The Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years (LINC) Consortium, led by Mary Immaculate College (MIC), has been awarded a €3.6 million contract from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) to continue its delivery of the LINC Programme for the next three years, with the option of a further one-year extension. Over 3,500 early childhood educators have completed the programme since it commenced in 2016 and a further 630 places will now be made available annually over the next three years to ensure that all childcare settings can benefit from the support that INclusion Coordinators (INCOs) provide.
Welcoming the continuation of the LINC Programme, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, said, “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. Its continuation is a clear sign of my Department’s commitment to fostering an inclusive culture to help all children to reap the benefits of quality early learning and care. In addition to providing for the training of a further 1,890 Inclusion Coordinators over the next 3 years, I am particularly pleased that my Department is for the first time going to support ongoing CPD opportunities for qualified Inclusion Coordinators.”
Delivered by a consortium led by MIC that includes Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University-Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, this level 6 programme is designed to support early childhood educators create inclusive settings where all children can flourish and achieve their potential.
According to Professor Emer Ring, Dean of Education at MIC, “The impact of the programme in supporting early childhood educators to promote inclusive culture, practice and pedagogy has been simply phenomenal". Commending the LINC Consortium partners, LINC team and the DCYA, she expressed how proud she is to have been involved in the LINC programme since its inception in 2016.
She added, “I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues to support the creation of high-quality early childhood experiences where diversity becomes the norm and I hope to have the opportunity to meet with all of the prospective LINC students in the near future.”
Acting National Director of the LINC Programme, Marie Doherty, noted, “This extension of the programme further acknowledges the huge contribution the LINC 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.”
The LINC Programme has been delivered through a blended format over the past number of years, and has received multiple awards for the innovation, exceptionality and accessibility of the students’ experience. In view of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the LINC Consortium’s concern to prioritise the health and safety of students, their families and communities, the LINC programme will be delivered exclusively online until it is safe to revert to face-to-face sessions. Graduates of the programme qualify to become INclusion Coordinators (INCOs) in their early childhood settings.
In addition to the Level 6 programme, the LINC Consortium is developing a continuing professional development (CPD) programme for INCOs to allow them to continue on their education journey and deepen their knowledge and understanding of leading inclusion in their settings.
The LINC programme will open for applications on the 12 October 2020. Further information can be found at www.lincprogramme.ie.