Course Details

Seeking to work in Special Needs Education, this BA (Ord) Inclusive Education Practice, offers you subject exemptions when you hold a QQI level 6 ECCE major award. Completed over 2 academic years, this course starts Oct ’23.

€2,500.00 Reduced fee in year 1
Start Date
7th October 2023
Ordinary Degree
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
2 years


This degree BA (Ord) Inclusive Education Practice explores how the learning and behaviour of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) can be supported by you for these children to fulfil their potential. With a QQI Level 6 Early Childhood Care and Education, you can avail of 3 subject exemptions.

The knowledge, skills and practical experience delivered during the 2 years of this programme develop competence and confidence in you, to enhance your learning and to approach challenging behaviours from a reflexive, professional and restorative approach.

The emphasis throughout the modules of this degree is on practical application in an inclusive environment with the main perspectives of behaviour explored. We seek to equip you, with the ability to de-centre behaviour from the child and support the child to achieve positive regulation skills.

You are required to undertake a practical placement in each year of the 2 academic years of this programme. The placement can be completed in an ELC setting which is availing of the level 7 AIM support, in a special education early year setting, in a primary or secondary school. The placement hours (100 hours each academic year) can be taken as a block or on a weekly basis to suit your needs if you are combining work and studies. If you are employed in an inclusive support role, you can do the placement at your place of work.

The personal and professional development achieved during this programme equips you to reflect on how you transfer knowledge, skills and abilities considering the individual needs of children, promoting their well-being, and learning, while working collaboratively with parents and other professionals in an inclusive educational environment.

Further Study Pathways

You can progress, with one further academic year of study, to a level 8 BA (Hons) Inclusive Education with Portobello Institute upon completion of this level 7 degree.

Portobello Institute also offers the opportunity to continue to Masters level with an MA Inclusive Education and SEND, also available through blended learning.

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.
  • 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 experienced in the field of inclusive education and special education needs connecting research and theory with practice throughout their lectures.
  • Recognition of Prior Learningmodule exemptions if you hold QQI level 6 in Special Needs Assisting or QQI Level 6 Early Childhood Care and Education.
  • 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?

The inclusive education sector is developing and undergoing professionalisation with new posts for inclusive practitioners created each year, and special needs assistants working in early years and specialised settings, primary and secondary schools are interested in obtaining qualifications which will recognise them as professionals working alongside teachers and at the same time provide them with specialised skills and knowledge which they can put into practice in their work-based contexts. Engagement with employers, both in the special early education and primary/secondary school sector also makes it clear that they prefer to hire degree graduates rather than students who hold further education qualifications. This programme offers a realistic and flexible route for inclusive practitioners and new entrants to the sector to enhance their personal and professional development and gain professional recognition with opportunities to progress level 8 and 9 programmes.

You can gain this level 7 BA (Ord) Inclusive Education Practice degree in 2 academic years whilst you are working. You can study this degree in your own time through blended learning, with a combination of webinar tutorial seminars and online learning. You can join the large network of educators working in the area of special educational needs, early years, and inclusive education 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) Inclusive Education Practice degree that is accessible, affordable and achievable.

Study Pathways

It is delivered by blended learning to support your work-life balance and offers you a path of progression to level 8 and right through to a level 9 MA in Inclusive Education. There are module exemptions available if you hold QQI Level 6 Special Needs assisting or QQI Level 6 Early Childhood Care and Education.

As a graduate, working as an educator within early years setting, primary and secondary schools is a natural career progression. There will also be more diverse roles available to you such as a specialist for the Better Start programme which coordinates AIM, roles in community and charity organisations as well as government bodies.

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.

Who will recognise my qualification?

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

You will be registered as an undergraduate student for the duration of your studies with the University of Essex.

Qualifications Frameworks in Ireland and the UK

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

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

What will I study during this BA (Ord) Inclusive Ed Practice – Advanced entry with ECCE 6 – Oct ’23 course?

This programme will provide you with specialised knowledge and skills to respond to challenges of high quality provision in a context increasing diversity in early childhood education settings, primary, post-primary schools and community care settings. You will reflect on the complex nature of inclusion and engage with philosophical, political, cultural and ethical aspect of education for learners who are vulnerable to exclusion and underachievement due to special education needs and disability.

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 and disability in society.

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 Inclusive Educator.

  • Approaches to Inclusive Education

    The module considers inclusion from a theoretical and practical point of view. Theoretically the module explores the philosophy of inclusion and inclusive environments while providing knowledge and understanding in relation to practical approaches, frameworks, and models for current and future inclusive education provision. The module examines the term “additional needs” and learning needs arising from different areas of disability are explored and implications of legislation and policy for practice are analysed.

    The focus of the module is on critical examination of the theoretical underpinnings of inclusion in the early years, primary and secondary school curricula and evaluation of the practical implications for inclusive education.  This includes methodologies, pedagogies and best practice guidelines and their impact on planning, differentiation, and teaching.

    The module aims to enable students to:


    1. Develop awareness and understanding of various special educational needs and disabilities.
    2. Understand how the principles and values of inclusive provision for children with SEND developed historically.
    3. Study the legal background for inclusive educational provision with respect to national and international policy.
    4. Explore key curriculum guidance documents in Ireland with respect to CARPET PATCH differentiation and pedagogical practices.
      1. Aistear, The National Curriculum Framework
      2. Primary School Curriculum
      3. Secondary School Curriculum
    5. Explore the key theoretical, pedagogical and best practice models, approaches and frameworks which influence curriculum design and delivery in context of special education.
    6. Understand the need to draw on theory and research when planning for inclusive provision and when engaging in reflective practice.
    7. Examine the role of other professionals working to provide services for children with SEND with specific reference to the multi-disciplinary team and the processes and products of inclusive education.
    8. Understand and appreciate the role of the child’s voice and choice within inclusive education provision and the ethics of child agency.
  • 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.
  • Development in Middle Childhood & Adolescence

    This module builds on the content studied in module Promoting Holistic Development of Children 0-8 and explores how various development perspectives can be applied to understanding children’s growth and learning in middle childhood and adolescence. There is a focus on supporting children with additional needs attending a range of educational settings.

    The key theories of middle childhood and adolescence will be explored in tandem with the unique challenges and experiences that arise for young people with disabilities. The impact of transitionary periods in school life, family life and body maturation will be examined, and the role of the inclusive school environment will be considered. This will enable students to effectively plan in line with the requirements of educational authorities and compose individual behaviour plans, individual education plans and personal pupil plans. The implementation of same will also be reviewed considering the theoretical perspectives and best practice guidelines.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Study major theoretical perspectives on development in a period known as middle childhood and adolescence.
    2. Explore the concepts of functional age and maturation with regard to learning and understand how they impact teaching in the special education context.
    3. Understand the impact of transitionary periods in children’s lives.
    4. Consolidate ability to critique current strategies and plan for differentiated care and teaching.
    5. Explore the influence of relationships on development of children in middle age and adolescence.
    6. Understand how development of independent living skills can be supported in partnership with children’s families.
  • 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.


  • Disability in Society

    This module considers historical, cultural, philosophical and theoretical perspectives on disability and examines disability as a socially constructed phenomenon and a human rights issue. It explores the influence of dominant ideas about disability on policy, practice and representations of disability and special educational needs, including those in literature and the media.

    This module examines disability through a historical and cultural lens within the remit of the sociology of disability. Furthermore, the module considers the philosophical and theoretical perspectives on disability. The social constructions of disability are explored with respect to the historical development of the main models of disability. This links to the legislative context which is examined alongside the human rights perspective on disability. The implications of such on the lives of children and young people with disabilities is critically explored. The module will employ the critical evaluations of these concepts and perspectives to examine the representation of disability in popular and social media. Additionally, the cyclical element of social representations and social experiences will be considered. The term ‘representation’ will be explored and applied to the sociological concepts of disability.

    This module aims to enable students to:

    1. Examine disability through a sociological lens.
    2. Explore disability as a human rights issue and reflect on dilemmas about their implementation.
    3. Consolidate knowledge on international documents that ascertain rights of children and young people with disabilities.
    4. Develop an awareness of interrelationship between political, economic, cultural and ideological contexts in the lives of children and young people with disabilities with respect to the past, present and implications for the future.
    5. Critically evaluate how children with disabilities are represented in the popular media (TV, online, radio, social media) and discuss the impact of media on policy and practice.
    6. Investigate how media can create challenges and opportunities for perceptions of people with disability in society.
    7. Develop critical literacy skills and learn how to create representative digital content.
  • 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.
  • Psychology of Learning and Behaviour

    The module explores how learning and behaviour of children with SEND can be supported through the knowledge of applied psychology. It provides students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills to develop competence and confidence in their ability to scaffold learning within a variety of contexts and for a variety of capabilities, and approach challenging behaviours from a reflexive, professional and restorative approach.

    The main perspectives on behaviour are explored with an emphasis on practical application in the inclusive environment. Students will explore the theoretical underpinnings of behaviour as communication. The module seeks to equip students with the ability to de-centre the behaviour from the child, and thus support the child to achieve positive regulation skills. Socio-emotional strategies to support positive behaviour regulation such as the growth mindset perspective, restorative approaches, differentiated curricula and reflexivity will be examined. Gained knowledge and skills will develop students’ competence to plan and implement interventions.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Develop critical awareness of theories of learning and behaviour. Explore the dominant behavioural perspectives.
    2. Explore theories of motivation and understand how they shape instructional design and underpin behavioural interventions in the special education context.
    3. Consolidate their knowledge of behaviour regulation strategies as practitioners and as education professionals.
    4. Understand functions of behaviour and enhance their knowledge of ways to support positive behaviour. Understand all behaviour as communication.
    5. Explore the impact of SEND on socio-emotional development and well-being and how these developmental domains may be supported by the behaviour regulation strategies.
    6. Work collaboratively with the stakeholders to plan and deliver differentiated curricula which meet individual needs of learners.
  • Developing Professional Practice – Placement Portfolio

    The module focuses on further development of students’ reflective skills and encourages them to develop practice in context of collaborations with colleagues and peer students. The students will be equipped with tools to reflect on their professional identity and consider how their personal and professional values reflect on their work with stakeholders.

    The module will require students to undertake placement of a minimum 100 hours. The placement can be completed in in an ELC setting which is availing of the level 7 AIM support, in a special education early year setting, in a primary or secondary 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. Students who are employed in an inclusive support role can do the placement at their place of work.

    As a requirement of the module, the students will need to work closely with their peers and pair with another student, preferably doing placement in a different type of setting, in other to get exposure to a range of workplace contexts.

    The module aims to enable students to:

    1. Further develop their critical reflection skills.
    2. Explore how theoretical perspectives and learning across all areas of professional knowledge underpin their personal and professional values, principles and behaviours.
    3. Make critical connections between learning across modules, and their work context and wider practice.
    4. Experience the socially constructed way of learning. Engage in peer discussions and learn from peer feedback.
    5. Build relationships and network with colleagues
    6. Learn about work practices in different types of settings and with children with a different range of needs.

Who will I learn from?

Programme Manager

Iryna Fox

About Iryna Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Did You Choose to Work in Education?

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

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

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

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

Your Experience as a Programme Manager

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

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

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

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

Why Portobello?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Research/Industry Participation

  • Early Childhood Ireland Research and Practice Seminar

Personal Academic Tutor

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

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

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

Samantha Cooney

Position: SNA lecturer

This quote from Haim Ginott is the basis of my work with children of all ages and backgrounds. “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 a BA in Early Years and Childhood Studies and an MA in Sociology from University College Cork. Additionally, I am just about to complete a P.M.E in Primary Education from Hibernia College. Throughout my academic studies and career to date, my research has been focused on cultural hybridity in primary schools and collaborative learning methodologies for inclusion and special educational needs. I have worked in advocacy roles within community engagement initiatives and organisations such as Barnardos Ireland and Amnesty International. Over the past 10 years I have worked in the early years’ sector, special needs settings, primary schools and as an intervention home tutor with the Department of Education. I work primarily with students with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and language delay.

Samantha’s Teaching Philosophy 

As a teacher I advocate for multi-sensory learning that builds on children’s own lived experiences. As a lecturer, I teach exactly the same way! It can be intimidating to return to education, change career or take your first steps into further education. I strive to teach in a way that helps the adult learning identify their existing knowledge, strengths and weaknesses. Everyone learns differently, and I endeavour to teach using a multitude of strategies to support that including; class discussions, online materials, working through different scenarios, practical skills and examples from my own professional practice.


  • 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


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

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


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.


How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

This Level 7 BA (Ord) Inclusive Education Practice has been specifically designed for delivery by blended learning. It is suited to you if you are working full-time with limited spare time, yet you want to achieve your degree qualification. This programme was designed considering our 20-years+ experience of delivering programmes for those working in the field of special educational needs and is underpinned by our staff’s knowledge about teaching and learning strategies and educational design combined with insights and feedback from our past and current students.

The delivery schedule of this course is specifically designed for the many applicants holding a QQI Level 6 Early Childhood Care and Education. The exempted modules are not shown on the delivery schedule to avoid confusion. For further information – see below “How do I apply”

Before the induction webinar, 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 assessment guidelines. The content is structured in an easy format divided into sessions which you can cover at your own pace. You will need basic computer skills such as searching the internet and typing a word document.

Each module commences with an induction workshop, and you will meet your lead tutor during this session. Tutors also organise short webinars and question and answer sessions in the evenings focusing on specific assignments throughout the term. The workshops and webinars are recorded so you may review these later should you be unable to attend at the scheduled time or want to revisit the session again. Before you submit the final version of your assessments, you will have opportunities to receive formative feedback from tutors on whether you are on the right track with your assignment.

Some modules will involve group assignments – this will give help you build closer relationships with colleagues, develop your team-working skills as well as learn from your peers. You will be introduced to fellow practitioners studying the programme in your region and we will support you to set-up study groups with the network of practitioners in your region.

This programme includes placement-based modules each year. You will create a portfolio of work which will be based on reflections on learning and its application in your placement or place of work and will showcase your professional practice. You will be able to use this portfolio after you complete the course, and it will support your professional development throughout the course and beyond.

Course Structure

This programme is structured for delivery over 2 academic years. There are 2 Saturday workshops, and four evening webinars per module as well as some sessions with your placement tutor. The number of the workshops and webinars will depend on  your entry route and the number of modules taken per term.

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 three 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 a small number of modules 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.

The Academic Calendar

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

There are online webinars held on 2 Saturdays during each Semester, usually at the start of each semester and midway through and four evenings during the semester.

A schedule of the specific dates is given during induction session.

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

Webinars are recorded so you may catch up later should you be unable to to attend.

One to one tutor support is available throughout the programme if you are unable to attend a webinar.

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

The career opportunities upon completion of the BA (Ord) in Inclusive Education Practice  are broad and diverse.  

The course itself will prepare you to work with children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SENDs) in a variety of settings.

Additionally, this programme will equip the graduate with the skills and adaptability require in this rapidly changing sector.

A degree in inclusive education will allow the graduate to work with children and young people that experience a variety of educational, emotional, behaviour and care-based needs.

The knowledge, skills, and practical experience developed throughout this programme will develop existing competence and confidence in experienced practitioners.

Additionally, those new to the sector will benefit from an experienced team of tutors, engaging and practical content, and advanced start to their career as an inclusive practitioner.

This degree will challenge and support you in enhancing your learning, develop new skills and strategies, and learn to approach behavioural regulation support in a reflexive, professional and restorative manner. 

The versatility of this degree will enable the graduate to work in a variety of professional sectors. This includes early years settings, and primary and secondary schools as Special Needs Assistants.  

Further progression in study can lead to graduates obtaining primary and secondary teaching degrees with a focus on inclusive education. 

Existing practitioners will find the programme supports progression to more diverse.  

For example, as a specialist for the Better Start programme which coordinates AIM, roles in community and charity organisations, as well as government bodies such as the National Council for Special Education 

Graduates of this programme may also transition into education policy via the Irish Civil Service. Additionally, many practitioners branch into private and residential care supporting children, teenagers and their families in invaluable ways. 

The area that you go to work in can depend on your interests or perhaps what you specialised in while carrying out your degree.

For more information read What are the Career Opportunities for a BA (Ord) Inclusive Education Graduate?

Further Study Pathways

You can progress, with one further academic year of study, to a BA (Hons) Inclusive Education with Portobello Institute upon completion of this BA (Ord) degree.

Portobello Institute also offers the opportunity to continue to Masters level with an MA Inclusive Education and SEND, also available through blended learning.

Related Courses

Blended Learning

BA (Hons) Inclusive Education Practice – October ’23

This BA (Hons) Inclusive Education Practice degree, designed for delivery through blended learning with support from experienced SEN practitioners. Completed over 3 academic years, this course starts October ’23.

Portobello Institute
Start Date
7th October 2023
Blended Learning

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

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.

Portobello Institute
Start Date
7th October 2023

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 possible progression routes to Masters programmes – 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

How do I apply?

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

We have developed a flexible system of entry points and exemptions to recognise our applicants’ prior qualifications.

The delivery schedule of this course is specifically designed for the many applicants holding a QQI Level 6 Early Childhood Care and Education.

Exemptions for Recognised Prior Learning

Applicants who hold a major award at QQI level 6 in Early Childhood Care and Education have been automatically been granted exemptions from the following modules:

  • Promoting Holistic Development of Children 0-12
  • Safeguarding Health, Well-being and Rights of Children
  • Understanding Professional Practice

These modules do not appear on the course schedule to avoid confusion.



With a Leaving Certificate

The applicants must have a Leaving Certificate with six recognised subjects at a pass level or equivalent.

Without a Leaving Certificate

Applicants must meet one of the following criteria;

  • QQI level 5 major award preferably but not essentially in early years care and education or a social science discipline.
  • Alternative early years or social science discipline qualification.
  • An undergraduate degree in another subject.
  • Experiential Learning in SEND or related field with QQI Level 5 & 6 SNA awards.
  • Mature entry at 21 years. Mature student applications are reviewed on a case by case basis and entry is via interview. Those who do not meet any of the above criteria, must complete a QQI Level 5 Special Needs Assistant or equivalent course to confirm academic capability. The QQI Level 5 Special Needs assistant course is available through Portobello Institute and is delivered frequently through various modes of study.
Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online booking form and process.

Apply Now

Step 2

Applicants will be contacted for confirmation of entry requirements and personal details.

Step 3

Applicants will be offered a place on the course upon successful review of their application.

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

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

    Deposit of 33%. Balance payable in 8 equal instalments commencing the 1st of the month after the course commences. There is an additional fee of €365 applied to instalment plan. All additional fees such as exam body registration fees and instalment plan admin fees are included in the easy payment plan detailed.

    Deposit + 8 Instalments

    Deposit payment (€1,056.00), followed by 8 scheduled payments every 1 month(s). Includes one off instalment fee of €365.00.

    • €268.00 due on 1st November 2023.
    • €268.00 due on 1st December 2023.
    • €268.00 due on 1st January 2024.
    • €268.00 due on 1st February 2024.
    • €268.00 due on 1st March 2024.
    • €268.00 due on 1st April 2024.
    • €268.00 due on 1st May 2024.
    • €268.00 due on 1st June 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).