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Press Release

Minister Zappone announces up to 1,150 free places on the Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years (LINC) Higher Education Programme

Published: 5 March 2019
From: Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Up to 1,150 free training places are being made available to pre-school practitioners to ensure their pre-school services are inclusive and accessible to children with disabilities, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD.

Applications opened on 4 March 2019 for the fourth intake onto the Leadership for Inclusion (LINC) higher education programme for pre-school practitioners which will commence this September. The LINC programme is a key initiative under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) for pre-school children.

The LINC programme is funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. It is delivered by a consortium, led by Mary Immaculate College, Limerick and in partnership with Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University’s Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education.

Welcoming the announcement of the fourth intake onto the LINC programme, the Minister said:

"At the heart of AIM is the fostering of an inclusive culture and inclusive practices within pre-schools which, once embedded, will be sustained. For this reason a significant part of AIM focuses on training, upskilling and mentoring staff to enhance their skills and confidence to support children with disabilities. There is a strong focus in the LINC programme on the education of inclusion leaders within services, who will provide leadership and mentoring within their own services and in this way, support wider and longer-lasting improvements in practice."

Across the country, over 1,250 graduates from the first two years of the programme are now performing a new leadership role of Inclusion Coordinator within their pre-school setting. This attracts an increase in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting. LINC graduates also meet the educational requirement to perform the role of ECCE room leader within their pre-school setting.

LINC’s National Programme Coordinator, Mr Fintan Breen, outlined how the LINC programme contains online and classroom based sessions in order to ensure a flexible and quality learning experience, enabling pre-school practitioners in full-time employment to participate in the programme. He added that LINC is an award-winning programme, having recently won the Student Engagement and Communications Award at the Education Awards 2019 which represents the third award for the LINC programme since it was established in 2016. The Access and Inclusion Model has also won a number of national awards.

The application deadline for applying for a place on the LINC programme is Thursday, 4 April 2019 and further information on how to apply can be found on www.lincprogramme.ie.


Notes to the Editor:

Access Inclusion Model (AIM)

AIM supports children with a disability to access and meaningfully participate in free pre-school education provided under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme. Its goal is to support pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience for children and families.

AIM is a child-centred model, comprising seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs and strengths of the child and the pre-school setting.

AIM Level 1 seeks to strengthen and embed An Inclusive Culture in pre-school settings. This level includes a National Inclusion Charter underpinned by updated and strengthened Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines and a nationwide training programme for pre-school practitioners. The higher education programme, Leadership for Inclusion for Early Years (LINC), was established in 2016 and graduates from this Programme are trained for the role of Inclusion Co-ordinator in their pre-school setting.

AIM Level 2 seeks to ensure Information on pre-school services and supports for Parents and Practitioners is accessible, clear, consistent and up to date (see www.aim.gov.ie ).

AIM Level 3 seeks to further develop A Qualified and Confident Workforce through a multi-annual training programme for pre-school practitioners, including Lámh training, online training in sensory processing and the Hanen Programme – Teacher Talk.

AIM Level 4 provides access to EARLY YEARS Educational Advice and Support from a team of dedicated Early Years Specialists.

AIM Level 5 provides access to equipment, appliances and minor alterations grants for pre-school settings.

AIM Level 6 provides access to therapeutic intervention where this is critical to enable the child to be enrolled, and fully participate, in the ECCE Programme.

AIM Level 7 provides additional assistance in the pre-school room where this is critical to ensuring a child’s participation in the ECCE Programme. This consists of financial support to the pre-school provider, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room or to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room. AIM Level 7 assistance is a shared resource for the pre-school setting.

Since its introduction in 2016, AIM has provided over 8,500 children with disabilities with over 18,500 targeted supports across over 2,900 pre-schools. Thousands more pre-school children are benefitting from the universal supports provided under AIM.

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