Leading Inclusion from the Inside Out

A Handbook for Parents and Early Childhood Teachers in Early Learning and Care, Primary and Special School Settings

by Emer Ring (Volume editor) Lisha O’Sullivan (Volume editor) Marie Ryan (Volume editor) Patricia Daly (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection XXII, 324 Pages


Following on from the phenomenal success of the Peter Lang publication ‘Autism from the Inside Out’, ‘Leading inclusion from the Inside Out’ is the first book to focus on providing Irish parents, early childhood teachers in early learning and care, primary and special school settings with practical and effective strategies for supporting the inclusion of all children at this critical phase of their education journey. With a foreword by Prof Seamus Hegarty, University of Warwick/University College Dublin, and emerging from the experiences of the authors during the delivery and evaluation of the multi-award winning Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years (LINC) Programme, the book is located in contemporary research on inclusion. The volume is presented in three interconnected sections focused on placing the child at the centre of a bioecological framework; realising inclusive pedagogy and cultivating effective
leadership for including all children.
Believing that language is a significant contributor to progressing an education system where all children are valued equally, the authors have directed specific attention to the use of terminology that communicates a philosophy of universality, within which difference and diversity are embedded, rather than disability and uniformity. In essence, the publication looks towards a new era, where leading inclusion from the inside out progresses to leading early childhood education from the inside out and advocating for inclusion is relegated to history.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Glossary of Terms
  • Terminology
  • Introduction
  • 1 Introduction: Looking Towards a New Era of Leading Education for All from the Inside Out: The Potential of a Bioecological Lens in Creating Early Childhood Experiences Where Diversity Becomes the Norm: EMER RING
  • The Child at the Centre
  • 2 Making Children’s Right to Participate Visible and Children’s Voices Distinct in the Acoustic of Early Childhood Education: EMER RING, PAULA HARTE AND MAURICE HARMON
  • 3 Children from Birth to 3 Years: Valuing and Supporting Our Earliest Learners, as They Begin Their Educational Journey: MARIE DOHERTY
  • 4 Interactions Drive Development: What Does This Actually Mean for Practice?: MARIE RYAN
  • Realising Inclusive Culture, Pedagogy and Practice
  • 5 Realising and Building Partnership with Parents and Families: ANNA BARR AND PAULA HILLIARD
  • 6 Wellbeing as Central to Including All Children in the Early Years: SHIRLEY HEANEY AND SARAH FEENEY
  • 7 Play as a Pedagogy for All Children: LISHA O’SULLIVAN
  • 8 Making the Environment the Third Teacher: SARAH KELLEHER AND EDEL FENLON
  • Leadership for Including All Children
  • 9 Leadership in the Early Learning and Care Setting: SHARON SKEHILL
  • 10 Leading and Implementing Whole-Setting and Individual Planning: ANN DONNELLAN, MARGARET JOYCE AND RACHAEL RYAN
  • 11 Assessed Needs as Signposts for Learning and Development: PATRICIA M. DALY
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

←xii | xiii→


An enduring puzzle of our times is why early childhood provision is the poor relation of public services and indeed how the significance of early childhood in primary schools is not always understood. Despite incontrovertible evidence from around the world that high-quality learning experiences for young children make economic and social sense – apart from the fact that it is the right thing to do – early childhood education is not resourced as it should be. It is ironic that Covid-19 has served to highlight the importance of child care, in enabling parents who are key works to continue working. Welcome though this greater appreciation is, little emphasis has been placed on the fundamental rationale that providing high-quality early childhood experiences for all of our children promotes child welfare and development, yields considerable long-term dividends and has particular importance for children from less advantaged backgrounds.

Inclusion represents another puzzle here. It beggars belief that in 2020 the case for inclusion still needs to be made. There has been progress from the days when those who were different were, at best, marginalised and frequently were villainised; but the uncomfortable reality of our times is that exclusion is still evident in our societies, including in the education sector which might be expected to lead the way. Despite a plethora of positive rhetoric, inclusion is not the taken-for-granted organising principle of educational provision that it ought to be, and we are still a far cry from ensuring that all early childhood settings and schools take effective account of the diverse situations of children and young people.

This book makes a signal contribution in respect of both of these puzzles. It may not resolve them entirely but, in making a powerful case for inclusive early childhood provision across early learning and care provision and the early years classes in primary and special schools, and demonstrating comprehensively how it can be achieved, it marks a significant step in moving the consensus forward.

←xiii | xiv→

The book has emerged from a remarkable development in Ireland. As part of a Government initiative to bolster early years provision, a programme was developed to equip all early years settings with a well-trained INclusion CO-ordinator. This entailed identifying existing members of staff and providing them with comprehensive, year-long professional development in all aspects of inclusive practice and especially leadership. Known as the LINC (Leadership for Inclusion in the Early Years) Programme, it was co-ordinated on a national basis by staff at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and ran from 2016 to 2020. A second iteration of the programme is to commence in January 2021.

The heart of the Programme is a set of learning materials focussed on inclusive practices in early childhood settings and the role of leadership in achieving them. It utilises a blended learning approach, with the bulk of the materials delivered online. The Programme has been highly successful in terms of both student feedback and achievement. It has also won numerous awards for innovation in teaching and learning and for delivering online learning experiences.

This book draws on the exemplary materials of the LINC Programme to offer an authoritative account of thinking and practice in early childhood provision at early learning and care, primary and special school levels. Besides offering a robust account of what inclusion means, it provides a great deal of pertinent material on familiar topics such as partnership with parents, the pedagogical power of play and making effective use of the environment. More than that, however – and this is its particular contribution – it has a wealth of stimulating material on leadership for inclusion. Whether or not an early childhood setting – or any other setting for that matter – becomes truly inclusive depends critically on the quality of leadership available within the setting. Graduates of the LINC Programme have been true agents of change across the sector, and this book can play a signal role in developing the leadership skills the sector needs – and without which it will not thrive. Significantly the primary and special school sectors can now benefit from the exceptional success of the LINC programme.

This book will be a valuable resource not only for people who work in early education but also for national and local policy-makers and for parents. It makes a powerful case for expertise-driven provision, and sets ←xiv | xv→out a wealth of practical guidelines and exemplars covering all aspects of provision but particularly leadership. Its clarity and focus mean that it has global resonance and will be a valuable resource far beyond the Irish shores.

Seamus Hegarty
Visiting Professor University of Warwick
Adjunct Professor University College Dublin

←xvi | xvii→

Glossary of Terms


Applied Behaviour Analysis


Antecedents, Behaviours, Consequences


Anti-Bias Curriculum


Access and Inclusion Mode


American Psychiatric Association


Autism Spectrum Differences. This terminology is specifically selected to underline the authors’ position in employing positive and enabling language to acknowledge and celebrate differences.1


Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education


Centre for Early Childhood Research at Mary Immaculate College


Continuing Professional Development


Department of Children and Youth Affairs


Department of Education and Skills


Department for Education


Department of Health


European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education


European Commission


Early Childhood Care and Education


Early Childhood Education and Care


Extension to the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale


Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Revised


Early Childhood Ireland


Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention


Early Learning and Care


Effective Provision of Pre-school Education Study


Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act


Early Years Education-focused Inspection (EYEI)


Government of Ireland←xvii | xviii→


Health Service Executive


Inter-Departmental Group


Inclusive Early Childhood Education


Individual Education Plan


XXII, 324
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XXII, 324 pp., 77 fig. b/w, 12 tables.

Biographical notes

Emer Ring (Volume editor) Lisha O’Sullivan (Volume editor) Marie Ryan (Volume editor) Patricia Daly (Volume editor)

Professor Emer Ring is Dean of Early Childhood and Teacher Education at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Dr Lisha O’Sullivan is Head of Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Marie Ryan is an educational psychologist and a lecturer in early childhood education at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Dr Patricia Daly is a former Head of the Department of Educational Psychology and Special and Inclusive Education at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland.


Title: Leading Inclusion from the Inside Out