Course Details

This level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree is delivered through blended learning, you can work full-time and complete this degree. Upon completion of this Level 7 degree, you will be eligible to gain the higher capitation grant from DCEDIY for your role in an early years setting.

Start Date
7th October 2023
Ordinary Degree
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
2 years


Limited Skillnet Funding available up to 30% for the BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education.

This newly designed level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree aligns with the requirements of the Qualifications Advisory Board as meeting the requirements of the professional award criteria and standards guidelines.

You can complete this programme in two academic years if you currently hold a QQI ECCE Level 6 award also available through Portobello Institute. Delivered by blended learning, you can study this degree in your own time, with a combination of webinar tutorial seminars and online learning. You can join the large network of early years practitioners on this learning journey. There is an easy payment plan designed to make this degree affordable. These factors, together with the one-to-one tutorial support, offer you a level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree that is accessible, affordable and achievable.

Here are some reasons to choose to study with Portobello:

  • Career-focused qualifications – our courses lead to awards that offer you the opportunity to immediately advance your career.
  • Notable professional standards recognition – QAB and DCEDIY recognise this programme as meeting the requirements of professional awards criteria and standards for the early years sector and for higher capitation grant purposes.
  • Individualised support – we fit your learning model with support available when you need it throughout your learning journey.
  • Industry expert tutors – our tutors are all early years practitioners connecting research and theory with practice throughout their lectures.
  • Condensed scheduling – we value your time by ensuring your timetable is optimised for delivery, helping you maintain a work/life/study balance.
  • Flexible delivery – we deliver theory sessions online whilst also recording the session simultaneously offering you a choice of when and how you learn.
  • Affordable payment options – all our courses offer you the option to choose an easy payment plan supporting you to spread the cost out over your learning journey.

Why should I study this course?

If you hold the ECCE full major award and are looking to further your qualifications, we have designed this level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree for you. It is delivered by blended learning to support your work-life balance and offers you a path of progression to level 8 BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Care & Education right through to a level 9 MA in Early Childhood Studies.

As an early years graduate, working as a manager in an early childhood setting is a natural career progression. There will also 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 to gain the higher capitation grant from the DCEDIY (formerly the DCYA) for your role in an early childhood centre.

Broaden your professional network

Many graduates tell us they learn as much from each other as they do from tutors. Attending the webinars is key to meeting fellow students, engaging in discussion and exchanging ideas.  Meeting fellow students gives you the opportunity to create your study network for the duration of your learning journey. This network can prove extremely useful afterwards during your professional career.

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.

Who 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. It follows the publication in April 2019 of the Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines (PACG) for Initial Professional Education (Level 7 and Level 8) Degree Programmes for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) Sector in Ireland as agreed by the two Ministers and published on the website of the Department of Education.

The Qualifications Advisory Board is tasked with:

  • reviewing programme proposals and confirming their coherence with the PACG through the provision of expert reports.
  • advising the Department of Education and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs whether a programme, once validated as a professional award, can be considered for inclusion on a revised list of professional qualifications for the Early Learning and Care sector

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 higher capitation grant.

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 Studies – Starts October ’23 course?

During this course, you will learn about play, development and learning in children, from birth to twelve years old in a socio-cultural context and the implications of this for practice in early childhood settings.

You will consider a range of local and international perspectives including children’s rights, children’s health and well-being, pedagogical and curriculum approaches, diversity, and inclusion.

You will explore a range of disciplines such as psychology, sociology and social policy, education, and health. Learning the links between theory and practice is key to your development as a professional Early Years Educator.

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

    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.
  • 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

    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.
  • 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 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

    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.


  • Leading & Managing Services for Children

    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.
  • 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

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


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.

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.


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.


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

Limin Bai

Position: SNA & Early Years Lecturer

Limin Bai’s Story

I grew up in China, was educated in Ireland and graduated from Portobello Institute. Without Portobello tutors’ care and love, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Portobello helped me succeed in my career and the tutors ignited the passion I have for Special Needs Assisting.

I am an ASD teacher during the day and a lecturer in the evening. My on-the-job experience helps to support my teaching and my students love to hear all the stories and interactions I tell them as they are real-life scenarios that SNAs will face in the workplace.  I love sharing my own experiences and getting feedback from my students about their experiences.

I write children’s books for Chinese children, it is very fun but equally so interesting to understand why children act the way they do. I write my own blog, and I have over 800 followers all of whom are parents and I receive excellent feedback from this. I help parents understand what is appropriate education and behaviour for their children.

Limin’s Teaching Philosophy 

Students do not only need theories, they need support and guidance and they need to feel listened to. I instil confidence in my students always encouraging them not to give up and I give extra assistance if and when required.

I have students ranging from 18 to 65, they are all special to me, it doesn’t matter where they have worked before, or what experience they have I will give them the skills and tools required to complete the course and gain a job in the sector. I am creative in my teaching methods and this helps me to motivate my students to succeed and to keep them engaged in my classes.

What Limin’s Students Say

“We all had to adapt to a new way of communicating and learning.  It is my first time doing a course like this let alone online and it has been a great informative experience which I have to say is down to Limin.  Her classes were engaging, informative and enjoyable.  She is a person who is gifted in many ways, one of which is teaching, be it to a child or an adult. I would have no hesitation in attending her of your future classes or recommending her and the Portobello Institute. Any child in her presence is bound to feel nurtured that is a gift in itself.”   – Regina Ainsworth (SNA 5 student)

Success Story

"The guidance, direction, wisdom and support that I received was excellent, it inspired me to go on and do my masters"

Rosie Hegarty
BA (Ord) Early Childhood Studies – Starts October ’23 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Studies – Starts October ’23

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 at your time with support available throughout your learning journey.

Course Structure

This programme is structured for delivery over 2 academic years. There are 2 Saturday workshop, and four evening webinars per term as well as some sessions with your placement tutor.

The Saturday workshops are held online from 10am 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 should you be unable to log-in at the scheduled time.

Students take four modules in Year 1 and 5 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.  Completing the module will 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 throughout the module. 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 will be encouraged to connect with fellow students and can create your study network for the duration of your learning journey.

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. Our programme management team are always available to offer you telephone and email support and if you need to, you can arrange to meet them for further one to one guidance. For more information about our team, click here. 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.  This level of one-to-one support is unique to blended learning and is a particular benefit to choosing this mode of study. Portobello Institute has invested in a team of programme managers and tutors who are experienced early years practitioners as well as qualified and knowledgeable educators. They are available to assist you at every stage of this programme.

Online Learning Portal – ePortobello

During the induction seminar, we will show you how to navigate and find what you need with all of the information you need to complete this programme uploaded on to ePortobello. The content of this programme is set out in an easy to follow format with a combination of notes, articles, podcasts and other materials that will help you to understand the subject and complete your assessment.


Academic Year 1

The first year of this course runs from 7th October 2023 – 26th May 2024

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, giving you the opportunity to excel.

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

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

Group assignments will add another dimension to your learning experience – they will help you to break up the isolation of studying online and will provide you with benefits of peer learning.

All these methods are seeking to support you to combine theory with scenario-based learning and encourage implementation into your everyday practice.

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.

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.

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

Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online booking form and process.

Apply Now

Step 2

Applicant’s will be contacted for confirmation of the entry criteria.

Step 3

Confirmation of a place will be given to applicants immediately meeting the criteria.

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

  • Year 1 Fees & Payment Options

    Fees (Year1)

    Course Price

    Per academic year.


    Exam Body Reg. Fee

    Per academic year.


    Full Payment

    Total amount payable (Year 1).


    Easy Payment Plan

    33% deposit payable upon acceptance of a place. Balance to be paid in 10 instalments on 1st of the month commencing the month the programme commences. Exam registration fees are included in the Easy Payment Plan.

    Deposit + 10 Instalments

    Deposit payment (€1,219.35), followed by 10 scheduled payments every 1 month(s). Includes one off instalment fee of €365.00.

    • €247.57 due on 1st November 2023.
    • €247.57 due on 1st December 2023.
    • €247.57 due on 1st January 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st February 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st March 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st April 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st May 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st June 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st July 2024.
    • €247.57 due on 1st August 2024.
  • Year 2 Fees & Payment Options

    Fees (Year2)

    Course Price

    Per academic year.


    Exam Body Reg. Fee

    Per academic year.


    Full Payment

    Total amount payable (Year 2).