Minister Zappone announces up to 1,200 free places on leadership for inclusion programme


Free Inclusion Training for Childcare 

Minister Zappone announces up to 1,200 free places on leadership for inclusion programme 

“Investing in childcare personnel delivers quality accessible services for children, parents and families”

Friday 9th March, 2018

Up to 1,200 free training places are being made available to  pre-school practitioners to ensure their free pre-school services are inclusive and accessible to children with disabilities, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.  

Applications will open on 12 March 2018 for the third intake onto the Leadership for Inclusion (LINC) higher education programme for pre-school practitioners which will commence this September. 

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

Minister Zappone welcomed the announcement of the third intake onto the LINC Programme, noting that:  
‘Since the introduction of AIM we have made great strides to ensure children with disabilities can participate in free pre-school education alongside their friends. The provision of high quality education and training to upskill pre-school practitioners through this award winning Programme has been central to our success. Since this Programme was first launched, approximately 750 graduates have taken on the role of Inclusion Coordinator in their setting, a further 850 students are expected to graduate later this year and up to 1,200 places will be offered for new enrolments.” 

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 attend this important continuing professional development (CPD) programme. According to Mr Fintan Breen, LINC National Programme Coordinator ‘pre-school practitioners have engaged enthusiastically with this Programme over the last two years and we are delighted with the impact that LINC is having on children, families and communities.

Across the country, almost 750 graduates from the first intake are now performing a new leadership role of Inclusion Coordinator within their pre-school setting. This attracts an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting.  

The application deadline for the LINC Programme is Thursday, 12 April 2018 and further information on how to apply can be found on



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. 

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. A new higher education programme, Leadership for Inclusion for Early Years (LINC), has also been developed and graduates from this Programme are trained for the role of Inclusion Co-ordinator in their pre-school setting. Having won the award for ‘best online learning experience’ at the Education Awards in 2017, LINC has recently been shortlisted for a AONTAS STAR Award 2018. 

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

Level 3 seeks to further develop A Qualified and Confident Workforce through a multi-annual training programme for pre-school practitioners, including Lámh training, sensory integration training and the Hanen Programme for Early Childhood Educators - Learning Language and Loving It and Teacher Talk.

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

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

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. 

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 additional capitation can be used to:
a. reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room by enrolling less children without financial loss to the pre-school setting, or 
b. increase the adult ratio in the pre-school room by buying in additional assistance.