Course Details

Delivered through blended learning, you can work full-time and study this MA in Early Childhood Care & Education. As with any other profession holding a Masters Degree elevates your knowledge, qualifications and career opportunities offering you the opportunity to build further on the strong foundation you have acquired from your undergraduate studies.

€4,315.00 (per academic year)
Start Date
14th October 2023
Masters Degree
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
2 years


This contemporary MA in Early Childhood Care & Education is designed for professional early years practitioners working within the early childhood workforce, including those who may not be working directly with children.

Currently there is an emphasis on continual professional development within the Education and Health sector, and this master’s programme provides opportunities for students who have successfully completed, a degree in Early Childhood Studies or a relevant discipline to progress into management positions or follow more varied career pathways.

Build on your undergraduate knowledge

This Masters programme builds upon knowledge gained during undergraduate studies and experiential learning in the workplace. The blended learning delivery mode is a flexible study option for those seeking to fit learning around work and family. This course has been designed to reflect contemporary approaches and understanding of family life, childhood, pedagogy, and contemporary aspects of early education, from a psychological and sociological perspectives.

Advance your professional practice

The MA in Early Childhood Care & Education offers you an opportunity to advance your knowledge, understanding and professional practice through engagement with current research and thinking in early childhood. It also involves a reflection on, and analysis of, your own professional practice, supporting your personal development as well as putting you in a strong position for career progression in this sector. Additionally, staff holding post-graduate qualifications will be instrumental in upskilling the workforce to meet the government targets under First Five of 50% graduates working ELC sector by 2028.

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 early years care and education 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?

Portobello Institute’s MA in Early Childhood Care & Education gives you the opportunity to attain a level 9 Masters qualification through a flexible mode of delivery designed to fit learning around your busy working and home life.

Focus on leadership in early years care and education

Earning a Masters in Early Childhood Care & Education will help you foster a deeper understanding of child learning and child psychology. As part of the programme you will focus on learning theory and child development, leadership and curriculum design, making you an expert in early years. You can take that knowledge with you into whichever profession you determine suits you after graduation.

Develop the early years sector

The Masters Degree will strengthen and develop knowledge you have already gained, exposing you to new, ground breaking ideas on how children learn and develop and the diversities we might be working with daily.  You will be encouraged to communicate your ideas and learning, disseminating those with others, parents, stakeholders, practitioner, students etc, but even further with other professionals and researchers at conferences and seminars where your ideas can help develop the sector.

Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon successful completion of this programme, you will be awarded an MA in Early Childhood Care & Education. This is awarded by University of Essex and is aligned with a level 9 Masters on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Qualifications Frameworks in Ireland and the UK

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

What will I study during this MA Early Childhood Studies – Starts Oct ’23 course?

A commitment to equality, diversity, social justice and advocacy are themes central to this Masters programme. You will develop a detailed understanding of current research and contemporary thinking in the field of early childhood. You will appraise research and theory continuously and reflect on its impact on early childhood provision and practice with an emphasis on your own professional practice.

Developing a sophisticated understanding of the historical, economic, social, cultural and political contexts which impact the lives of young children and their families is a key benefit of studying this MA in Early Childhood Care & Education. You will also develop a comprehensive understanding of, and commitment to, issues of equality and diversity, social justice and advocacy in relation to the field of early childhood.

The main aims of this programme are to:

  • Enable students to further develop their specialist knowledge of early childhood studies, through engaging with modules that provide up to date knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to current issues appropriate to the professional practice context, and provide progression routes to M/Phil and PhD programmes.
  • Ensure that students develop a detailed understanding of current research and thinking in the area of early childhood.
  • Develop an enhanced critical and evaluative awareness of current issues within Early Childhood Studies.
  • Develop high levels of proficiency in Early Childhood studies, with individual personal and professional development planning needs, including leadership, problem solving, oral and written communication skills, and information and technology.
  • Develop an in-depth knowledge of developmental perspectives including developmental psychology, neuroscience and psychoanalytical theory and play.
  • Develop the ability to take leadership and responsibility for the extension of their own learning and to exercise independent judgement in the investigation, analysis, and evaluation of Early Childhood Studies.
  • Develop an in-depth and wide knowledge of Early Childhood Studies practice and the ability to critically reflect on their experience through critical analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  • Evaluate and appraise and continuously reflect on the impact of research and theory on early childhood provision and practice with an emphasis on students’ own professional practice.
  • Develop a sophisticated understanding of the historical, economic, social, cultural, and political contexts which impact the lives of young children and their families.
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of, and commitment to, issues of equality and diversity, social justice, and advocacy in relation to the field of early childhood.

During year 2, you may choose between the following modules;

A Critical Underpinning of Ethics for Inclusion and Diversity


Psychology of Development and Emotional Well-being

  • Contemporary Childhoods in a Sociological Context

    The module examines Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood and introduces the student to ways of interrogating and contrasting practice and policy assumptions about what constitutes a good childhood. The module will introduce students to a range of contemporary issues within childhood policy and practice and will encourage students to critique childhood experiences and beliefs through a series of theoretical lenses, while considering the implications these issues have for early years policy and practice. Throughout the module students give consideration to global, economic, cultural and political contexts frame children’s vulnerabilities and responsibility for their care and protection, with further consideration given to how these contexts contribute to issues making them a concern for society. The module takes on a sociological stance, encouraging students to review and evaluate the impact that societal change and experience has on the constructs of childhood, in a variety of context. A range of theoretical lenses on early childhood such as Feminism, Human Capital, Neuroscience, Psychology and Psychoanalytical, and Critical Theory will be explored to encourage students to critically engage with contemporary issues which directly impact on children and childhoods.


    The module aims to instil amongst students:

    • Critically evaluate a range of contemporary issues in relation to early childhood and childhood experiences.
    • Explore and critique societal influence on constructs of childhood, both current and historic, and consider the impact society has on children’s overall development and needs.
    • Analyse a range of theoretical lenses through which current issues in relation to childhood can be understood.
    • Explore and evaluate contemporary issues both national and international which directly impact on their work in early education.
  • Pedagogical Approaches to Early Education

    The module focuses on a range of educational approaches; however, you will find many common elements as you engaged with each different approach. Throughout the module we will engage with the underpinning philosophies and pioneers who developed these approaches and provided us with the knowledge and awareness we have today in respect of how children learn. The module follows the development of educational approaches across time and space, engaging with three categories of approach, these include Foundational Approaches which have paved the way for many, and pioneered by the theoretical underpinnings of Froebel, Steiner and Montessori, Contemporary Approaches throughout which we will engage with High Scope, Reggio Emilia, Tè Whariki and Vivian Gussin Paley and the STEAM Approach to early education, but not restricted to these few. The module then moves on to explore more recently Principled Approaches, such as Forest Schools, Education in the Outdoor environment, Beach Schools, Inclusive Practice and Community, including engagement with the importance of considering culture, home language, and involving Parents in their children’s education.


    The module aims to instil amongst students

    • An understanding of a range of pedagogical approaches to early education and develop an understanding of the influences on practice today.
    • Engage with and explore historic and distinctive philosophies of education.
    • Students will be encouraged to consider and develop an understanding of how these pedagogical approaches impact on practice in early education today, both nationally and internationally.
    • Consideration will be given to influences from Pioneers of Education and pedagogical approaches, and the impact on informing and developing practice in Ireland today.
    • Students will develop skills in reflection on their own values and philosophies of early education, and comparing these with historical views of education, but also with cultural and societal values.
  • Psychology of Development and Emotional Wellbeing

    The module examines the theories that have been put forward about how we develop, and the methods by which these theories have been arrived at.  The module will engage with the systematic understanding of theories of cognitive and social development throughout our life span, with a more refined focus on 0-18yrs. Topics such as the role of gender in development, how we develop a sense of morality, the impact of peer groups, and how children deal with adversity will all be examined and explored.

    This module explores elements of educational psychology and students will be provided with insights into the origins of individual differences in education and learning traits such as cognitive abilities for example IQ; and learning difficulties for example dyslexia; motivation and personality; behavioural and emotional and social functioning.  The module will examine factors that influence both typical and atypical neurodevelopment and the impact this has on children throughout their development. Finally, the module will engage with an overview of learning deficits that individuals with learning disabilities experience, and consideration will be given to the role practitioners play in supporting and enhancing development in all of these instances, and strategies to enhance the experiences of children and young people in their care, including the value and importance of play.

    The module aims to instil amongst students;

    • New and valuable insights into the origins of individual differences in Education and learning traits.
    • An understanding of the integrated nature of children and adolescent development and learning from 0-18yrs.
    • Consideration of how cultural and societal contexts impact on children and adolescent development and learning.
    • Study a variety of developmental perspectives including developmental psychology, neuroscience and psychoanalytical theory and play.
    • Raise awareness of factors that influence both typical and atypical neurodevelopment and the impact on children.
    • Further develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of key theorist and how their concepts inform our understanding of personal, social, emotional, physical, linguistic, and cognitive development.
    • Understand the value of diverse types of play in learning.
    • To facilitate students’ ability to think critically about developmental theories, especially in the context of empirical evidence.
    • The module aims to further develop student’s skills in locating primary sources, to read, understand and critically evaluate and communicate relevant information.


  • An Introduction to Research with Children and Young People

    An Introduction to Research Methods with children and young people is a compulsory module for all students in the School of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic studies and assumes no previous experience or knowledge of research methods. The module aims to provide a general research overview while contextualising the broad range of approaches and debates that are evident within contemporary early educational research. Throughout the module students will be provided with an understanding of theory and an appreciation of the differing perspectives that underpin quantitative, qualitative and mixed and complementary methodologies, while gaining an understanding from supporting frameworks and philosophies of knowledge underpinning the different paradigms relevant to social and educational research. Students will gain an awareness of the ethical implications which relate to research in the field of early education, as well as this range of methodological approaches, within which the key theoretical and practical issues will be addressed.

    Throughout the module, students are encouraged to think critically and reflectively about research (including their own) promoting a deeper understanding of the role of reflexivity and reflective practice when engaging with research in early education.


    Theories of Knowledge and dominant approaches to research with children and young people, including an introduction to qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and complementary methodologies and how they should be used.


    The module aims to:
    • enable students to understand what is meant by social and educational research and develop awareness of its function in creating and interpreting new knowledge;
    • encourage students to engage with the philosophical bases of educational research;
    • help students understand the difference between the main traditions of social research – the positivist and interpretivist paradigms; but to further engage with alternative paradigms which underpin the philosophical stance of research and knowledge.
    • enable students to develop familiarity with a range of methods used in educational research like case study, action research, ethnography etc.;
    • introduce students to some key instruments of data collection like interviews, observations, Focus groups, Questionnaires, Journaling etc.;
    • Highlight the ethical issues relevant to educational research, so that students engage with their research in an insightful manner; All students will be required to obtain ethical approval before commencing in their study.
    • enable students to complete an educational research proposal which will be the basis of their MA Dissertation.

  • MA Dissertation

    This module explores the key concepts in research and supports students to undertake a piece of independent research relevant to their professional discipline. Drawing on the skills and knowledge developed during the Research Methods (SE700RPD) and the theoretical knowledge from other core modules, students are offered the opportunity to develop their abilities in research design, data collection, analysis, and critical interpretation, and to apply these to the investigation of a particular problem or issue within your specialist area. Completing the Dissertation allows you to be awarded an MA.

    The dissertation is the element of your programme that provides you with the opportunity to undertake a substantial piece of original, independent research, building on and focussed on the topic or topics that are of particular interest to you and which you wish to explore in greater depth or from different angles.


    The module aims to instil amongst students

    • Engage in appropriate research planning at a post-graduate level (i.e., develop your ability to design and conduct high quality, publishable research)
    • Apply an established process of research to produce a dissertation on a specific research topic related to your programme of study and evaluate the strengths and limitations of both their own research and research by others
    • Develop a deeper understanding of the existing research literature in your chosen research area
    • Develop a critical understanding of research methodology and methods
    • Encourage a critical appraisal of the research literature in your field
    • Develop a sophisticated understanding of ethics as it applies to the field of Research
    • Familiarise you with the task of structuring your research ideas in a logical order: i.e., progression of ideas from initial research questions, through methods used to obtain answers, to presentation of results and discussion and interpretation of findings.
    • Develop knowledge and understanding of Data Analysis software appropriate to the study undertaken.
    • Develop a reflective approach to utilising research findings.
  • Critical professionalism in inclusive environments

    The module encourages students to reflect on their professional identity in context of their role as an advocate for young children and families and focuses on evaluation of practice through the lens of inclusion and social justice. It examines the principles of UNCRC, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter as underpinning professional practice and provides practitioners with a toolkit to advocate for families with children with a range of needs and fosters a comprehensive understanding of strategies and approaches of multi-agency approaches to supporting families and children.   Students will explore their values, beliefs and attitudes as a change agent, role model and leader of anti-discriminatory practice to ensure that they work in an open, collaborative, critical and respectful manner with all stakeholders.


    The module aims to enable students to:

    • Enhance their knowledge and understanding of the UNCRC, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, local and global professional codes of practice which provide guiding principles for professional practice
    • Have a clear knowledge of the range of professionals and agencies providing services for children and families
    • Develop a skill set for effective multi-professional working on behalf of children
    • Critically evaluate practice and their role as an agent of change and a role-model to promote the culture of inclusion
    • Reflect on their professional values and standards applying the lens of inclusion and anti-discriminatory practice.

Who will I learn from?

Programme Manager

Marguerita Magennis

Position: Course Coordinator Masters in Early Childhood Studies & Lead Lecturer BA Hons degree Early Childhood Studies

About Marguerita

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” – William Butler Yeats

My early career started in law, but after having my own children, I decided to leave this sector and move into early education and special needs. Having worked and managed my own pre-school for some years, I embarked on the road of educational psychology, and I work for several years in the primary education sector with children who needed that little bit more support.

I have over 20 years’ experience of working in education and higher education as a lecturer and researcher, and work as an International External Authenticator/Standards Verifier for numerous awarding bodies in Ireland and the UK.  I am a registered member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and have a small psychology service, which in recent years I have extended to offer counselling and psychotherapy to younger members of society on a voluntary basis.

There are lots of experiences and students who will always stand out, students who continue to contact you after they have completed their degree to ask advice and students who will email you a draft of a personal statement to have a read of, as they apply for their master’s qualification, students sending you photos of their baby which they delivered days after submitting an assignment on time; or students who send a video of their wedding day after they graduate. These are the moments which stand out and make it all worthwhile.  Knowing you have helped these people become the person they strive to be.

I started working for Portobello over nine years ago and it is like a home from home, the support and comradery that is shared within the college. It was throughout this role that I felt I had found my niche, working with adults who had come back to education bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, but needing the certification to go with that. I think this resonates with me most, having come a similar route myself, and after leaving law; embarking on my academic career with Queen’s University, subsequently completing Bachelor of Arts Honours, Master’s and PhD level education, for which I was awarded the Post Grad award for Doctoral Research.

Throughout my career I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some fantastic and renowned authors and researchers in the field of early education.

Dr Barbara McConnell my supervisor at master’s level, and a good friend since that time; Dr Colette Gray, Mary Maloney a good friend, and past colleague, Professor Jim Deegan, the most intellectual gentleman I have had the pleasure to chat with on numerous occasions, and whose most memorable saying is “go for it!”, a sentiment which has driven my own research career for some years.  David Whitebread, who I met while studying my PhD, and who has since then shared some insightful thinking’s about Vygotsky and play.  Dr. Zsuzsa Millei, a friend and mentor and editor of our book, Childhood and Nation.  John Siraj Blatchford and Prof Bob Stake, both helped me refine my research throughout the years; and Prof Judith Green, California who I met at a conference many years ago, the most enlightening person I have ever had the pleasure to encounter, and at the ripe age of 79 was still deeply engrossed in research and teaching.  She has become a very good friend, and mentor.  All of whom have greatly influenced me in my career and research.

Marguerita’s Teaching Philosophy 

As a lecturer it is important to make conscious decisions around the module content and pedagogy with the students experience in mind, as I believe our students possess knowledge skills, values and experiences which help them deal with their different employment opportunities.

I believe part of my role is to help them understand through the engagement with these courses, who they are and what they can contribute to the heterogeneity that they will encounter in their vocation to work with and educate young children. They are the advocates for the sector, ambassadors for early education in Ireland. And as such I think it is vital that we more than anything else help them develop skills like critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, analytical reasoning, reflexivity and communication skills, becoming leaders in their field, involved in research to further and benefit the sector in it’s entirety. I don’t believe it is my role to teach my students the practical aspects of early education, as it is they who bring that knowledge and experience with them; but rather it is my role to encourage them to apply the theoretical underpinnings to those practical skills.

As a philosophical stance on adult education, it is important to realise that understanding is not something that is transferrable from one person to another; rather understanding is constructed by each student, based on their prior knowledge and experiences; it is my philosophical stance that the role of the lecturer is to nurture, challenge and extend that knowledge.

As a lecturer it is vital to listen to the student’s voice, engage with them and support them, scaffolding the pathways to further learning. In order to achieve this it is important to encourage the students to engage and interact during tutorial sessions, as we all learn from each other, and in adult education the student is as vital to that learning experience as the lecturer. Discussion and debate are key, therefore I expect my students to respond, contribute and critique so that the understanding becomes deeply rooted.

It is also important to keep abreast of changes in the sector and up to date with up and coming research. I try to achieve this by engaging in research topics every 12/18 months if possible, and have had some of these contributions published to date. Attendance at conferences is a beneficial means of networking, raising awareness of current debates and issues in the sector, which are vital to ensuring the learning experience for the student is relevant and reflective of their own experiences.

As a reviewer for several journals, SAGE, Contemporary Issues, Global Childhood Studies and Early Childhood studies, I help to ensure that publications are peer reviewed and of the highest standard, and subscribing to these journals ensure that I always have access to suitable reading materials to supplement the course materials for my students.

Research Interests and contributions:

  • Special Educational Needs
  • Autism
  • ICT in Early Education
  • Wellbeing in Early Education
  • Curriculum Design and Leadership
  • Conceptual Development
  • Innovation and Diversities in Early Edcuation
  • Outdoor environments
  • Forest Schools
  • Risky Play in Early Education

Research / Industry Participation

  • SELB (2008) Autism Awareness Report
  • SELB (2010) Autism Intervention Support
  • Queens University Belfast (2010) Workshop Presentation: Research in the early years (Sole presenter)
  • Mary Immaculate College (2013) Workshop Presentation: Observation in Research: complementary methods (Co-presenter)
  • University of Limerick (2013) Workshop Presentation: Developmental Psychology; theory to practice (Sole Presenter)
  • Magennis, M. (2013) Digital Natives and Cultural Tools, Paper presented at Diversities in Literacy, Maynooth: Ireland (Conference Paper)
  • IRMSS – International Research Methods Conference (2014) MIC – Presented paper – June 2014.
  • Magennis, M. (2014) “Developing Leadership for a sustainable future: Enhancing ICT in the Curriculum” (conference paper)
  • OMEP International Conference (2014) UCC “Cross-border perspectives on digital technologies as a catalyst for creative learning and innovative teaching in early education”
  • Magennis, M. (2015) “National Symbols and Practices in the Everyday of Irish Education”, in Millei, Z. & Imre, R. (2015)
  • Magennis, M. (2015) Enhancing Literacy Concepts: Digital Natives and Cultural Tools.
  • BORDERS V111 Conference on Cultural Studies, Oulu Finland, 3-4 December 2015, Book Launch  – Virtual Presentation and Workshop.
  • Magennis, M. (forthcoming) “outdoor environments and Risky Play – Early educational strategies”
  • Dr. M’s Thoughts blog:

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. 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 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.

Colette Saunders

“There is no such thing as teaching without research and research without teaching.  One inhabits the body of the other. As I teach, I continue to search and research.  I teach because I search, because I question, and because I submit myself to questioning…” (Freire, 1998, p. 15) 


Module LeadBlending Learning Support Tutor and Associate Lecturer on Portobello Institute’s Level 7 Early Childhood Studies Degree, Project Supervisor on BA Hons Degree Level 8. 


For 15 years I worked in the financial services and customers services industry before returning to college as a mature student in 2009. 

I completed a fulltime degree in IT Sligo while working part-time alongside being a mum! My undergraduate studies, subsequent student placements and working in settings highlighted the importance and necessity of highquality early years experiences and how this can be achieved by having a highly qualified, dedicated early years workforce.   

Since joining Portobello at the end of 2017, on every module, I have lectured on or have been a blended learning support tutor for, I draw on my own experiences of having been an undergraduate and postgraduate, a mother, an early years practitioner, a child-mindera student on placement and a researcher.  

These roles alongside the base of my values of empowerment and representation have all informed my professional knowledge and development to date, and continue to guide me in the work that I do.

Amazing Things That You Have Done

I think enrolling on a Research Masters with two very young children in tow was pretty amazing but that is a matter oopinion!

Teaching philosophy

I have come across some great teaching philosophies on my own educational journey, but there is none that I can claim as my own.  However, representation and empowerment are two values, grounded in social justice, which inform my own practice so I carry these with me always and apply them whenever possible in my pedagogical approach.


I am studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at UCC. I hope to continue this learning journey which is taking me in the direction of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 


Masters by Research, IT Sligo 2020 

Certificate in Community Development, ALISON 2020 

Certificate in Staff Support and Supervision, ALISON 2020 

Certificate in Qualitative Research Methods, UL 2017 

BA in ECCE Hons, IT Sligo 2014 

Train the Trainer QQI Level 6 2014 

Certificate in Health Care Therapy ITEC 2006 

Certificate in Anatomy and Physiology ITEC 2001 

Diploma in Business and Office Administration with German, FÁS, 1999 

TEFL Certificate 1998 

Research / Industry Participation 

Participant and attendee at national and international conferences and seminars within the Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN ) and  Network for  Educational Action Research Ireland ( NEARI).

Criona Blackburne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success Story

“I have learned that post-graduate research deepens and develops expertise practically and theoretically, establishing leadership through self-direction and autonomous learning."

Sarah Stapleton

MA Early Childhood Studies – Starts Oct ’23 MA Early Childhood Studies – Starts Oct ’23
Success Story

"The Master’s was much more than a practical stepping stone. Almost immediately the content of the Master’s brought immense inspiration and awakening."

Kellie Duggan

MA Early Childhood Studies – Starts Oct ’23 MA Early Childhood Studies – Starts Oct ’23

How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

This MA in Early Childhood Care & Education has been specifically designed for delivery by online learning, with one to one tutorial support and interactive modular webinars designed specifically to prepare you to complete the module. It is very suited to you if you are working full-time with limited spare time yet you want to achieve your Masters qualification.

Each module commences with an induction webinar and you will meet your lead lecturer during this session.  You will be able to log-in and “attend” the lecture even if you are off-site or you can re-visit the lecture at a later date through our online portal. You can upload your assessments and your lecturer will give you feedback on whether you are on the right track before you submit the final version. Blended learning allows you to study at your time with support available throughout your learning journey.

What is a webinar?

A webinar, in the context of online learning, is a lecturer delivering a presentation or class online to a group of students. We use specifically designed e-learning software so you can participate in the class just as if you were present in the same room. You can ask a question of the lecturer at any stage during the class.

Interactive break-out rooms

The software is designed with “break-out rooms” where you can discuss a topic or complete a group exercise with a smaller group from your class. You will need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone that has internet connection, an audio facility so you can hear and speak during the class and a camera so your lecturer and fellow class participants can see you.

Secure online learning environment

The webinar is a secure online environment and only those permitted entry by the lecturer can gain access to the “classroom”. Webinars are recorded during each session and should you miss a session, you can catch up with the recorded session at a later date. You will only be able to access Webinars of the group you are assigned to.

Course Structure

This course is delivered over 2 academic years with optional supported webinars held during scheduled weekends. This programme consists of five core modules. You will complete one module in each semester and the final module, your dissertation project, will be completed throughout year 2. Each student is assigned a Dissertation Supervisor who will act as their personal academic support tutor for the research-based module that is the dissertation project.

Each module has 1 – 2  one day webinars designed to support the student to complete the modules scheduled for that semester. Webinars are generally held on a Saturday from 10am to 4pm. There are also 3 – 4 webinars held on evenings scheduled throughout the semester. Attendance at webinars is recommended for an optimal learning experience and achievement. Webinars are delivered with the purpose of introducing the module lecturer, setting out the learning outcomes, content, the assessment strategy and expectations for skills/knowledge development.

All of the course material is held on an online learning portal which is an easy to use online platform specifically designed for online learning programmes. During the induction, students will be introduced to the platform with practical demonstration of how to use the portal and access lessons quickly and easily. To complete this course, students must have a basic knowledge of using a computer and searching the internet for research purposes.

Peer to Peer Support

Learning from the experience of other students is often cited as an integral part of any learning journey through a programme. This programme is conducted primarily online and to achieve peer to peer learning, we create study groups. This is a group of students either with a similar research interest or located regionally for ease of “meeting up”. Many graduates tell us that the relationships they build in their study group, offers them a professional network to tap into through out their careers as well as some lifelong friendships.

Tutor Support

You can email your tutor during the module to ask a simple query or submit a draft of your assessment. Our programme management team are 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. 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 during your learning journey through this programme.

Online Learning Portal

During the induction webinar, 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 the learning portal. 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. You will need basic computer skills to search the internet and type a word document to complete your assignment.

Year 1

Semester 1 runs from 16th October ’23 to 24th Jan ’24.

Semester 2 runs from 10th February ’24 to 27th May ’24.

This is a blended learning course with webinars held on prescribed Saturdays throughout the academic year.

Year 2

Semester 3 runs from 15th October ’24 to 24th Jan ’25.

Semester 4 runs from 8th February ’25 to 27th May ’25

Attendance at webinars is optional although recommended for optimal learning experience and achievement.

Please note there may be some variation to these dates.

How will I be assessed?

Assessments for this degree are through course work and a dissertation. The assessments vary from practice based assignments to researching a topic you are interested in. We encourage you to reflect on your knowledge gain with a number of assignments designed to explore your learning journey. All of these methods are seeking to support you to combine theory with scenario based learning and how to practically implement these methods into your every day practice.

Career prospects

As our society has become more diverse, there is a growing awareness of the importance of early years settings and the service provided not just to children and families but also to society as a whole. This has resulted in a growth in the number and variety of job positions available in the sector, some of these are new roles not previously imagined.

Broaden your career opportunities with a Masters

Employers in every sector are raising the educational requirements for emerging roles, the early years sector is not immune. A masters in Early Childhood Studies can open up a range of job opportunities for you both in and out of the early years setting that you may not have previously considered or even been eligible for.

Consider areas of administration, working as part of the inspectorate, tutoring on level 7 degree programmes, policy development,  research into the early years sector, working as a Standards Verifier of external results; The opportunities are much wider than you possibly are aware of and all of these opportunities put your expertise and experience of the early years sector to good use, enhancing your career opportunities.

Be a leader of the early years sector

With an MA Early Childhood Studies, you have the opportunity also to lead and enhance the early years sector and gain the recognitions deserved for the early years profession. You will continue to have an impact on children at a critical part in their lives, but you can develop how and where you do this; taking on advisory and consultation roles, lecturing roles and inspectorate roles to lead change in the sector.

Command a higher pay scale

A Masters degree will immediately increase your earning potential due to the wider range of career opportunities that will now be open to you. This Masters in Early Childhood Studies qualification will elevate your employability and give you the opportunity to command a higher pay scale than your less qualified peers.

What will a Masters mean to me in practice?

All of the knowledge you will gain together with the experience you have, you will find beneficial when you are working with children or you have children or grandchildren of your own.  Understanding why children behave in a particular way, how to support them during difficult times, being aware of what they are doing and why they do these things. You will see the bigger picture.  As you advance through your Masters –everything that you absorb – psychology, research techniques, theory, curriculum design, classroom management, diversity, complexities of childhoods in context – will all come together to give you a well-rounded understanding of childhood learning and development.

Develop your leadership skills for quality provision

You will further develop your skills of reflective practice, leadership, innovation and quality provision. You will continue to develop and strengthen your powers of observation and assessment.  Watching and assessing children is a big part of our practice, especially at early childhood level.  Assessment of progress in these early stages relies solely on your sense of where their needs lie and will rely on your powers of observation. Your engagement with psychology and child development will enhance this area of your skills, making you a valuable asset to any part of the early years sector. This Masters will help you to become a careful, dispassionate observer of young children, effectively appraising their progress and highlight potential areas of concern.

Exit points on this Masters

After completing the two modules delivered in the first year of this course you will be awarded a Post Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Studies should you wish to exit the programme and not continue to second year. If you wish to exit the programme after completing a further two modules (four in total), you will be awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Studies. Students who complete four modules and the required dissertation project will be awarded a Masters in Early Childhood Studies.

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 and the employment prospects of each of our 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

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 Masters is by direct application to Portobello Institute.

There are entry criteria available to students with differing qualifications however students must hold a relevant honours degree (at least 2:2) and it is preferable you work within the early childhood workforce.

Some of the modules require an observational visit to a setting offering care and education for children from birth to six-years-old. Where you’re not working directly with children you will need to be able to commit to this component of the programme.

Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online booking form.

Apply Now

Step 2

Applicants will be contacted for confirmation/evidence of meeting the entry criteria and year of entry will be confirmed.

Step 3

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

Applicants who do not meet the criteria, may be eligible for advanced entry into the BA Ord or Hons in Early Childhood Studies. This programme is available through Portobello Institute.

Please note places on this course are restricted and places only confirmed once tuition fees have been received. Early Application is advised.

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 (€1,687.95), followed by 8 scheduled payments every 1 month(s). Includes one off instalment fee of €365.00.

    • €428.38 due on 1st October 2023.
    • €428.38 due on 1st November 2023.
    • €428.38 due on 1st December 2023.
    • €428.38 due on 1st January 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st February 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st March 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st April 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st May 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).


    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 (€1,687.95), followed by 8 scheduled payments every 1 month(s). Includes one off instalment fee of €365.00.

    • €428.38 due on 1st November 2023.
    • €428.38 due on 1st December 2023.
    • €428.38 due on 1st January 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st February 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st March 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st April 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st May 2024.
    • €428.38 due on 1st June 2024.