Early Learning Initiative, National College of Ireland

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. 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.


Dublin, Ireland



Type of organisation:

NGO/ community-based organisation/ charity


  • Children
  • Education and training
  • Immigration, refugee and asylum seeker supports
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Services for people with disabilities
  • Services for Travellers and ethnic minorities
  • Social inclusion
  • Young people / youth work


  • Development of education and training materials and programmes
  • Digitalization
  • European learning networks and exchanges
  • Community outreach and engagement
  • Governance
  • Policy, advocacy and campaigns
  • Research
  • Technological innovation

EU Project Experience

Some experience

ELI were previously involved in the Make Literacy Meaningful project, funded by the European Union under the ERASMUS+ Programme from 2017 - 2019.

The project focused on developing practically oriented knowledge in the area of language and literacy development, with a specific focus on addressing the needs, challenges and opportunities resulting from multilingual and multicultural classrooms.

Alongside other departments in the National College of Ireland, we had programme partners in the UK, Spain, Luxembourg, and Germany. We were able to utilize the expertise of programme creation through the School of Computing and the Centre of Education and Lifelong Learning in NCI while learning from differing experiences of multilingualism and multiculturalism from our European Partners. Visiting our partners gave us the opportunity to experience their learning environments and build deeper relationships. Likewise, we created learning opportunities for our partners by facilitating a conference, workshops and onsite visits to school settings in Dublin’s Inner City.

The Department of Justice and Equality through the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund 2014 - 2020 (AMIF) helped us ensure that migrant children start school on a par with their peers and their parents were enabled access to other services, make friends and integrate into the local community.

Through this funding, we were able to find innovative ways to engage with families who were Third Country Nationals. Families participated in a 2 year home visiting programme to increase the literacy and language skills of their child, prepare them to succeed in the Irish education system and increase their confidence as parents.

EU Funding Goals

ELI are interested in partnering with organisations interested in pursuing social justice for children, young people, and their families by ensuring they have the dispositions and skills to achieve their educational, career and life goals.

We work with families who are experiencing disadvantage which often leads to a lack of access to educational opportunities and achievements otherwise considered to be normal. Many of the families ELI work with are experiencing intergenerational poverty, lack of education, homelessness, trauma, crime, are migrant families or who have children with disabilities. These experiences alone or combined can have detrimental effects on the outcomes for children.

We want to learn from a range of organisations who have expertise in programme implementation, informing policy provision and research with families experiencing these challenges. As ELI’s focus is on home visiting and family engagement, experience in these fields is welcomed alongside experience with a focus on prevention and early intervention.


At the Early Learning Initiative (ELI) our vision is that all children will have the skills, confidence and love of learning to succeed at school, career and life.

We also believe in parents as a child’s first and best teacher. We walk with the whole family on their educational journey to transform their lives and the communities they live in for the better.

Established in 2006 by National College of Ireland (NCI), ELI has gone from strength to strength. Our programmes run from ‘cradle to college’ in Dublin’s Inner City and more recently across Ireland we provide home visiting and family engagement programmes to Ireland’s most disadvantaged families.

We provide engaging, creative and fun activities for children and parents from birth to eighteen years of age.  A key strength is the employment and training of local women, most of whom are early school leavers. They act as ambassadors for education in their community and create access to educational information and services. This has a dual benefit of ensuring community ownership and creating a ripple effect throughout the area, with more and more people appreciating and understanding the long-term educational benefits of talking to, reading and playing with their children.

A community action research approach is used to develop ELI’s programmes. Acknowledging, respecting and utilising the expertise and experience within the local families and communities is at the heart of this cyclical process, which supports participants to deliver high quality services and share their learning.


Contact Name:

Lána Cummins

Job Title:

ELI National Assistant Director

Email Address:
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