The Inter-Departmental Group (IDG) Report on Supporting Access to the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme for Children with a Disability was launched in November 2015 (IDG, 2015). This report provided for a new model of Government-funded supports aimed at enabling children with additional needs to participate fully in free-preschool mainstream settings alongside their peers. 

The model, which is based on national and international research evidence, was developed following extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including the parents of children with additional needs. The seven-level Access and Inclusion (AIM) model detailed in Figure 1. below adopts a child-centred approach through focusing on identifying and responding to each individual child’s developmental level, abilities and needs rather than relying exclusively on formal diagnoses. A Consortium led by Mary Immaculate College (MIC) and including Early Childhood Ireland and Maynooth University - Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, was awarded a €5.4 million contract from the Higher Education Authority to deliver a National Higher Education Programme for Inclusion Coordinators in Early Years Settings.

Based on a blended-delivery format, the Leadership for INClusion in the early years (LINC) programme, commenced on Saturday 24th September, providing places for 900 students in nine regional centres across the country. The LINC programme comprises a key element of Stage 3 of the AIM and further details are available on the programme website at www.lincprogramme.ie.