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

Tuesday 5th March 2019

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.

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


See the original announcement on the DCYA Website.