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Youth justice: theory, research and practice

This module is designed for both people working in youth justice and those with an interest in this area. It explores the relationship between theory, research and practice, and how these impact on young people within the justice system. If you’re working (or you intend to work) as a volunteer or professional, you’ll be able to apply your learning directly, and to improve your practice and that of your agency or team. If not, you’ll gain valuable insight into the policy and debate within youth justice and associated services.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
2 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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This was the final course within the Youth Justice-Foundation Degree. I really enjoyed this course and gained a lot of...
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What you will study

The module will give you a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the way in which theory influences both policy and practice in the youth justice system. The module explores the social construction of youth and crime, and traces a number of responses to youth offending. Issues such as diversion, restorative justice and the politics of incarceration are explored in the context of the youth justice system in England and Wales. With reference to the Risk Factor Prevention Paradigm (RFPP) the module examines the nature of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative. Finally, the module examines some alternative approaches to youth justice using comparative analysis. By the end of the module you will be expected to have a broad understanding of the overarching knowledge necessary to practice as a reflective practitioner.

You will study five blocks, which are as follows:

  • Block 1 – Crime, youth and childhood – understanding theory and research
  • Block 2 – Explaining and responding to youth offending
  • Block 3 – Transitions: child development and the models of youth justice practice
  • Block 4 – Evaluating the evidence
  • Block 5 – Making sense of it all.

The module will use audio and visual material to enhance an investigation into a number of theoretical frameworks.

You will learn

Some of the learning outcomes for this module include:

  • A knowledge and understanding of the theoretical bases for youth justice work, including theories of: crime, crime prevention and the construction of ‘anti-social behaviour’.
  • A knowledge and understanding of the theoretical concepts that relate to childhood, identity, youth and ‘troubled’ youth, ‘risk’, children’s rights and responsibilities; child and adolescent development.
  • An understanding of the empirical and conceptual basis of the youth justice system in England and in Wales and the values on which they are based with reference to both geographic and historical comparators.
  • Knowledge of the function and operation of the youth justice system in England and Wales within the wider context of services for children and their families.
  • The interpretation of evaluation and research data including qualitative and quantitative data.
  • To be able to constructively reflect upon and plan for your own continuing personal and professional development.

Outside the UK

The module is for students working in England and Wales. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. There are also five online tutorials and two day-schools which it is recommended that you attend.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

You must submit the end-of-module assessment (EMA) online.

Future availability

Youth justice: theory, research and practice starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2020.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    If you are currently working in a Youth Offending Team and you would like to be sponsored for this module you should liaise with your manager about potential sponsorship.

    Although this is an open access module, you would be better served if you have background knowledge, and preferably experience, in youth justice.

    You are not required to have done any prior study, but please bear in mind that this is an OU level 2 module.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2020.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 16/09/2019.

    What's included

    Module guide, assessment guide, five study blocks, two source books, two DVDs and a website.

    You will need

    A DVD player.

    Access to a digital camera (or mobile phone with a digital camera).

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K209 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.