With the renewed focus and investment by the Department of Education and Skills to provide additional resources and funding, more children with special educational needs can now avail of the support services the State provides. These resources include the increased employment numbers of special needs assistants to assist these children achieve their educational ambitions. The state is now providing funding for pre-school children with special needs to attend early years settings, thus widening the career options for special needs assistants.

In response to demand from our many special needs assistant graduates to progress to a full major award, Portobello Institute has devised this study option to recognise prior learning. This programme combines part-time classes with blended learning modules and gives exemption for holders of Level 5 & 6 QQI qualifications in Special Needs Assisting.


QQI Level 6 Major Award in Early Years Care and Education

This major award is made up of the following minor awards;
• Special Needs Assisting Level 5 Award – 15 credits
• Special Needs Assisting Level 6 Award – 15 credits
• Child Development - 15 credits
• Early Childhood Curriculum - 15 credits
• Childhood Social, Legal & Health Issues - 15 credits
• Personal & Professional Development - 15 credits
• Work Experience - 15 credits
• Creative Studies for Special Needs Assistants – 15 credits

Course Structure

This programme is delivered by combining part-time classes with blended learning content. The two special needs assistant modules are delivered by contact tuition, either by attending classes one evening per week or by attending the intensive 1 week programmes held in Dublin.

When students have successfully completed the 2 Special Needs assisting modules, they can then commence the remaining 6 modules delivered by blended learning. Each module has a workshop held on a Saturday. Students can choose which blended learning module to commence with as module workshops are held a number of times throughout the year. These workshops give guidance on the content and completing the assignment. Students can avail of full tutor support by telephone, email or one to one support, to complete the assignment and are able to do this at a time and place convenient to them. Students have 18 months to complete the programme in its entire.

Entry Requirements

Entry to this course is by direct application to the college. There are no previous academic requirements.

Work Experience

Students must complete 20 hours work experience for each of the special needs assisting modules. Portobello Institute supports students to locate a suitable placement. This placement can be used for completing the work experience module required to achieve the major award.


See below for a list of venues we are running this course in. We try to accommodate as many venues as possible but if there is a venue you would like to see us in, please get in touch with us and if we have enough numbers we would be delighted to accommodate you. Contact: megan.corr@portobelloinstitute.ie or 01 8920024


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