The Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Certificate in Children’s Play, Learning and Development gives an introduction to study of the sector. It is intended as an Applied General qualification, and is equivalent in size to one A Level. It supports access to a range of higher education courses, possibly but not exclusively in the early years sector, if taken alongside further Level 3 qualifications. No prior study of the sector is needed, but learners will normally have a range of achievement at Level 2 in GCSEs or equivalent qualifications.

Learners will complete 50 hours’ work experience in the sector. Learners taking this qualification will study three mandatory units which cover the following topics:

• Children’s development

• Communication and numeracy 

• Play and learning.

Learners are able to select one optional unit, which will support their progression to specialised degree programmes in the sector, and covers areas such as: 

• Physical development, care and health needs

• Keeping children safe 

• The Early Years Foundation Stage.


This diploma is suitable for staff supporting children in Early Years settings - nurseries and pre-schools, and covers the age range from birth to 5 years.  Level 3 is for those in  a role where they may be either working on their own or supervising others with prior experience of the sector.

Assessment is carried out in the workplace. 

There are a total of 23 mandatory units which are divided into four themes: Theme 1- Health & well-being; Theme 2 -  Legislation, frameworks & professional practice; Theme 3 -  Play, development & learning, getting ready for school; Theme 4 -  Professional development.

Candidates are required to carry out a Longitudinal Study based on two children of different age ranges, over a set period of time.

Entry requirements: GCSE Grade A* - C in maths and English; O'Level Grade A - C, or CSE Grade 1 in maths and English.  Certificates are required as evidence of achievement.

Course duration: 24 months

Attendance at college is 3 days per week. There will be 4 weeks of placement throughout the year. These will be 5 days a week.

The course can be assessed using a variety of assessment methods.