When I got accepted on the LINC Programme there was a mix of emotions. On one hand, I was so excited to be one of the fortunate applicants to be accepted on the course but at the same time the blended online learning was not something I had previously engaged with and I was nervous as to how I would find it. When the course began, I remember meeting my LINC tutors on the first day and I really felt they embodied inclusion. Even within our class context, I instantly felt very secure and comfortable in the learning environment they had created. I felt very much valued as a student on the course; at the end of each class, feedback was requested and given the adaption of the course over the period of five years, I feel our feedback influenced the ongoing development of the course.
The year I started the programme I was also completing the final year of my degree and I remember thinking I perhaps would not be able to successfully complete both. However, the regular support provided by both the tutors and the class community which they created provided me with the support I needed; that even on the “hard days”, I could do it. Doing a degree at the time, I recall naively thinking that I knew a lot regarding inclusion and inclusive practice and although I did have a level of comprehension, this programme for me really delved into how to translate this understanding into practice. The weekly online tutorials provided support if you were ever struggling with certain aspects of your assignments or if you were trying to adapt your practice. It provided a fantastic platform to share ideas and learn from other people’s lived experiences.
Reflection is a tool I regularly engage with to strengthen my practice or critique certain experiences (Early Childhood Australia 2012). Reflecting on this programme, I remember how at the beginning, although I knew the programme was about developing inclusive practice, I was unsure “how to become an INCO”(Inclusion Coordinator). However, throughout the duration of the programme between gaining a deeper understanding and being exposed to practises that really embodied “inclusivity”, I gained confidence and felt empowered. I realised that, when broken down, inclusion can be promoted within all Early Years Settings no matter the size. Halfway through this programme, I decided I wanted to open my own Early Years setting and in doing this course I actually created a lot of my Policy documents from the information I had obtained: from my Inclusion Policy to my Staff Induction Packs. With the aid of the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (NCCA 2015), I was provided with the tools to enable me to create the inclusive setting that I wanted the children, family and teachers to experience together. During my time on the programme, I was provided with two documents to complete, documents I still use in my two services today. One is the “Reflections of Inclusion” which is the Competency Framework underpinning the LINC Programme (Breen et. al, 2015) and the “Action Plan” document. I use these documents on a regular basis in critiquing my services and identifying not only areas that require further development but also to see the areas that we are doing well on and celebrate this also. I then use the “Action Plan”, after reflecting with my team to identify the “how” to develop any areas or gaps that we require further development on.
The LINC Graduation Day was amazing. I remember after the tough year of finishing my degree, completing the LINC Programme and opening my first service, I recall my name being called out and walking up to accept my certificate and becoming an Inclusion Coordinator. I remember looking down at my family and colleagues and feeling such a sense of pride that all my hard work had paid off. Completing the LINC Programme has afforded me the opportunity to develop truly inclusive practice in my services; that not only recognises differences but celebrates how wonderful it is that we are all so different and individual and by recognising that is transformative to one’s practice. I have also been given the opportunity to be an Assistant Tutor on this programme which was so humbling as I am now in a position I looked up to so much four years ago when I was a student on the programme. Finally, LINC was a massive part of my journey to where I am today from being a setting owner, LINC Assistant Tutor to getting my research published with ECI and it is one I would highly recommend Early Childhood Teachers to apply for.
My name is Racheal Govan, I have worked in the Early Childhood Care and Education sector in a national and international context since 2012. In 2017, I got accepted on the LINC Programme and graduated from the programme in 2018. In that same year I went on to open my own Early Years’ service and since, have opened another. Promoting inclusivity has always been a passion of mine and utilising the opportunities we are afforded in the Early Years to provide inclusive environments for all children is limitless. I completed a Masters of Education in Maynooth University in 2020, welcomed the opportunity this year to work as an Assistant Tutor on the LINC Programme.
- Breen, F., Kelleher, S., Ring, E., & Stapleton, S. (2015) _ Linc Programme: Enabling Leadership for Inclusion through an Innovative Competency-Based Blended Adult Continuing professional learning Programme. Online accessed on 1/5/2021.
- Early Childhood Australia. (2012). Reflection as a tool for quality: Working with the National Quality Standard. Online at accessed on 1/5/2021.
- National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2015). Aistear Síolta Practice Retrieved 1/5/2020 from here.