Course Details

If you hold a Level 7 BA (Ord) degree in Early Childhood Studies you can top up your degree to a Level 8 BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies. Depending on when you start, it will take just 8 – 10 months through blended learning. This final year course consists of an individual research project with one to one tutor support.

Honours Degree
Course Delivery Mode Start Date Duration
BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
Delivery Mode
Blended Learning
Start Date
10th February 2024
8 months


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Hooray! One small step for you, one giant leap for your future! Enter your email and you will be redirected to our application platform, where you can complete your application in your own time. Here's what to expect:

  1. Enter your email
  2. You'll be redirected to our Application platform
  3. Start your application
  4. Choose your preferred payment option
  5. Submit your application
  6. One of our course advisors will review and be in touch needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy.


If you hold a Level 7 BA (Ord) degree in Early Childhood Studies you can top up your degree to a Level 8 BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies in just 10 months through blended learning.

In this final year of the Level 8 degree, you will complete an individual research project by carrying out a systematic investigation of a topic related to the early year’s sector. The project provides you with opportunities to improve your critical thinking and research skills. Students on this programme refine their academic writing and communication skills as well as getting the opportunity to investigate in detail a topic or area in their current practice that interests them. This award is also listed with the DCEDIY (formerly Dept. of Children and Youth Studies) for higher capitation purposes.

At the early stages of the programme, you will attend three tutorials that help you prepare for the project, understand how to work with academic literature, select suitable research methods, address ethical concerns and most importantly formulate the questions which you will try and answer in their research.  While the project involves a lot of independent studies, each student is assigned an individual supervisor who provides guidance and mentorship throughout the research and write up process.

Completing a research project is a valuable learning experience that has lasting benefits for learners’ personal and professional development.

Why should I study this course?

In Ireland there is an obvious need for well-qualified, graduate-level, early childhood practitioners working with young children and their families across all sectors in Ireland: play, care, health and education. However up-skilling to honours degree level whilst working full-time can prove extremely difficult, the physical time required to attend class and the related costs can simply prove to be a difficult commitment to make. Portobello Institute recognises those challenges by delivering this programme through a blended learning model with recognition of prior learning for previously achieved qualifications. Students have the opportunity to still pursue this academic route and achieve an Honours Degree in Early Childhood Studies, opening up the opportunity to progress to a Masters in Early Childhood Studies also offered by London Met.

Studying this world-class degree in the intimate and supportive environment offered by Portobello Institute is a unique opportunity for students. The Institute is renowned for extensive student support.  We offer small intimate environments, provision of draft assignments and formative feedback prior to submission, individual module tutors and the support of a Programme Manager to ensure the smooth running of the programme and enhance the learning experience of each of our students throughout their academic journey.

Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon successful completion of this programme, you will be awarded a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies from London Metropolitan University. This is awarded at level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Qualifications Frameworks in Ireland and the UK

The Irish and UK qualifications authorities have collaborated on initiatives that promote the transparency, recognition and mobility of qualifications between our respective jurisdictions. The qualifications authorities in the UK and Ireland have agreed the qualifications frameworks in operation, Brexit will not impact this agreement. Further guidance on this framework is available here.

Validated Agreement

One or more modules or the full course has been developed and delivered by Portobello Institute and has been evaluated and deemed by London Metropolitan university (London Met) to be of an equivalent standard and quality to that of its own provision, and therefore suitable to lead to one of its own awards. 

What will I study during this BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies course?

  • Early Years dissertation project

    Students undertake a piece of independent research and study an area of particular interest in early childhood studies.

    This module offers an opportunity for independent study and aims to enable students to:

    • Develop further professionally by pursuing a line of study which arises out of an aspect of her/his work with young children.
    • Extend professional competence by developing a critical understanding of the relationship between theory and early childhood practice.
    • Gain experience of the processes and methodological and ethical issues involved in conducting and completing a piece of research.
    • Design, execute and evaluate a small-scale research project and experience supervised independent study of an extended nature.
    • Develop further professionally by pursuing a line of study which arises out of an aspect of her/his work with young children.
    • Extend professional competence by developing a critical understanding of the relationship between theory and early childhood practice.
    • Develop some of the skills required for post graduate study.

Who will I learn from?

Programme Manager

Iryna Fox

About Iryna Fox

I started my career in education at the age of 16 and was teaching English to preschool and school-aged children in Kyiv, Ukraine.

To develop my interest in languages and teaching, I completed a BA and then MA in Teaching English and German, followed by a PhD in Linguistics at Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv.

Between 2000 and 2005, I worked at the English Language Department of the university and was responsible for teaching English to future English teachers and interpreters and supervising student research projects.

Having married an Irishman, I moved to Ireland in 2005 and as I started having my own children, I developed an interest in early childhood education.

I completed training in Montessori education and started my career as a Montessori Teacher. Around that time Síolta and Aistear frameworks were introduced and I realised that I wanted to enlarge my knowledge about the variety of methods and approaches used to educate children.

This led me to a BA Hons in Early Childhood Studies with Portobello Institute/London Metropolitan University and after completion of this programme with First Class Honours I taught on Portobello Level 5 and 6 Early Childhood Care and Education programmes while still continuing to work directly with children and families in Early Years settings.

In 2018, I joined the Portobello team in a full-time capacity as the Programme Manager for the degree programmes and my role is focused on providing positive learning experiences for the students through leading the team of tutors and working with other Portobello departments as well as communicating with the teaching team at LMU.

I am eager to learn more about third-level education and working with adult learners. I am currently completing a MA in Education, Learning and Development programme.

Why Did You Choose to Work in Education?

I believe that the learner-centred approach is as important in third level as it is in early childhood education.

The student’s well-being is very important and it is only when the student feels they are welcome and accepted as unique individuals, learning can take place.

I work to create this welcoming atmosphere and make sure that students have no barriers in approaching the team, that they receive the necessary information timely, know where to get help and can get help.

Education is not just about content knowledge, it is about making relationships, meeting inspiring people, and learning from others – and this is what we offer the students in our department and in our Institute.

Your Experience as a Programme Manager

I am really proud of the programmes we offer. A lot of the assignments are practice-based and both, those students who are new to the industry, and experienced practitioners, have a lot of opportunities to reflect on their work with children and families and learn to align it with best practices and research evidence.

Our teaching team is very strong and they strive to help the students along this journey – we employ tutors who not only have academic knowledge but also have industry experience so they can relate in the theory to practice in a real way. My role is to develop and support the teaching team and ensure that we are meeting our students’ needs.

The students in our department come from a variety of backgrounds. Many of them have been out of formal education for a long time, many are experiencing third-level education for the first time.

Some have a fear of using technology and online systems, some have learning difficulties. We understand that each student’s needs and situations are unique. We do our best to support them and we are thrilled to celebrate their success on graduation day – their success is our success!

Why Portobello?

Ever since I started tutoring with Portobello, I’ve been inspired by the learner profile of those who study at the college.

The majority of Early Childhood Studies students are practitioners who have to juggle the pressures of work, study and family life. These are people who want to better themselves despite any difficulties that might come their way.

This is what motivates me to do my work on a daily basis. And as a mum of three children, who also combines work and study, I feel I am in the right place to be able to understand our students.

In addition, I think we have an excellent team working for the college.  I am surrounded by like-minded and hard-working people, some of whom have become really good friends.

I am blown away by how creative and innovative our senior management is in advancing the college work and how supportive they are of the team.

Because our team is compact and closely knit, I believe we can communicate a lot better and meet the student’s needs more effectively and efficiently than many other institutions.

We are currently putting emphasis on improving our student feedback system and this will be instrumental in further promoting quality in our department.


  • MA Teaching English and German
  • PhD Linguistics
  • BA Hons Early Childhood Studies
  • PGr Cert Training and Education

Research/Industry Participation

  • Early Childhood Ireland Research and Practice Seminar

Personal Academic Tutor

Each student is assigned a personal academic tutor to support you throughout your learning journey. They are available to offer you telephone and email support at any time. You can arrange to meet them for further one to one guidance at a time convenient to you.

Many of our past graduates have found it is the opportunity to ask a simple question, seek direction and submit a draft of their assessment that supported them most to successful completion. Emailing your tutor at any stage during your programme to ask a query or submit a draft of your assessment supports you to achieve your personal best throughout your studies with Portobello.

This level of one to one support is a particular benefit to choosing Portobello as your Institute of choice to complete your studies.

Rachel Dunne

Position: Early Years Lecturer

“I am part of a fantastic team here in Portobello Institute. The range of modules from Children’s Rights to Challenging Inequalities provides students with extensive knowledge that can be effectively implemented into their daily practice. The wonderful students we have here seem to really enjoy the variety of modules making the BA in Early Childhood Studies a unique and useful degree.”

About Rachel

I started my journey in the Early Years sector back in 2012. After three fantastic years and a wonderful adventure at IT Carlow, I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and Care. Working in the sector thereafter, I was room leader of the preschool room and worked with children in afterschool club for a few years. As much as I loved these roles, I wanted to build on my knowledge and found my Masters Degree. I moved to Wales and completed the MA in Developmental and Therapeutic Play from Swansea University. As challenging as this was, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Back working in the sector, I started to work with Portobello Institute in October 2018 and have not looked back since!

Rachel’s Teaching Philosophy 

With the knowledge I have gained from both degrees and my experience in the sector, I approach lectures with students in a manner in which everyone is encouraged to contribute and reflect. We learn so much from each other as professionals and the ever changing sector means we never stop learning. There is no such thing as a silly question! In regards to students projects my own dissertations were based on children friendships for my BA and children’s pretend play and gender for my MA. As such, I would supervise any projects in the areas of play, gender, and child development.

The early years sector values committed and confident early years professionals who are able to adapt and thrive in this ever changing sector. I encourage my students to strive in their studies and support them in recognising their capabilities and potential. No one day in an early years environment will be the exact same and I encourage students to explore and implement different strategies using their new knowledge, to their daily practice.


  • BA (HONS) Early Childhood Education and Care – IT Carlow
  • MA Developmental and Therapeutic Play- Swansea University

Modules Taught by Rachel

  • Challenging Inequalities

This module is of utmost importance for everyone working in the Early Years. Apart from the importance of learning how to implement an anti-bias approach, students also learn about the impact of inequality on children, families and staff. Students will also explore their own attitudes to equality which is critical for both personal and professional growth

  • Pedagogy and Curriculum

This module shows how far we have come in regards to supporting children’s learning and development. The module explores different curriculum models and approaches used around the world. Students find this module very useful as ideas and concepts from theoretical figures and pioneers of early education can be implemented into their own daily practice.

  • Children’s Rights

This module explores how children and childhood are viewed in both majority and minority countries. Emphasis is placed on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child and how legislation and government agencies protect the rights of children in Ireland and around the world. Students learn about the role of the practitioner in advocating for children’s rights and how they ensure children’s voices are heard and respected in practice.


Jacinta Murphy

Position: Early Years Lecturer

“When I returned to education in 2000 to study Montessori Teaching, I knew I had found my life’s passion. I am passionate about my job and I want to instil in others what has been given to me.”

About Jacinta 

I began working in early education in 1994, and to be honest, did not know what I was taking on, but the times of work fitted with my family! Little did I know that I would find my life’s passion.

I was fascinated by these young people and the fact that the sector was unregulated and basically providers could do what they liked. I began to read on the subject and improve my practice and returned to education in 2000 to study the Montessori Method.

Since then, I have not stopped learning, through study, working with children and families, and through my role as a manager/lead practitioner in rural, urban, affluent, and disadvantaged areas.

My experiences provide me with vast industry insight as I have experienced vast changes within our sector, frameworks, legislation and other.

In a setting, each year brings a different group dynamic, therefore it is essential to have the ability to reflect upon and amend provisions and practices to meet the needs of children, families, and staff. I hope that bringing my practical experiences in the setting into my tutorials allows students to link theory and practice.

In 2004, I became a tutor at Portobello Institute on a part-time basis. Currently, I work full-time for the Institute supporting full-time QQI Level 6 students in Child Development, Early Childhood Curriculum, Social, Legal and Health Studies and Personal and Professional Development.

I am part of a vital, vibrant team who supports Level 7 Early Childhood Studies Degree students studying through a blended approach. I lead modules such as Children’s Rights in Today’s World, Enquiry-Based Learning and Communicating in Multilingual Contexts.

Jacinta’s Teaching Philosophy 

My approach is that all students have something to give and to learn, true learning is a two-way process, I love to see students discussing their life experiences to make sense of theory.

Many of the students are experienced practitioners and their practical knowledge should be valued. Just as no two children learn the same, similar could be said of adults, people learn in different ways and therefore I try to use a variety of approaches to suit the needs of the group in question.

I also understand the pressure of completing studies with work, families, and other commitments, as I have been there, and can offer some practical tips.

My greatest achievements as a tutor are to see students who are returning to education with little confidence in themselves and their abilities, blossom and grow both as students and practitioners.

Key valuable graduate attributes are, of course, the knowledge required to be an early year’s practitioner and the ability to apply that knowledge in their setting.

However, there are other equally vital tools, such as compassion, to be able to look at situations from various perspectives to gain understanding and allow for appropriate planning.

The ability to reach, support and work with all children, families, and staff in the setting is fundamental to quality provision.

Building respectful, reciprocal relationships is essential to providing quality experiences which benefit children’s learning and development.

I hope to instil the ability to reflect critically, without criticising, to examine attributes, biases, and areas for improvement and to plan accordingly.


  • MA Early Childhood Studies
  • BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies

Industry Participation 

  • Teacher providing July Provision, a home-based programme for children with complex needs.
  • Assisted the set up of a Homework Club, Mother and Toddler Group and Woman’s Group in a disadvantaged area through government funding. This group won a Millennium Award for their efforts, it was a proud day to receive this award in Dublin Castle with 2 others.
  • HETAC Montessori Course Liaison
  • Child Protection Course facilitator


Samantha Cooney

Position: SNA lecturer

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

About Samantha 

I have worked in the education sector for over 14 years. This includes the early year’s sector, special education sector, special needs assisting, primary teaching, further education, and higher education. My personal drive comes from experiencing educational and childhood disadvantage throughout my life, eventually leaving secondary school.

My journey began with further education in Cork College of Commerce where I studied Child Care and Education. From there, I completed a BA (Hons) Level 8 Degree in Early Years and Childhood Studies in University College Cork, receiving First Class Honours, and the Graduate of the Year Award. During this time, I received a Bene Merenti Award, College Scholar Titles, and the Peel Memorial Award for Academic Excellence, as well as other awards and titles. I continued my education journey in UCC, achieving a First Class Honours MA Level 9 in Sociology and then with Hibernia College receiving a First Class Honours PME Level 9 in Primary Teaching.

My experience and my philosophy are one in the same, potential is not measured in numbers, exams, or points. My personal circumstances prevented me from engaging with my potential during my school days. However, further education gave me the pathway I deserved, but could not access. This is the approach we take at Portobello Institute, and this is the philosophy through which I teach.

Over the past 14 years, I have developed a keen interest in special education, having worked as an SNA, intervention tutor, and home tutor for many years. I began working at Portobello Institute and other academic colleges teaching on SNA courses, Child Development courses and so. For the past number of years, I have worked in the Early Years Department as a lecturer on the BA Early Childhood Studies in collaboration with London Metropolitan University. I have also been heavily involved in the development of, and teaching of, the BA Inclusive Education Practice in collaboration with the University of Essex. This project continues to be a labour of love for me, as I am passionate about special education and need for evidence-based practice and teaching.

The culmination of my own personal experiences, training, and professional life has led to a strong commitment to trauma-informed teaching and care. This is my focal research interest along with educational disadvantage and cultural diversity in education. I am regular contributor to the college blog as well as participating in professional research endeavours. In addition to this, I am a research supervisor.

Samantha’s Teaching Philosophy 

As an educator, pedagogist, and sociologist, I firmly believe that we have a collective responsibility as people that care about the welfare, education, and development of children, to continuously reflect on and review our practice. Life-long learning is essential and evidence-based practices are a must. However, the primary goal of working for the dignity, respect, and autonomy of all children is to cultivate healthy and authentic relationships built on trust, kindness, and mutual respect. This forms the basis of my work with and for children, and it is the lens through which I engage with the world personally and professionally.


  • First Class Honours BA Level 8 Degree in Early Years and Childhood Studies
  • First Class Honours MA Level 9 Degree in Sociology
  • First Class Honours PME Level 9 Degree in Primary Education

Research Areas

  • Cultural Hybridity
  • Collaborative Learning Strategies

Industry Roles

  • Advocacy Roles
  • Early Intervention
  • Special Needs Assisting
  • Primary Teaching
  • Lecturing

Find Samantha Online


Maeve Nolan

Position: Personal Development Advisor & Senior Early Years Lecturer

About Maeve Nolan

Moving to Germany after I completed my degree at The University of Limerick was exciting, but certainly very challenging as I was working in a truly multicultural/ educational environment.  At this time, I was studying in Berlin for my Masters and also working to support myself and doing both through German. Either activity would have been a fulltime role, but doing both certainly improved my time management and prioritisation skills. I have seen the benefit of these key skills throughout my career. I remained in Germany for 10 years and living in such a dynamic multicultural environment benefitted me in so many ways from education to social understanding and self-awareness. My interest in the area of education drove me to open, develop and run my own child care facility for 10 years before moving in to the current phase of my career supporting the education and development of educators.

Maeve’s Teaching Philosophy 

The part of my tutoring role that I find most rewarding is watching the students succeed both in the courses which I deliver, and onwards into their careers. I often receive a note of acknowledgment from a past student, who has just landed the job they trained for, or opened their own facility. I am always delighted with this kind of feedback, which shows me the value in what I do, and how I have in a small way enabled them to fulfil their ambitions. For me education is so much more than an exchange of knowledge, through involvement and participation, it enables a passion for true learning.


  • BA Montessori Education
  • MA International Politics (Through German / Diplom Politologin)
  • BA European Studies

Research / Industry Participation

  • St. Nicholas Montessori College, Dublin
  • The Otto Suhr Institute, Free University (FU) Berlin, Germany
  • University of Limerick (UL)

Modules Taught by Maeve

  • Leading Practice with children, families and professionals – BA (Ord) in Early Childhood Studies

Quality of early year’s settings is characterized by strong leadership. In Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings children learn, grow and thrive when those settings are characterized by high-quality interactions and relationships. Leadership is one of the single most important drivers of organisational performance, quality improvement and innovation. This suggests that effective leadership is important and necessary in ECEC settings. While the evidence about ECEC leadership is still limited, there is a growing interest in gaining a better understanding about what ECEC leadership looks like across diverse settings and contexts, and how ECEC leadership can positively impact quality.

  • Approaches to Pedagogy & Curriculum in the Early Years – BA (Ord) in Early Childhood Studies

This module gives students an insight to Curriculum and Pedagogy within the Early Years Setting. Pedagogy and Curriculum are often spoken of as one, however they are two separate entities, Pedagogy is how we teach whereas curriculum is what we teach. In the early years setting in Ireland, we see the children as ‘active agents’ in their own learning and a child-led approach is taken. Practitioners are becoming highly educated and are more open-minded to different pedagogies than they would have had historically.

Various curriculum models and perspectives in childhood education such as: Aistear, Reggio Emilia, EYFS, Forest Schools, Te Whariki, Steiner and Montessori are introduced. Pioneers/ theorists, such as Froebel, Steiner, Montessori, Margaret Mc Millan, Malaguzzi. Froebel, Piaget, Vygotsky, are considered & how they have influenced these models and perspectives. The objective here is to assist students (practitioners) to draw on their ideas when developing the framework within their settings, and incorporate such into their curriculum both indoors and outdoors.

  • Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) – BA (Ord) in Early Childhood Studies

Enquiry based learning is particularly useful within early childhood education as it allows students of early childhood education to find information through inquiring and solving problems through constructive, critical thinking and also through reflection. Inquiry-based learning emphasizes the child’s role in the learning process. Rather than the teacher telling children what they need to know, children are encouraged to explore the material, ask questions, and share ideas. It helps children to develop their questioning, research and communication skills, collaborate outside the classroom, solve problems, create solutions, and tackle real-life questions and issues. As enquiry based learning continues, educators and children will become competent in building their own knowledge and how they understand the world through seeking and gaining information, developing their cognitive skills as the information is gained.


Denise Baker

“Nobody ever finished up where they started – you are never too old to realise your full potential”

About Denise

Working in the Early Years sector is like a second life for me.  I worked in the sales industry for years and always knew there had to be something more fulfilling for me out there.  In 2005 I took that chance through a FETAC level 5 course in Early Childhood Studies, and you could say I caught the bug.  So here I am 15 years later with a Level 5, 6, and 8.  Two level nines – one in Public health and health promotion and one in Early Years Education, level 10 is the next step.

I have vast experience built up over the past 15 years working in this area from preschool practitioner to lecturer.  I work with Cork Institute of Technology as an Early Years Placement Supervisor also at present and have done so for the past 5 years.  I began my journey with Portobello 3 years ago after a change meeting with Iryna on the train from an Early Childhood Ireland conference in Dublin, and the rest they say is history.   Working with Portobello is a great experience the team are so supportive and welcoming.  The best interests of the students are always to the forefront and immense work always goes on behind the scenes to ensure this.

Denise’s Teaching Philosophy

My approach is that all students realise the importance of their place in a child’s learning.  The first 6 years of a child’s life are perhaps the most important.  It is a time when the seeds are set so it is important that they are watered appropriately.  Early Years Practitioners are at the centre of a child’s early years, with the family and peers they are the most influential, therefore it is vital that they are aware of all areas pertained to early years care and education.  I lead the Debating children and Childhood module, and this is an area that I love to teach.  The policy, practice and ideas of childhood that have shaped our views of the constructions of childhood are fascinating and it is an area that continues to change with more people and governments becoming aware of how inequality and poverty effects the child’s life chances.

Just as children learn differently, I am aware that this is the same for adults.  No two people are the same and no two people learn the same.  It is therefore my role to ensure that I am there to support all students in the learning experience making it a positive one for them.  I believe in being available for queries, questions, supports and anxieties at all times.  I am aware of the life constraints on the students as many are juggling work, family and study so therefore being available for students in the evenings as well as during the day is important to me.  I love to see students both young and not so young getting excited about the module and engaging fully with the supports provided by Portobello.


Master’s degree in Public Health (Health Promotion Pathway)

Master’s degree in Early Years Education

BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies

FETAC level 5 Early Childhood Care and Education

FETAC level 6 Preschool Management

Industry Participation:

Placement Supervisor with Cork Institute of Technology’s Early Childhood Education and Care degree course.

Community Health and education Development Worker with the Traveller Community in North Cork.

National Treasurer of OMEP Ireland – early years research network.

Assisted with the inclusion of Traveller culture in the audit of Aistear in conjunction with NCCA

Wendy Tully

Position: Supervisor BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” (N. Mandela) But more than changing one’s trajectory, education is transformative allowing us to evolve our humanity, demonstrating that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” (N. Mandela)

About Wendy Tully

My mother learned to read at 50 when I was a teenager. I helped her with her homework. I was as proud of her as she was of herself. This taught me the power of education and how it offered my mother freedoms she never had – reading a menu, a novel, or an official document. Education is for everyone, for any age, any ability, and any language. Of all the amazing personal and professional experiences I have had in my life, helping my mother learn to read was the most transformative. It is a privilege to be a small part of another’s educational journey and see them succeed in reaching the goal they set for themselves.

Wendy’s Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is based on collaborative relationships.

Qualifications and Achievements

  • M.E.S. Master in Educational Studies (Intercultural Education) – Trinity College Dublin 
  • BA (L8) in Early Childhood Education and Care  – Institute of Technology, Carlow.  
  • BA (L7) in Montessori Teaching – St. Nicholas Montessori College Dublin  
  • Certificate (L9) in Research Supervision – Institute of Technology, Carlow. 
  • Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years LINC  (L6) – Mary Immaculate College, S.C.R, Limerick. 
  • Training Delivery and Evaluation (L6) – The Open College, Leopardstown Business Centre, Dublin 18
  • I was the first recipient of the Sean Griffin Memorial Award for exceptional contribution to the learning environment. I was awarded this honour from St. Nicholas Montessori College. 

Criona Blackburne

Dr Criona Blackburne has worked in education for over 30 years, specialising in early childhood for almost 20 years.

As an owner of an early years setting, a lecturer and an early years specialist she has a strong understanding of early childhood and is a strong advocate for inclusion.

Criona believes that the realisation of high-quality inclusive early childhood environments lies in the skills, attitudes and education of the early years educator.

Her doctoral studies highlighted the need for an increased focus on Orientation Quality, which highlights the critical role the educator plays in quality development and how the education, dispositions, attitudes, skills and well-being of the educator need to be nurtured.

This has led to her work advocating for Orientation Quality through using the Capabilities Approach.

Criona has a strong passion for supporting the development of early years educators through her work as an owner, lecturer and specialist.

She believes that educators need opportunities to extend their learning and skill sets through accredited learning opportunities, CPD and Communities of practice, where they can engage in theoretical frameworks, critical discussions and reflection on practice to position them to respond effectively to the complex dynamics of early years classrooms.  

“My life has been dedicated to education, having worked and qualified at all levels, initially as a secondary school teacher and for the predominant part of my life in early childhood.

“I opened my own early years setting in 2006 and since that time have expanded my interest in early childhood through ongoing engagement in training, CPD opportunities, networking culminating finally in a Doctorate in Education having previously completed a Masters in Early Childhood Education. 

“My understanding of the sector has been deepened through lecturing, tutoring, presenting and delivering workshops in various modules and topics relevant to early childhood practice, and through my work as an Early Years Specialist, where I have had the opportunity to interact and engage in critical discussions with a very passionate early years workforce from very diverse contexts.

“These interactions have contributed to my strong interest in the impact of policy on practice and the need to highlight the importance of the much-overlooked area of Orientation Quality and consider the impact of value, well-being, functioning and capabilities on the early childhood workforce. 

“I’m currently writing papers with colleagues and individually focusing on valuing the early years educator and inclusion in early childhood settings. I am also involved in module development in Leadership in Home Visiting Programmes,” she said. 

Agnes Connolly

Position: Tutor

“The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities,” Maria Montessori.

This quote resonates with me as a parent, a teacher, and a tutor in both the “Approaches to Pedagogy and Curriculum” and “Challenging Inequalities in Early Childhood” modules I am involved with.

Influenced very early by the Montessori philosophy and later on how Aistear combines so well with it, I truly believe in the child’s but equally the adult’s learning journey, where each has a part to play as an active agent of their own learning. Promoting holistic development and learning from others on a daily basis as a purpose of early years education.

Supporting students in their educational journey, who will, in turn, teach children and fellow co-workers and professionals is the way a community of practice presents itself and develop, where engaged, meaningful interactions and reflections take place.

I appreciate being responsive to students and providing a personal approach that is so particular to the Portobello philosophy.

I enjoy the questioning pertaining to the Early Years, the broad aspect of topics that are involved and the way they link with many other characteristics and spectrums of education.

About Agnes Connolly

After studying for my degree in English and German in France and working in a preschool, I made a move to Ireland where I discovered a true interest in the Montessori philosophy and its educational approach and pedagogical stance in Early Years.

I studied for my Montessori Teaching diploma and childcare at Portobello Institute itself before heading to Carlow to the South East Technological University where I graduated with a Ba (Hons) Level 8 in ECEC and in NUI Maynooth for a Level 7 Training and Continuing Education Certificate.

It was with great pride and interest that I joined the Portobello Team in late 2018 as it felt like a full circle. I have very fond memories of being there as a student where I truly enjoyed studying and made lifelong friends. I also cherished the wonderful tutors I had, who inspired me and reinforced my interest in the sector and taught me how to strive for creating nurturing environments and high-quality practice for young children.

After working in the sector for over 20 years I got involved in supporting children with additional needs by completing the Linc course in MI, Limerick and becoming the Inco in my service. It was after 5 years of undertaking that role alongside the quality and curriculum manager position, that I started to head more specifically into the area of special educational needs. Every opportunity is a way to learn, reflect and improve at what one does, learning along the way.

This diverse approach I took, has also influenced my way of tutoring and being involved in education. I have a keen interest in listening to others’ experiences and contributions to the sector. I truly believe in practical aspects and theory being strongly embedded with each other, where each stakeholder has a role to play.

Agnes’ Teaching Philosophy

Keeping abreast of current topics and legislation in an ever-evolving sector is key to sustaining a driven, robust, and professional sector.

As for my approach to teaching, being passionate and dedicated to all children and families are attributes of the industry that I would value and instil in students.

Every student, tutor and child we are involved with, contributes to the build-up of a mosaic workforce, where all strengths, abilities and interests displayed contribute to the development and recognition of the sector.

I am currently still studying through MI Limerick on the first cohort of Linc CPD + course and love taking part in the community of practice sessions where tutors’ and teachers’ input create a reflective, reassuring, and motivated community of practice.


  • BA (Hons) Level 8 in Early Childhood Education and Care – South East Technological University.
  • Certificate in Training and Continuing Education – Level 7  – NUI Maynooth
  • Linc and Linc CPD +  – Mary Immaculate, Limerick
  • Special Needs Assisting – Level 6
  • Montessori and Childcare Diploma, Portobello Institute
  • Supervision in Childcare – Level 6 – Portobello Institute
  • Hanen Teacher Training:  Encouraging Language Development in the Early Years
  • Sensory processing – DCYA
  • Listening to Young Children: Supporting Transition – Open University
  • Degree in English, University of Paris X

How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

What is Blended Learning?

It is very suited to you if you are working full-time with limited spare time yet you want to achieve your degree qualification. During the induction workshop, you will be given your log-in details to the online portal, “ePortobello”. Here you will find course notes, reading lists, podcasts, articles of interest and guidelines for completing your thesis. The content is structured in an easy to “find and follow” format. You will need basic computer skills such as searching the internet and typing a word document.

You will be assigned a tutor who will supervise your research and support you on a one to one basis through to completion of your dissertation. You can email queries, submit drafts and call your tutor for general guidance at any stage of this programme. Blended learning allows you to study in your own time and at your own pace with support available throughout your learning journey.

Course Structure

There are 3 tutorials scheduled during the programme. These are generally run on a Saturday from 10am to 4pm and are designed to offer support to the learner.

Learning Support

The BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies is structured to maximise opportunities for flexible study, as students choose to complete the course by distance learning with webinars throughout the programme, supported workshops held each term and on-going tutor support available through the early childhood studies academic team situated full-time in Portobello institute.

A module tutor together with a programme manager is assigned to each learner. At intervals throughout the course there are face to face tutorials and students can also access further tutor support by email and/or telephone.  Webinars also support the learning experience, and provide further guidance throughout the programme, helping to establish and maintain relationships with tutors and peers. The development of academic writing, study and referencing skills is supported through workshops, tutor feedback and programme manager support. Materials are accessed through Portobello and London Met’s virtual learning platform. As this is one of the most researched and developed programmes available, an extensive range of visual materials and videos are available. Reflection is promoted by reflective exercises incorporated into the web-based materials.

All students are invited to discuss their progress with programme managers and module tutors. This can take place face to face, on the telephone or through e-mail.


Runs from 10/02/24 – 31/08/24


Runs from 05/10/24 – 24/05/25


Attendance at webinars is not mandatory however is recommended for an optimal learning experience and achievement.

One to one tutor support is available to you throughout this programme.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment for this course is done on your dissertation project.


Course Delivery Mode
BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
Delivery Mode
Blended Learning
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Career prospects

  • Own or Manage a Setting – With a degree in early childcare studies, you can open, own, operate, manage, and work within any early years setting in Ireland where you will be eligible for the higher capitation grant under the ECCE scheme.  You can undertake the role of; Room Leader, Facility Manager or Owner/Manager.
  • Become a Special Needs Teacher – Having completed the degree in early childhood studies you could work in funded special needs early years facilities and become registered with the Teaching Council of Ireland. 
  • Become a Primary School Teacher – If you have your degree and honours Irish you can apply for professional masters in primary school education which will allow you to work as a primary school teacher.
  • Become a Childcare Tutor in Further Education – For those interested in tutoring, they need to combine their degree with a level 6 teaching qualification to become a tutor on Level 5 and 6 early years and special needs programmes.
  • Work for a Government Agency – You can work for government agencies or early years support bodies such as County Childcare Committees etc.  Roles with these organisations can vary from management and administration of services to monitoring of childcare and education settings.  For instance, when Tusla advertise for an Early Years Inspector role, you must have a Level 8 degree and 5 years of work experience in a childcare setting. This is an exciting role where you will use your knowledge and experience to improve the service offered in various childcare settings.  It involves inspecting facilities, investigating issues, advising providers and writing reports.  Constant liaison with other agencies and assisting in the development of childcare policy are also part of the role. Obviously, for this role, the experience gained in a childcare setting is essential, however, the knowledge of best practices in childcare provision and management derived from the degree is crucial to effectively undertake this role.
  • Engage in Postgraduate Study and Research – Many students who have completed the degree programme long to learn more and undertake postgraduate education to masters and doctorate level to pursue their research interests.

Why should I continue to Level 8?

College Director and Head of our Early Years Department, Denise Flood, explains the value of the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies Level 8 degree.

“You have completed the hard work at level 7 – this is one more module to achieve your level 8 honours degree. It is a research project carrying 60 credits and you will have a supervisor of your choice from our team who will support you through the research process.

“The research project is directly related to your setting – for example, if you want to change the garden of your setting, you can use this as the topic of your research project. We will help you break this down into achievable snippets such as consulting key stakeholders, what questions do you need to ask to find out what they think the theme of the space should look like – the stakeholders would include staff, children, parents, other service users. Document the process, record the outcomes, reach a conclusion and this is your research project completed!

“An honours degree opens up so many opportunities for employment and further study to Masters level – why would you not complete the project and achieve your level 8 honours degree? 

“Much of the evidence signposts research as a vital aspect of ensuring quality service provision in an early years setting – you will learn how to conduct research, draw conclusions and record these during this programme,” she said.

Related Courses

Speak to an expert

Choosing a course that will lead you to your career of choice is a significant decision. Understanding the delivery modes, supports available, career opportunities and further study options are all key considerations when making your choice. Our course adviser team are experts in the courses Portobello offers, the employment prospects and the opportunities for progession to masters programmes for each of our courses – they will guide you through the detail and support you with any queries you may have.

It is important you make the right choice for you and choose the Institute and course that will best suit your needs.

Your Consultant

Jennifer Matteazzi

About Jenny

My name is Jennifer Matteazzi and I am the Enrolment Team Leader.  An investment in knowledge pays the best interest and I am part of the team who helps learners achieve their education goals.


How long are you working in Portobello?

I have been working for Portobello Institute for over 5 years now.

What do you enjoy about working in Portobello?

I love the interaction with students.  Every day I get to meet different individuals and learners who are looking to change their lives and I get to be the person who advises them on the best programme to take. It is a fantastic feeling to be part of their journey.  For many learners this is a huge decision and I get to be the person who supports them in making that decision.  There is an incredible sense of pride when I see our learners graduate and achieve their education goals.

What inspires you about working in education?

I believe that education is impowering and it can often change people’s lives.  It increases the learner’s confidence and it allows the learner to reach their full potential. Coming back to education hugely lifts the learner’s self esteem.

Have you a story that you recall that touched you/made you laugh/made you cry?

One particular lady struggled with dyslexia all her life.  Her disability really affected her years in school, her career choices and when this learner approached Portobello Institute I worked with her to establish the best way forward, the right course for her was without a doubt in childcare.  This lady registered on the course and she needed a lot of hand holding throughout her studies from both myself and the academic team.  I recall that the day of her graduation, she received the “Student of Year” award.  We were all thrilled and delighted for her!  This learner has since gone on to open a very successful Montessori setting.

How do you feel when you have helped a student reach a decision on their course choice?

I am there to be the deciding factor for our learners.  We support people in making the right choice of programme for them.  We reassure them the whole way and we support them throughout.  It is a very rewarding feeling to be part of this process.

Book a consultation

How do I apply?

Entry to this course is by direct application to the college.


Without a Leaving Certificate

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

Portobello Institute has mapped the learning outcomes of the awards listed below thereby gaining recognition of prior learning (RPL) with London Met for students holding the following qualifications:

• QQI Level 7 in Early Years Care & Education or equivalent

• Level 7 in Early Childhood Studies

Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online application form.

Step 2

Your application will be reviewed by the Portobello enrolment team.

Step 3

Applicant’s will be contacted by the Portobello team to confirm place on the course or look for more information.

Fees & Payment Options


Course Price

Year 1 base fee


Exam Body Reg. Fee


Overall Course Price

Total amount due


Easy Payment Plan

Payment Option 1

33% deposit payment (€1,318.35), followed by 8 scheduled payments on the first of each month, commencing the 1st of the month after the start date of the course. Includes one off instalment fee of €365.

  • €334.58 due in month 1
  • €334.58 due in month 2
  • €334.58 due in month 3
  • €334.58 due in month 4
  • €334.58 due in month 5
  • €334.58 due in month 6
  • €334.58 due in month 7
  • €334.58 due in month 8

Available Courses

Course Delivery Mode Start Date Duration Fees Per Year
BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
Delivery Mode
Blended Learning
Start Date
10th February 2024
8 months
Fees Per Year


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Hooray! One small step for you, one giant leap for your future! Enter your email and you will be redirected to our application platform, where you can complete your application in your own time. Here's what to expect:

  1. Enter your email
  2. You'll be redirected to our Application platform
  3. Start your application
  4. Choose your preferred payment option
  5. Submit your application
  6. One of our course advisors will review and be in touch needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy.