Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Volunteers wanted to pilot Physical Development course

Volunteers wanted to pilot Physical Development course

Group of children playingThe production team of a new course are calling on the early years workforce to engage in the first presentation of its new online physical development (PD) course that may be accessed from Monday 27 July. Hosted on the FutureLearn platform, ‘Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood’ is a free-to-access course, developed by The Open University in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) and funded by Health Education England. The course aims to show how to ensure young children do enough physical activity and how that activity improves child mental and physical health development.

The 18-hour course is divided into three-hour sessions over six weeks, covering six related areas. Each week includes a balance of essential underpinning knowledge and practical advice, with opportunities throughout for students to reflect on their learning with others. Dr Jackie Musgrave, Programme Lead for Early Childhood at the OU and one of the course creators says: ‘The aim is to establish a baseline level of knowledge on which further learning may be built and, in time, to establish a vibrant and supportive community of early years PD specialists.”

"The overall health and well-being of our young children is of increasing concern,’ added Dr Lala Manners, who is director of Active Matters and was involved in developing the course. ‘Their level of physical activity remains stubbornly low, obesity rates in this age group are high and opportunities for children to be physically active are compromised by curricular demands, enticing technology and the lack of safe and accessible outside spaces."

Angela Baker, Deputy Director, Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England and co-author commented: “Child minders, day care staff and nursery nurses are key to the healthy development of our children; our most valuable resource. We have to ensure that the people we entrust with this precious gift have the right knowledge and skills to allow children to flourish.  Over the years, the way children spend their early years has changed and it’s time to look at those changes and ensure children are getting the best start in life.” 

“The aim of the course is to give those staff the right knowledge and information they need to make the best out of the resources which they have.  I am committed to making sure those working in childcare have the knowledge they need to do the best for every child within their care and this course is a starting point. I want to thank them for what they do and hope this course will help them, where they need to, to do things differently.”

Providing feedback

The course creators are seeking the support of practitioners to take part in the first presentation, providing feedback to help improve the programme. Dr Musgrave explained, ‘We want this course to be as useful and effective as possible and to ensure that it meets the needs of practitioners who are seeking knowledge about promoting the physical activity and development of babies and young children. To do this, we need feedback so that we can make any recommended amendments. We will be asking participants to complete a survey at the end of the course that will give us the feedback we need to make any improvements.

A collaborative effort

The course development has been a true collaboration. Dr Lala Manners from Active Matters brought the idea to the OU and Angela Baker from Public Health England procured funding from Health Education England. Dr Jackie Musgrave said: “We are incredibly proud of the MOOC and hope that it will make a positive difference to our children’s health. I am grateful to the early years practitioners who contributed to the content of the course so generously.  It has been a pleasure to work with several OU colleagues during the production of this long overdue course; Dr Ben Langdown from the Sport and Fitness team, Dr Lucy Rodriguez-Leon and Dr Jo Josephidou from the Early Childhood team.  We are also grateful to our colleagues in OMIL, Aniis Leneve, Peter Reeves and Martin Chilverton, as well as others who have worked closely and supportively with us during the production period.”


Visit the course page on Futurelearn.




Six themes

The course’s six themes are: 

  • Growth and physical development – looks at the difference between growth and physical development and how these are measured from birth to aged five; what support and advice is available to parents and carers; and the life factors that support or compromise children’s growth and PD.
  • Body systems, senses and physical development – covers the development of young children’s senses and body systems; the importance of these working together to ensure smooth overall development; and how to provide sensory-rich environments for babies and young children
  • Supporting the development of children’s movement skills – explores how to develop fine and gross motor skills and how these may be best supported in practice; how children may progress from the initial experience of a new skill to a mature and fluent version; and why early movement experience provides the critical foundations for later successful and enjoyable engagement at school
  • Movement and learning – explores how movement skills underpin and support learning across all developmental domains; how these skills emerge according to children’s unique inner timetable; the adult role in supporting children’s physical development; and how typical patterns of movement behaviour emerge in each age group
  • Physical development and play – looks at the importance of physical play in supporting children’s physical development; how risky and rough-and-tumble play can be promoted safely and effectively; the environments that best support physical play; ‘movement-rich’ environments and the adult role; and ways to encourage local collaboration and community engagement
  • Movement and health – giving advice on how children with underlying conditions or particular medical needs, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, visual impairment, may be supported in their movement experience and fully included in all physical activities; what support is available; and how to engage parents and carers proactively in their children’s physical development.




Are you already an OU student?

Go to StudentHome

Request your prospectus

Request a prospectus icon

Explore our qualifications and courses by requesting one of our prospectuses today.

Request prospectus