Minister Zappone Hails “Significant Impact” of inclusion programme delivered by Mary Immaculate College led consortium

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Pictured (L-R) were Fintan Breen, National Programme Coordinator LINC Programme with Minister Katherine Zappone TD and Karen Lynch, Manager and Inclusion Coordinator, Playmates, Navan, Co. Meath. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
Pictured (L-R) were Fintan Breen, National Programme Coordinator LINC Programme with Minister Katherine Zappone TD and Karen Lynch, Manager and Inclusion Coordinator, Playmates, Navan, Co. Meath. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD, officially launched the interim evaluation of the LINC Programme at the Headquarters of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs today.

The evaluation’s findings demonstrate how LINC has become an agent for change in Irish pre-schools, promoting the inclusion of all children.

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The LINC Programme is a one-year Level 6 Special Purpose award funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and delivered by a consortium led by Mary Immaculate College (MIC), which includes Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University-Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education.

The course is designed to facilitate practising early childhood teachers to promote the inclusion of children with additional needs.

The interim evaluation highlights the success of LINC over its first two years of operation and finds in particular that it has been successful in terms of the number of pre-schools that have engaged with the programme.

It is estimated that, by its conclusion, approximately 3,500 early childhood teachers will have graduated from LINC, ensuring a more inclusive environment for children across 83% of pre-schools offering the free preschool (ECCE) programme in Ireland.

Welcoming the findings of the interim evaluation, the minister said, “The LINC programme informs and challenges learners’ attitudes and values, leading to increased professionalism and knowledge that improves the inclusive culture and practice in Early Learning and Care settings. It is clear from the results of this interim evaluation that the programme is very highly valued by both participants and employers and is likely to have a significant impact on the inclusion of children with a disability.”

Commenting on behalf of the LINC Steering Group, Fintan Breen, National Programme Coordinator for the LINC Programme, based at the MIC Limerick campus, added:

“We are delighted with the recognition that LINC has received today by having the Minister launch our interim evaluation. We are really proud of the work put in by the full team and the success of the programme, demonstrated by the findings in this evaluation, is testimony to their commitment to inclusion. It also recognises the journey that our learners are on and the work they are doing to ensure that all children are included in Early Learning and Care settings across the country. We will be starting the final year of the programme this September and look forward to welcoming a new group of students who will become leaders in inclusion.”

On graduation, LINC Graduates can be appointed by their pre-school to become the INclusion COordinator (INCO) and to lead inclusion of all children within that pre-school.

The LINC Programme is part of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) of supports designed to ensure that children with additional needs can access the​ Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. The goal of AIM is to empower early childhood teachers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the ECCE programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education.

Attending the launch were representatives from local and national government, education and previous participants of the programme. The LINC Programme will commence its final year in September 2019 with an intake of 1,000 students. More information can be found on www.lincprogramme.ie.