MU welcomes €3.6m to extend LINC early childhood education programme

Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 16:00

Maynooth University welcomes Government funding of €3.6 million to extend the LINC programme for practicing early childhood educators by a further three years.

The funding is a significant boost for inclusion providing for an extension of three years to the free third-level leadership programme, with an option of a further one-year extension. 

The extension of the programme was announced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Roderic O’Gorman was welcomed by LINC (Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years) consortium.

The awarded tender will facilitate the continued delivery of the specialist level 6 higher education programme for practicing early childhood educators, working in early learning and care (ELC) settings across Ireland.

Announcing the funding, Minister O’Gorman 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’.

The LINC consortium comprises Maynooth University-Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, Mary Immaculate College (MIC), and Early Childhood Ireland.

Welcoming the award on behalf of Maynooth University, Prof Marie Mc Loughlin, Head of the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, said: ‘The LINC programme offers an invaluable opportunity for early childhood educators to engage in high quality professional development which has the potential to transform their practice in the area of inclusive and special education and develop capacity for leadership within early childhood settings for the future”.

Acting LINC Director, Marie Doherty, said: “The extension of the programme further acknowledges the huge contribution the Consortium has made to enhancing the use of innovative practice within early childhood education in Ireland.”

The LINC Programme has been delivered through a blended format in 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 the last four years, over 3,500 early childhood educators have completed the programme and a further 630 places annually will be made available over the next three to ensure that all settings can benefit from the support that an INCO can provide. 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