Minister O’Gorman applauds Early Years Educators and encourages applications for award-winning Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years (LINC) Programme.

630 places available nationwide as the LINC Programme is set to open for applications for the 2024/25 academic year 

Photo: Marta Fernardez of Bilbao Spain pictured celebrating with friends Maria Coy, Yaiza Prieto, Alba Gonzalo and Jose Antonio Romero at the 2023/24 Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years (LINC) programme conferring at Mary Immaculate College.

The Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years (LINC) Programme continues to be a beacon of excellence in early childhood education. Fully funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), the Level 6 Special Purpose Award (Higher Education) will open applications for its ninth year on Tuesday, March 12th at 10am, offering 630 places nationwide.

Welcoming the opening of applications, Roderic O’Gorman TD, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, voiced his admiration for the dedication and commitment of early years educators, affirming, “The LINC Programme has been a key contributor to the continuing success of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) in supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities in early years education. I am greatly appreciative of the excellent work of the LINC team within Mary Immaculate College. I also commend the dedication and commitment of early years educators in creating and fostering inclusive cultures within their services. The LINC Programme has had an extremely positive impact since its inception, and I encourage early years educators to avail of this opportunity.”

Prof. Emer Ring, Dean of Education (Early Childhood and Teacher Education) at Mary Immaculate College, emphasised the immense impact of the LINC Programme, stating,  “Here at Mary Immaculate College, we have been preparing over the past number of months for the reopening of applications for our LINC Level 6 Programme for the 2024/2025 academic year. Together with our Consortium partners, Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University – Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, we are very proud of the achievement of our students on the programme since its commencement in 2016. To date, 5,153 early childhood teachers have graduated from the LINC programme. We know that our graduates who are working as Inclusion Coordinators in their settings are making a real difference in the lives of children, families, and early learning and care settings. We are looking forward to welcoming another cohort of LINC students in Autumn 2024 and continuing the remarkable success of the LINC programme in contributing to creating a more inclusive, just, and equitable society where all children are enabled to achieve their potential.”

Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, acknowledged the positive impact of the LINC Programme on children and families, remarking, “As applications open for the 2024/2025 academic year, we celebrate the award-winning LINC Programme’s positive impact on children and families across Ireland. Since its inception, the LINC team has supported numerous Early Years educators on their path to becoming inclusion coordinators, shaping more inclusive settings where children can achieve their full potential. We look forward to following the journey of the next generation of graduates and wish them the very best for the coming year.”

Niamh Fortune, Head of Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education in Maynooth University, expressed her delight at the opening of applications, saying, “Colleagues in the Froebel Department in Maynooth University are delighted that the LINC Programme will open applications for the level 6 qualification. This is a wonderful programme to support the inclusion of all children in the early years. It addresses the need for continuous professional development in the area of inclusion.”

Commenting on the opening of applications, Shirley Heaney, National Coordinator of the LINC Programme, stated, “As a member of the LINC Programme Team since its inception in 2016, I have had the pleasure of witnessing the outstanding enthusiasm from our sector for the LINC Programme, demonstrating their commitment to building an inclusive society where all children can flourish. Our students and graduates play a vital role in supporting and advocating for the inclusion of all children in their settings, and through leading an inclusive culture, practice, and pedagogy, they enrich the lives of children and their families daily. I am delighted that the LINC programme has been extended for another year and look forward to working with the DCEDIY, the LINC Consortium, and the LINC Team in the year ahead. On behalf of the LINC Team, we eagerly anticipate welcoming our new students this September.”

The LINC Programme has been celebrated for its excellence since its inception, securing prestigious awards such as the Best Online Learning Experience Award at the Education Awards in both 2017 and 2020. It was honoured with a Highly Commended AONTAS STAR Award in the Social Inclusion Category in 2021. Additionally, the LINC Programme has recently been shortlisted for three Education Awards in 2024: Best Marketing and Communications Team; Best Online Learning Experience; and Best Research Project. These accolades affirm the programme’s steadfast commitment to excellence and innovation.

Early years educators who are interested in participating in the fully-funded LINC Programme are strongly encouraged to apply by the application deadline on Thursday, April 11th at 4pm. Further information on the application process can be found on https://lincprogramme.ie/apply-now 



For further information please contact:
Helena Thompson
Marketing, Communications & Recruitment Officer, LINC Programme
T: +353 86 152 5625
E: Helena.Thompson@mic.ul.ie

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