Course Details

This level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree is awarded by University of Essex. The blended learning option enables you to work full-time while gaining this degree. Upon completion, you will be eligible for the Graduate Premium from DCEDIY for your role in an early years setting.

Portobello Institute is participating in the new Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme 2024 (NSLF). Please see the fees section for more information on funding, fill in our form to register your interest in the NSLF and speak to our course advisor Sarah Coyne who can help guide you.


Ordinary Degree
Course Delivery Mode Start Date Duration
BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education
Delivery Mode
Blended Learning
Start Date
5th October 2024
2 years


Portobello Institute is participating in the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund (NSLF) 2024. Our level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree is approved for funding to eligible students. The NSLF will meet up to 80% of the tuition fees, with the application for eligibility for funding made directly to the fund during May ’24. You can reclaim 10% of the amount you have paid from the fund, 6 months after completion of the programme if you remain working in the sector.

Further information and the latest updates are available here.

A limited number of funded places are available on this pilot programme, so early application is essential.

You can complete this level 7 degree in two academic years if you currently hold a QQI level 6 Advanced Certificate in Early Learning & Care award also available at Portobello Institute. The blended learning option allows you to study this degree in your own time through online learning with one-to-one support from our expert tutors. You can join the large network of early years practitioners on this learning journey and gain your fully accredited and DCEDIY-recognised degree awarded by University of Essex.

Why should I study this course?

This blended learning level 7 degree has been designed to support your work-life balance, allowing you to study while balancing a full-time job and family commitments.

Upon completion of this degree, you can progress to the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care & Education, and then the level 9 MA in Early Childhood Studies or MA in Inclusive Education and SEN.

As an early years graduate, working as a manager in an early childhood setting is a natural career progression. The sector is moving rapidly towards a graduate-led workforce and this degree with NSLF is your opportunity to keep up with those changes.

There will be new career options available to you, upon successful completion of this degree, you will be eligible to apply for more diverse roles such as those within community projects and public health.

If you hold this QAB-approved level 7 degree, you are eligible for the graduate premium from the DCEDIY (formerly the DCYA) for your role in an early childhood centre.

Portobello Institute is an approved Higher Education Institute by the NSLF and students studying this programme are eligible for up to 80% funding of tuition fees. Application for funding eligibility is made directly to the fund during May ’24.

This is a well-constructed programme. Overall we believe the modules will prepare the Level 7 and 8 students well for working as early childhood educators. There is evidence of good interconnection between modules which will provide an opportunity to reinforce, consolidate and apply learner knowledge. The learners appear to be well supported by the Tutors and Supervisors and this will help to further build their confidence and competence.


Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon successful completion of this programme, you will be awarded a BA (Ord) in Early Childhood Care & Education from the University of Essex. This award is mapped and aligns at level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

This programme is approved by the Qualifications Advisory Board (instituted to review level 7 and level 8 degree programmes for the Early Learning and Care Sector) as meeting the requirements of the Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines standards.

What is QAB and why does it matter?

The Qualifications Advisory Board (QAB) has been jointly instituted by the Minister for Education and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on a non-statutory basis to review Initial Professional Education (level 7 and level 8) degree programmes for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) sector. This is in support of Ireland’s plan for the development and upskilling of the Early Learning and Care workforce between now and the year 2028.

This programme is approved by the Qualifications Advisory Board.


This level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education is also recognised by DCEDIY for the purposes of the Graduate Premium.

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 on the qualifications frameworks in operation, Brexit will not impact this agreement. Further guidance on this framework is available here.

Read More: Will Brexit Affect My Early Years Qualification and Recognition?

What will I study during this BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education course?

  • Promoting Holistic Development of Children (0-12 yrs) (30 Credits)

    This module emphasises the integrated nature of children’s learning and development and considers application of a range of developmental perspectives to inform understanding. Throughout this module, students will explore the theoretical underpinnings of children’s development across all domains; personal, social, emotional, physical and language development. This module also centres on the importance of understanding children’s temperaments, different learning dispositions and transitions, which are pivotal in providing quality care and education experiences in early years settings.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Enhance their knowledge about the main theoretical perspectives that explain how children learn and develop.
    2. Recognise integrated nature of children’s learning.
    3. Reflect on influences and experiences in the setting which can impact on children’s personal, emotional, social, cognitive, linguistic and physical development and consider how these can be connected to theoretical perspectives.
    4. Develop skills and competencies to design effective strategies to support development and learning.
    5. Engage in peer learning and further develop team working skills.

    The Learning Outcomes are:

    1. Describe and constructively critique major theoretical perspectives on children’s learning and development. 
    2. Critically evaluate provision and practice and discuss how practitioner’s perspectives and values related to developmental theories impact on children’s learning experiences.  
    3. Explain integrated nature of children’s learning and outline how learning in one area can boost development in other areas.  
    4. Design effective strategies to enhance children’s development and learning, drawing on major theoretical perspectives and taking into account children’s individual needs.  
    5. Develop teamworking, communication and digital skills.  
  • Pedagogical Approaches & Curriculum Frameworks

    This module explores different pedagogical approaches and their philosophical underpinnings and considers their implications in practice. Relationship between the concepts of curriculum framework, curriculum and syllabus is examined and the principles endorsed in the documents which define the Irish ECEC model are analysed and situated in the international context. Specifically, international perspectives on early childhood education are explored and the importance of indoor and outdoor learning environments is analysed.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Explore their professional roots through the study of works and ideas of early childhood education pioneers.
    2. Understand how ideas about educating young children developed historically.
    3. Explore major pedagogical approaches that originated in different countries and understand the need to draw on theory when planning and evaluating practice.
    4. Use general and specialist teaching techniques in ELC.
    5. Understand the relationship between the concepts of pedagogy, curriculum framework, curriculum and syllabus.
    6. Consolidate knowledge of the Irish curriculum and quality frameworks and make comparisons to international ECE models
    7. Understand how pedagogical principles shape our values and beliefs about children as learners.
    8. Evaluate practice and make informed decisions about developing practice and provision.
    9. Identify teachable moments across areas of the curriculum.
  • Becoming an Educator, Academic & Professional Skills (30 Credits)

    This module provides orientation for students transitioning from further education to higher education level of study (HE). The student will gain an understanding of academic principles. The module considers differences of academic rigour and expectations at higher education. The student will obtain an understanding of various types of assessment, their format and structure, alongside the importance of referencing and how to use the Harvard referencing style. They will learn to use the library service to search for relevant materials, note-take and manage information.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Understand the complexities of studying at a degree level and acknowledge challenges of combining study with responsibilities of work/work placement and family commitments.
    2. Become aware of their emotional experiences and challenges as students.
    3. Develop realistic strategies in terms of time management and target setting.
    4. Understand conventions of academic study and academic writing.
    5. Recognise importance of evidence-based practice rooted in research.
    6. Become familiar with basic research methodology and tools and be able to use these tools to enhance practice.
    7. Reflect on their professional values and standards and consider the impact of continuous learning and professional development on their professional identity.

    The Learning Outcomes are to:

    1. Reflect on their learning and professional experiences to enhance professional identity.  
    2. Demonstrate ability to evaluate and plan for development of study skills and monitor achievement.   
    3. Demonstrate ability to source and manage appropriate information.  
    4. Show competence in referencing other people’s work in a precise and systematic way. 
    5. Apply knowledge about major principles and concepts of research to design a coherent and ethically appropriate small-scale research project. 
    6. Articulate and critically reflect on the impact of learning on development of their professional values.    


  • Reflective Practice & Professional Development (Placement Portfolio)

    The module focuses on personal and professional development of students in a work-based context. It will equip learners with tools to construct knowledge about themselves as Early Years professionals. The learners will be actively involved in portraying what they know and can do in relation to meeting and promoting children’s well-being, learning and development as well as working collaboratively with parents, and other professionals.

    The module will require students to undertake placement of a minimum 450 hours. Students who are employed in an ELC setting can do the placement at their place of work. The placement can be completed in an ELC setting or in a special education early year setting, or in infant classes of a primary school.  Placement can be taken as a block or on a weekly basis to suit the needs of students who are combining work and studies.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    • Further develop their critical reflection skills.
    • Enhance and extend their understanding of effective ECEC practice.
    • Evaluate their practice in relation to professional guidance, standards and regulation.
    • Apply their knowledge about learning and development theories and approaches to working with children.
    • Make critical connections between learning across modules and work context.
    • Set professional goals and plan for personal growth and development.
  • Leadership Skills for Inclusive Practice (15 Credits)

    This module focuses on evaluation and development of practice through the lens of inclusion and social justice. It emphasises legal rights to equality for practitioners and children within the workplace context of educational and care settings and fosters development of skills to demonstrate, model and lead anti-discriminatory practice. The benefits and challenges of working in diverse environments will be examined.  Students will explore national and international legislation and official guidance that nurtures equality and inclusion. Students will learn about the impact of inequalities on children’s life prospects and will be introduced to practical strategies for inclusion within their settings such as learning how to implement a listening culture in the classroom and modelling inclusion and anti-bias approaches.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Extend their knowledge of legislation and professional guidance related to equality and inclusive provision.
    2. Understand the impact of inequality and exclusion on children’s development, sense of identity and life prospects.
    3. Evaluate practice and provision through the lens of inclusion and social justice.
    4. Acknowledge their role as an agent of change and examine their own beliefs, attitudes and values.
    5. Plan for improvements to enhance inclusive practice and provision in their setting.

    The Learning Outcomes are:

    1. Outline legislation and professional guidance related to equality and inclusive provision.  
    2. Justify importance of inclusion for children’s development and life prospects.  
    3. Critically reflect on their own role as an agent of change to promote the culture of inclusion.  
    4. Examine, evaluate their own practice and workplace environment, and develop strategies to promote inclusion.   
  • Leading & Managing Services for Children (30 Credits)

    The quality of leadership is directly corelated with the quality of provision. The module explores the complexities of leading and managing a setting within the system consisting of different layers: children, parents and practitioners, professionals from external agencies and legislators.  The module provides an overview of a range of theories and perspectives on leadership and explores distinctive features of leadership within the sector. Students are encouraged to evaluate their own role in leading and developing effective practice and reflect on their own leadership style. Their practical capacity to lead and manage organisations providing services for children and families will be fostered through in-depth study of the legislative and regulatory requirements in Ireland, both sector specific and those of general application.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Appreciate the importance of good leadership and management for provision of quality services for children and families across all aspects of practice.
    2. Develop professional knowledge for increased responsibility and accountability to all stakeholders.
    3. Develop an in-depth knowledge of legislative and regulatory requirements in Ireland, both sector specific and those of general application and be able to comply with relevant reporting and inspection regimes.
    4. Study the network of organisations involved in monitoring and supporting quality of services in Ireland and work effectively with their representatives.
    5. Explore alternative tools for assessment of quality for self-evaluation and improvement of practice and provision.
    6. Examine theories of leadership and management and reflect on their own leadership style.
    7. Explore underpinning theory and practical knowledge for supporting individual staff members and teams.

    The Learning Outcomes are:

    1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of relevant reporting and inspection regimes. 
    2. Outline strategies which can be used to evaluate provision and practice.  
    3. Critically evaluate their own role in leading and developing effective practice in partnership with stakeholders.   
    4. Demonstrate ability to make realistic and achievable improvement plans in consultation with the stakeholders.  
    5. Describe and analyse theories of management and leadership and their application when supporting teams and promoting high quality provision. 
  • Childhood in Society

    This module considers the historical, cultural, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives on childhood and their influence. Childhood as a socially constructed phenomenon will be studied. The student will gain a knowledge of sociological concepts and sociological thinking and question how this shapes early years policy and practice. The representation of children and childhood in literature, media, policy, and professional guidance documents will be examined. Contemporary debates in relation to children, such as age and inequality; child work and child labour; education; consumerism; the media; digital technologies and social media will be deliberated, and the global, political, economic, and cultural context of these issues considered. Global inequality in relation to childhood across majority and minority worlds will be reflected upon.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    • Explore contemporary debates in relation to childhood in global, cultural, historical and economic context.
    • Examine social constructions of infancy and childhood and the implications of these for early years policy and practice.
    • Critically evaluate how children and childhood are represented.
    • Develop digital skills and learn how to create digital content.
  • Evaluating Policy & Practice: Themes & Debates

    The module focuses on contemporary issues which are reflected in development of national and international policy and explores the impact of these issues on practice in settings providing services for children. It explores rationales for provision of early childhood education and care services with a focus on the rights-based approach to education which underpins universal access to early childhood carte and education services to children and families in Ireland. Some contested concepts are investigated such as quality of provision in relation to stakeholder perspectives, relationship between education and care in the early years, professional status of the Education and Care sector workforce, the influence of practice frameworks such as Aistear and Siolta (or their international counterparts) on quality of provision, the landscape and cohesion between organisations involved in provision of services for children and families

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Develop critical awareness of the themes, debates and factors which shape the national and international political and social landscape for policy development.
    2. Understand how policy impacts practice in early learning and care settings and settings providing services for school-age children.
    3. Explore their professional identity and reflect on the impact of their professional knowledge, values and competencies on provision and practice in their setting.
    4. Develop an awareness of the complexity of the concept of quality with regard to evaluation of practice and provision.
    5. Identify key trends for future development of the sector. Consolidate knowledge of the Irish curriculum and quality frameworks and make comparisons to international ECE models
  • Professional Development in the Community of Practice

    The module encourages further extension of professional competence by focusing on interactions between adults and emphasising importance of sharing knowledge and empowering others within the sector to promote quality of provision for children and families. The module considers aspects of mentoring relationships in context of education and care settings and further promotes skills of reflection and self-evaluation, in particular in relation to their ability to receive feedback in a constructive manner and use it to understand underpinnings of their actions and decisions and make plans for personal and professional growth.

    The students develop awareness about their personal responsibility to share knowledge and make contributions to the research base of the sector through disseminating results of their project dissertations.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Understand the concept of mentorship in educational and care settings.
    2. Use the opportunities to draw on their knowledge, skills and competence in context of reflective thinking and practice in order to support their colleagues.
    3. Promote good practice and shared values.
    4. Develop practical skills of structuring and presenting content in order share to knowledge.
    5. Evaluate their effectiveness by reflecting on feedback and making judgements about their choices and decisions.

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 and you can arrange to meet them for further one-to-one guidance at a time convenient to you while gaining personal feedback on assignments. This by-your-side support is a deeply rooted part of Portobello Institute’s values and ethos.

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

How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

Blended learning is ideal if you work full-time, have family or other commitments and want to gain your degree. During induction, you will be given your login details to our unique and advanced online portal, ePortobello. Here you will find all your course material in one place and in an easy-to-follow format.

Course Structure

This programme is structured for delivery over two academic years. There are two Saturday workshops, and four evening webinars per term as well as some sessions with your placement tutor.

The Saturday workshops are held online from 10 am to 1 pm with breaks throughout. The evening webinars are 1-1½ long and are scheduled between 7 and 9 pm to accommodate students who work full-time. All sessions are recorded so you may review the session at a later stage.

Students take four modules in Year 1 and five modules in Year 2, including one placement-based module each year. The three-semester structure will ensure you can focus on one module per term while also working on your professional practice portfolio.

The course will open with a module which will help you to develop the skills which you will need to achieve success at a degree level, such as sourcing credible information, academic writing, referencing, computer skills, basic research methods, time management and planning, emotional aspects of studying and at higher education level and student well-being. This module supports you to build a solid base for your further professional and academic development throughout the programme.

Webinars & Tutor Support

The webinars are held at the start of each module and mid-way through each module, designed to guide and support you. These webinars lay out the module for you and the content you will cover. The assessment and expectations for successful completion are covered in detail as is where and how to access the information on ePortobello.

You can email your tutor at any stage during the module to ask a simple query and there will be scheduled opportunities to submit a draft of your assignment. For more information about our team, click here.


Academic Year 1

The first year of this course runs from 05/10/24 – 24/05/25

Academic Year 2

A similar schedule operates for the second year of this programme.

There are breaks for Christmas and Easter during the academic calendar.

The above dates are offered as a guide and are subject to change.

Assignment submission dates can occur after the published finish date of an academic year.

Attendance at Webinars

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?

SMART assessments – we use a range of assessments for each module designed to support a broad range of learning styles.

Assessments for this degree are not exam-based. Instead, the assessments vary from essays to practice-focused assignments such as child studies and observations, audits, development plans, and presentations showcasing your practical skills.

We will encourage you to explore and support you in completing several innovative assessment formats such as presentations, posters, portfolios, podcasts, and blogs, which further support the development of your creative and digital skills and will give you the confidence to share your knowledge with colleagues, parents, and other professionals.

Group assignments will add another dimension to your learning experience – this will help alleviate feelings of isolation associated with studying online and will provide you with the benefits of peer learning.


Course Delivery Mode
BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education
Delivery Mode
Blended Learning
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Career prospects


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 Care & Education 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 we will match the tutor with the most expertise in the area they have chosen, to them”

“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

Sarah Coyne

Education is a journey and the destination is a career that you love. I support the department that helps you to plan your journey so you can find the path that’s right for you. As I am often the first point of contact for many prospective students, I am excited to introduce students to the Portobello Institute experience. I enjoy learning about students’ ideas, goals, and passions, and this job allows me to do so.  

Book a consultation

How do I apply?

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

You will be required to hold a QQI Level 6 major award in ECCE or have achieved an equivalent qualification. The ECCE level 6 award is available to study by blended or part-time study at Portobello Institute.

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 the University of Essex for students holding the following qualifications:

• QQI Level 6 Early Years Care & Education

• QQI Level 6 Advanced Supervision in Childcare

Eligible for Funding with Nurturing Skills Learner Fund (NSLF)

If you are currently employed in an Early Learning and Care (ELC) or School Aged Childcare (SAC) service under contract for DCEDIY’s Core Funding program, you are most likely eligible for up to 80% funding of this programme through the NSLF. You will be issued with a letter directly from the NSLF confirming your eligibility when it opens for applications in May ’24. You can register your interest for this programme here

There are a limited number of funded places available on this pilot programme and early application is advised.

Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online application form.

Step 2

Applicant’s application will be reviewed by the Portobello enrolment team.

Step 3


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

Please note places on this course are only confirmed once tuition fees have been received.

Students will be registered as an undergraduate degree student  with University of Essex

Fees & Payment Options

Fees for the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme are calculated as follows:

  • Cost per academic year: €3,600
  • Nurture Fund Grant at 80% of fee: €2,880
  • Cost to student per academic year: €720

Find out more here about the grant.

If you are not currently working in the early years sector or are resident outside Ireland, you will not be eligible for the NSLF grant. Fees applicable per academic year are payable as outlined below.


Course Price

Year 1 base fee


Overall Course Price

Total amount due


Easy Payment Plan

Payment Option 1

30% deposit payment (€1,198.50), followed by 10 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 €395.

  • €279.65 due in month 1
  • €279.65 due in month 2
  • €279.65 due in month 3
  • €279.65 due in month 4
  • €279.65 due in month 5
  • €279.65 due in month 6
  • €279.65 due in month 7
  • €279.65 due in month 8
  • €279.65 due in month 9
  • €279.65 due in month 10

Available Courses

Course Delivery Mode Start Date Duration Fees Per Year
BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education
Delivery Mode
Blended Learning
Start Date
5th October 2024
2 years
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:

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  2. You'll be redirected to our Application platform
  3. Start your application
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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, name and mobile phone number
  2. You'll be redirected to our Application platform
  3. Start your application
  4. Choose your preferred payment option
    (No payment required at this stage)
  5. Submit your application
  6. One of our course advisors will review and be in touch
Please enter you full number with country code. (e.g. +353 for IRE, +44 for UK/NI etc.) is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy, and we’ll only use your personal information to administer your account and to provide the products and services you requested from us. From time to time, we would like to contact you about our products and services, as well as other content that may be of interest to you. If you consent to us contacting you for this purpose, please tick above to say how you would like us to contact you. 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.