Institute of Education

Grad Dip in Inclusive Education, Learning Support and Special Education

Course Code:
Course Type:
NFQ Level:
Delivery Mode:
+353 (0) 1
700 9072

This programme has been offered by the Institute of Education, DCU since September 2016. It combines two well-established graduate diploma courses that were offered previously at St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra and the Church of Ireland College of Education, Rathmines.

The programme is open to primary and post-primary teachers who are employed in a position that is funded by the Department of Education and Skills and who provide Learning Support, Resource Teaching and Resource Teaching for Travellers in recognised primary schools, post-primary schools, and in other recognised educational services. Teachers serving in special schools and special classes are also eligible to apply.

The programme provides a qualification that is recognised by the Department of Education and Skills for teachers working in the areas of inclusive education, special education and learning support who work in the following roles: Learning Support Teacher and/or Resource Teacher, Teacher in a Special School, Teacher in a Special Class.

Funding for the course is provided by the DES. This means that for teachers who are eligible:

  • No fees or registration charges will apply to participants.
  • They will continue to receive their salary in the usual during their participation.
  • Substitution will be provided by the DES to the schools in which they work, to cover their attendance at lectures and seminars during school hours.

There are no formal written examinations involved in the course. Participants will be assessed on the basis of full attendance at the programme venue, engagement with course content and activities, successful completion of selected tasks and written assignments and supervision of work in schools/centres, including final evaluation of this.

Participants who successfully complete the course, and who meet the relevant entry requirements, will be eligible to seek admission to the Masters in Special Educational Needs (MSEN) programme run at the School of Inclusive and Special Education. Credit for completion of the postgraduate diploma will be given to those who progress to the MSEN programme.

This is a one-year, part-time postgraduate diploma programme that aims to provide substantial theoretical and practical continuing professional development to teachers who work with learners deemed to have special educational needs and/or who require learning support in primary, post-primary and special schools and other recognised educational settings.

It is a delivered in a blended format. This involves attending lectures, seminars and workshops during eight weeks of block-release that is spread out over the course of one academic year, including a number of Saturdays. Learning also occurs during visits by course tutors to schools, in dedicated on-line sessions and through engagement with resources made available on DCU learning platforms. In order to participate in the programme, teachers will need access to a computer and broadband internet access.

Indicative Modules

  • Principles and concepts of inclusive and special education
  • Assessment, profiling and planning
  • Teaching, planning and learning for all
  • Learner identity and educational implications
  • Collaboration and leadership
  • Reflective practice and enquiry
  • Elective modules

The course will begin with a joint session for Principals & Participants on the afternoon of 10th September 2021.

Thereafter participants are required to attend three blocks of lectures (in their entirely). DES-funded substitution is available to the schools/centres of all those who are offered a place on the programme to allow this to occur.

The dates of mandatory lecture blocks are as follows:

  • Block 1 - Mon 13th September - Fri 8th October 2021 (4 weeks)
  • Block 2 - Mon 10th January - Fri 21st January 2022 (2 weeks)
  • Block 3 - Mon 28th February - Fri 11th March 2022 (2 weeks)

Lectures are normally held continuously from 9.00am to 3.45pm each day in the DCU, St Patrick’s Campus, Drumcondra. Course organisers reserve the right to schedule some face-to-face tuition on campus on a number of Saturdays during the year. There will also be in excess of 10 on-line sessions scheduled in the evening time (usually on Monday evenings) during the year. Access to reliable broadband is an essential prerequisite for satisfactory engagement with the GDILS programme.

View the current course structure

The institute of Education, DCU is set within the only faculty of education on the island of Ireland. It runs the largest postgraduate programme of this kind in the country. This means that you will have the opportunity to come in contact with course participants from a wide variety of settings and benefit from input provided by lecturers who have developed expertise in a very broad range of (often specialist) areas and sectors. For example, particular expertise has been developed within the programme team around the inclusion of students in primary, post-primary and special schools and other education centres, including settings that respond to highly complex learner profiles, such learners deemed to have severe or profound learning disability.



General Entry Requirements

The programme is open to all serving teachers who are employed in a position funded by the Department of Education and Skills and who provide Learning Support, Resource Teaching and Resource Teaching for Travellers in recognised primary schools, post-primary schools and other recognised educational services. Teachers serving in special schools and special classes are also eligible to apply.

Please review the relevant DES circular at the link below inviting applications for the course. This is usually updated and circulated in January or early February of each year. 

View the relevant DES Circular Eligbility Criteria

* Note applications for DCU is via the process below, not the hard copy from the above circular.


Part time

EU Status Fee Part-time
DES Funded

Next Steps

Make an Application

The closing date for receipt of applications for the 2021-22 iteration of this programme has now passed (5pm on 11th March 2021). 

Because the GDILS programme is heavily oversubscribed each year:

  • Late applications cannot be accepted.
  • Not all applicants can be offered places on the course.

Update: DCU Registry has now circulated the first round of offers for places on the 2021-22 course. Those who applied but did not receive a first round offer will be notified of this before 5pm Friday 23rd of April via the email address provided in the application.  Please make sure to check your spam folder.  It is possible that a small number of places will become available before the course begins. These will be filled exclusively from the extensive waiting lists we have drawn up from timely applications received this year. Please do not contact the University seeking information on waiting lists.

It would be useful for prospective future applicants (and their principals/centre managers/ BoM Chairpersons) to be familiar with the DES circular governing these courses, especially those elements that relate to eligibility, which do not tend to change much from year to year). This can be accessed Here.

EU Applicants

Closing Date: 5pm on 11th of March 2021.

"No fees or registration charges apply to eligible applicants who secure a place on this course"

*If you have any questions or queries relating to this process, please email