood settings such as crèches, nurseries, playgroups, pre-schools, and also primary schools.

Graduates are also employed in community development roles, county childcare committees, Tusla - The Child and Family Agency, community-based family support programmes and in specialist areas such as additional needs services.

Graduates are prepared for the leadership and management to set up their own practice or to manage an existing one. They are equipped to undertake an advocacy role in the national, global, and future context of children's lives. Their understanding of the complexity and richness of the child's lived experiences, in various contexts, will help lead the development and evaluation of children's holistic care, play, and learning experiences.

Some of our past graduates are working in the following roles - Early Years Learning Manager, Early Years Inspector, National Aistear Coordinator, Family Support Worker, Manager Family Resource Centre, AIM Coordinator, Community Service Manager, FETAC Tutor, Project Worker, Youth Worker and Primary School Teachers.


There has never been a better time to consider a career in the early learning and care (ELC) sector, as at national level, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., launched Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028. This report strengthens the ongoing process of professionalisation for those working in the ELC and school-age childcare (SAC). This will directly impact on creating a positive, rewarding career for the graduates of the Bachelor of Education (Hons) in Early Education and Care in ATU Sligo.

The Nurturing Skills report sets out a series of actions to achieve the workforce commitments in First 5, the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, including:

  • Achieving a graduate-led workforce in ELC by 2028, with new financial supports to assist Early Years Educators to study while continuing to work in the sector;
  • Supporting School-Age Childcare Practitioners to meet new qualification requirements that will be introduced incrementally over the coming years;
  • Development of a career framework and strengthening career pathways, including new supports for leadership development;
  • Building a national infrastructure for continuing professional development for the sector;
  • Supporting staff recruitment, retention and diversity in the workforce.

Actions in Nurturing Skills to develop career pathways, promote careers in the sector and support staff recruitment will complement efforts under way to improve pay and conditions for the future graduates in this area.

Further Study

Students may apply to progress to the MA in Leadership and Advocacy in Early Childhood in ATU Sligo or other opportunities in the wider ATU. Students also have the opportunity to apply to undertake post-graduate awards in Primary Education, Social Work, Community Development and many other fields.

Graduates may also undertake postgraduate study in psychology, disability studies, childhood studies and play therapy.


One of the very few positive aspects of Covid-19 was the opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their children and experience the joy, creativity, fun and, at times, challenges of providing care and learning for them.

“I believe this insight into the role and responsibility of all Early Learning and Care professionals by parents and the wider community, will create a greater understanding of the importance of valuing and appropriately remunerating staff who provide such a vital service for our society” commented Roisin McGlone, lecturer on the accredited Bachelor of Education (Honours) Early Education and Care.

ATU Sligo has been successfully delivering the BA in Early Childhood Care and Education since 2006 working in partnership with Early Learning and Care services throughout Ireland and is listed on the Department of Education Quality Advisory Board approved programmes. However, in recent years the ELC sector has been advocating for increased recognition of the importance of their role linked to the multiple complex responsibilities of providing the highest quality services to ensure children’s learning, development and well being.

Responding to the dynamic needs of children and their families and to support the evolving ELC sector, ATU Sligo developed the Bachelor of Education honours degree programme focusing on the early education and care needs of children from birth to six years of age.

In all aspects of the Bachelor of Education programme, our students, the future Early Years Educators, are encouraged to develop their individual leadership capacity to work effectively with children and their families, responding to the needs of each unique child.

“Leaders in early years have to work in partnership with parents to create the best possible provision for children, but also have to inspire their staff team, create positive work environments, engage staff in decision making and encourage reflective practice,” says Ms McGlone.

Did you know?

ATU Sligo is one of just three higher education institutes in Ireland to offer a Bachelor of Education in Early Education and Care, as opposed to a Bachelor of Arts more commonly found.

This programme benefits from a state-of-the-art early years skills laboratory, outdoor learning spaces and two creative practice spaces. Students undertake many off-site learning experiences locally, nationally and internationally.

There is a 13-week placement that takes place in Year 2 and Year 3 in professional learning environments.

A Digital Badge is embedded in this degree. This will equips graduates to work in a world of technology based on the principles of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) where we see every child as a unique capable individual, which is the lens and perspective we aim for our graduates to bring to their future careers.

Students have the opportunity to complete a research project, which allows them to consider all their learning into a project of interest to them.

This programme is approved by the Qualifications Advisory Board (instituted to review Level 7 and Level 8 Degree Programmes for the Early Learning and Care Sector) as meeting the requirements of the Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines standards.


"The versatility of studying Early Education and Care at ATU Sligo is what makes the degree so special. The learning, skills and competencies this degree provide, sets you up for numerous career choices. It really is a degree that can be applied to many future careers with children. Knowing that you can help shape the healthy development and learning of children aged 0-6 is very rewarding.

ATU Sligo made it possible to pursue my dream career. Having finished my final year, I am now in Liverpool undertaking a teaching assistant role before completing my PGCE in Primary Education at Edge Hill University. The four years at ATU Sligo have allowed me to take the next step towards the career I really want."

Kathleen Mc Fadden, BEd (Hons) in Early Education and Care graduate and completing a PGCE in Primary Education

"The best thing about this degree is the excellent work placement opportunities. In Year 2, I was placed in a Montessori Creche. During this work placement, I got a great insight into the care of young children and learnt about the Montessori curriculum. During Year 3, I was placed in a Primary School. Here I learnt about the education system and curriculum for primary schools. I also got a great insight and experience into working with children who have additional needs.

I really enjoyed modules such as Psychology, Management and Leadership, and Creative Practice. Psychology taught me about the development of a child and how to carry out regular observations to ensure they are meeting the milestones for their age. During Management and Leadership, I learnt about how a setting is managed and what skills and qualities make an excellent leader. During creative practice, I learnt about activities that can be taught to children, through the use of art, play, drama and nature.

After I completed my final exams, I secured a position as a Special Needs Assistant in a primary school. I am working with a child who has autism. I plan on furthering my studies next year and start a Professional Master of Education (PME) in order to become a Primary School Teacher."

Kyle Kilkenny, BEd (Hons) in Early Education and Care graduate and currently working as a Special Needs Assistant

Course Format

Semester 1

Childhood 1: Sociology and Childhood05
Nurturing Creativity and Playfulness10
Children's Play and Pedagogy05
Relational, Nurturing and Caring Pedagogy05
Inclusive Practice1: Intercultural Learning05

Semester 2

Early Years Language, Literacy and Numeracy05
Child Development 105
Quality in Irish ECEC05
Children's Health, Safety and Wellbeing05
Curriculum Planning, Assessment and Documentation 1: Aistear05

Semester 3

Early Childhood Law05
Curriculum Planning, Assessment and Documentation 205
Promoting Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity in ELC Settings05
Childhood 2: Repositioning Childhoods05
Child Development 205

Semester 4

ECEC Practice Placement Year 230

Semester 5

Professional Leadership and Advocacy for Early Learning and Care Environments05
Pedagogical Approaches and Practices of Early Childhood05
Outdoor and Nature-Based Early Childhood Education and Care05
Inclusive Practice 2 : Disability, Policy & Design05
Social Policy of Early Childhood05
Child Welfare and Protection05

Semester 6

ECEC Practice Placement Year 330

Semester 7

Philosophy and Early Learning and Care05
Childhood 3: Multiple Childhoods05
Curriculum and Pedagogy10
The Emerging Early Childhood Educator05
Child Centred Practitioner Research05

Semester 8

Working in Partnership in the Early Learning and Care Sector05
Professional Management for Early Learning and Care environments05
Implementing Early Learning & Care Policy in Practice05
Supporting Transitions in the Early Years05
Capstone Project10