The Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years (LINC) programme has won the prestigious Jennifer Burke Award—an annual accolade which recognises and rewards innovative practice in the areas of teaching and learning.

The LINC Programme is a one-year, Level 6 Special Purpose award delivered by a consortium led by Mary Immaculate College (MIC), which includes Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University-Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education. The course is designed to facilitate practising early years’ educators to promote the inclusion of children with additional needs.

LINC received the award for a submission that highlighted the innovative nature of its framework entitled, Competency-Based Framework ensuring the Inclusion of Children with Additional Needs in Early Years’ Settings. The Competency Framework, Reflections for Inclusion, forms the basis of the programmes student learning experience – from the blended (online and classroom-based) modules, to the one-to-one mentoring session received by each student and to their final portfolio, which enables the student to review their learning and practice in relation to each of the 25 elements under the three pillars of the competency framework – inclusive culture, inclusive pedagogy and inclusive practice. The submission was created by a talented team of Educational Technologists that work on the LINC programme.

Educational Technologist Neil Ryan, Dr Emer Ring of the LINC programme, Fintan Breen National Programme Coordinator of the LINC programme, and Educational Technologist Seona Stapleton receiving the Jennifer Burke award at a ceremony in IT Carlow.

Commenting on the win, Fintan Breen, National Programme Coordinator for the LINC Programme said On behalf of the LINC Consortium, it is an honour to have been awarded the Jennifer Burke Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. This prestigious award is a testament to the innovation throughout the LINC Programme and recognises the work put in by the wider LINC team – including the programme development and implementation teams of academic and support staff. The award recognises their work in enabling an innovative approach to ensure the inclusion of all children in the early years.”

Dr Emer Ring, Head of Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies, at MIC acknowledged that “this award further affirms the commitment to the focus on ‘innovation’ that propels all early childhood care and education programmes at MIC and highlights the benefits of the College’s goal to develop research partnerships and share expertise with colleagues both nationally and internationally.”

A sentiment echoed by Professor Marie Mc Loughlin, Head of the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, Maynooth University who added that “the award acknowledges the huge contribution the consortium has made to enhancing the use of innovative practice within early childhood education in Ireland. It also demonstrates the benefits of drawing together combined knowledge and expertise of a number of organisations, each deeply committed to contributing to the betterment of care and education for children in the early years.” 

Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland stated: “Early Childhood Ireland is proud and delighted that the LINC consortium has received another important education award. It is a very welcome endorsement of the sterling work of the early childhood professionals who participate in the LINC programme. They are wonderful ambassadors who lead the way in ensuring that a quality early years’ experience is available to all young children in Ireland, regardless of their ability, background or location.”

The Jennifer Burke Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning has been awarded annually since 2009 in memory of Jennifer Burke, a well-known and highly regarded colleague of the Irish Learning Technology Community.

The presentation was made to the winners at the Irish Learning Technology Association Annual Conference in IT Carlow on 31 May, 2018.