Minister urges staff in Early Learning and Care settings to avail of free,

award-winning inclusion programme


660 places available nationwide as LINC Programme set to open for applications


LINC Graduates Helen O’Riordan and Niamh Flemming pictured outside Caherelly Kids Pre-school and After-School, Caherelly Co Limerick.


The Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years (LINC) programme—a free, higher education fully-online Level 6 programme designed to enhance and support the inclusion of children with additional needs in early learning and care (ELC) settings—opens for applications on Monday 14 March 2022 and welcoming this announcement was the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman T.D.

“The LINC Programme has been a key contributor to the success of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) in supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities in the ECCE programme,” he said, “I am hugely appreciative of the excellent work of the LINC team and of the commitment of early years educators in fostering an inclusive culture in their services. The impact of the LINC programme since its inception has been extremely positive and I encourage early years educators to avail of this opportunity.”

The programme, established in 2016, is offered by a consortium led by Mary Immaculate College and including Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University – Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education. It is part of a Government commitment to the provision of high quality education and training in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education and was introduced as part of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) in 2016.

The LINC Programme will be delivered wholly online for the 2022/2023 academic year with 660 places available nationwide. This will ensure that eligible staff who work in full-time employment will be able to engage with this important continuing professional development (CPD) programme.

Commenting on the opening of applications, Shirley Heaney, LINC National Coordinator said: “Since the beginning of the LINC Programme we have seen great enthusiasm from the Early Learning and Care sector to demonstrate their commitment to the inclusion of all children. We are extremely proud of our graduates and the work they are doing across Ireland, which is focused on promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in their setting. We look forward to welcoming our new students this September.”

The programme has achieved significant success since its inception, twice winning the Best Online Learning Experience Award at the Education Awards in 2017 and 2020, and last year receiving a Highly Commended AONTAS STAR Award in the Social Inclusion Category.

Starting this September, eligible staff members in ELC settings will once again have the opportunity to participate in the programme which is fully-funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.  Graduates of the programme can take up a leadership role of Inclusion Coordinator within their ELC setting.

The application deadline for the LINC Programme is Friday 8 April 2022 and further information on how to apply can be found on www.lincprogramme.ie

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