Supporting parents, communities and schools in the education of children

The Early Learning Initiative (ELI) at National College of Ireland was developed to address the problem of educational underachievement in marginalised communities. Building upon tried and tested models of early years’ intervention, our mission is to work with communities in areas of greatest need, to provide world-class parent and child learning support programmes.

The first 5 years are critical for children’s futures

Substantial research conducted in Ireland and internationally indicates that early learning is the foundation for all subsequent learning. At three years of age, there are already big differences in language and mathematical development between children from rich and poor backgrounds. This gap continues to widen if it is not addressed before children start preschool.

The sad fact is that without early intervention through home visiting and parent support, generations of children’s life chances have been determined before they enter formal education. The ELI is unique in that we are breaking that generational cycle through the provision, from birth, of an integrated programme of activities, training and support for children, parents and educators. Participation has grown from 400 people to 14,500+. We, along with Government and our loyal corporate partners, have supported the educational journeys of thousands of marginalised children and young people. 

Find out more about our programmes.

Success through partnerships – Corporate, Government and Community

ELI achievements are the result of many people working together to ensure that children, young people and their families develop the dispositions, skills and knowledge needed to achieve their educational, career and life goals.  ELI’s cross-sectorial network of parents; Public Health nurses; preschool staff; community and youth workers; primary to third-level educators; and corporate volunteers, understand the challenges faced by the local community and are committed to making a real difference. 

Find out how you can get involved.

2020-25 Strategic Plan

While the world has changed since ELI began in 2006, improving educational outcomes for children and families is still our priority. Described as ambitious and innovative in both the Irish and international context, ELI aims over the next five years to develop further. Our goal is that the 2,400 babies born into poverty in Ireland each year get the support they need to thrive. Community Action Research will continue to be at the core of our strategic planning. Our ‘cautious expansion’ approach guarantees that ELI has the resources to support any new activities while maintaining its existing commitments and the quality of provision, support and oversight. 

A National Centre for Parent-Child Home Visiting and Family Engagement was established in January 2020 to support communities across Ireland to deliver high-quality Home Visiting and Parent Engagement Programmes, in line with the Irish Government’s First 5 A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019-2028. Operating alongside and learning from our existing ABC and Dublin’s Inner-City programmes, the National Centre will help us differentiate between local and national projects; advance Early Years Home Visiting in Ireland; capture and communicate new learning and remain innovative and responsive.