Article contributed by the Inishowen Development Partnership

Six years ago Buncrana mum Bernie Kearney had no professional childcare experience. But after signing up for the community employment scheme Bernie has worked herself up through the ranks, gained a level 8 degree in childcare and become assistant manager of one of the busiest childcare facilities in Buncrana – Shelley’s. 

“The community employment childcare scheme really lets you do it all,” said Bernie. 

“You can do your work experience, your studies and have time at home with the kids all at the same time. The scheme really supports you through it all and without them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have achieved today.”

Bernie Kearney

Bernie, who had one four-year-old when she joined the CE scheme in 2016, became pregnant with her second child the following year. But the Buncrana mum said this was no issue for the scheme. 

“I was able to take my time off on maternity leave and continue with my studies at home,” said Bernie. 

“The scheme supported me at every turn and even after I went back and was completing my level 8 degree I was supported by my employers IDP and by the CE supervisor, where I was given time off to study for my degree.” 

Bernie believes that there is a taboo around the CE schemes locally, but she would encourage anyone with an interest in childcare to take it up. 

“I was embarrassed when I started out on the CE scheme, and I think other people are the same. I had this notion that CE schemes were for people who wanted to doss about, but it is so much more than that. 

“I learned very quickly how the scheme could benefit me and I used to my advantage. I was focused and I knew what I wanted. As well as that the scheme supports you throughout and accommodates you if there is a change of circumstances at home. My partner decided to change careers while on the scheme and it supported us financially to enable him to do that as well. It really was great for us.” 

Similarly fellow Buncrana woman Deborah Boyle started on a TUS scheme working in the Cockhill Community Playschool, and now she runs her own preschool, Magic Moments Preschool in Buncrana.

“I was working in insurance for 12 years but I always had a notion of working in a preschool so I left my job and joined the TUS scheme where I was placed in Rosie’s for a year,” explained Deborah. 

Deborah Boyle

However following her year on TUS Deborah was referred to do her level 5 childcare studies through the Inishowen CE childcare scheme, which is co-ordinated by Inishowen Development Partnership. CE Supervisor with IDP, Pauline Coyle, oversees the scheme in Inishowen. 

“Rosie referred me to Pauline and with her I was able to do my level 5. From there I went to university in England to do a blended learning degree in childcare,” explained Deborah. 

“CE allowed me to be able to work, do my studies and be a mammy to my two children all at the same time. The scheme gives you the hands on experience you need for working in the childcare sector – it’s not just a week or two work experience it is proper employment where you are part of a team, and that’s vital.”

Deborah continued worked in Cockhill until 2020 when she left to open her own preschool setting, Magic Moments, in Buncrana, employing two permanent staff members and relief staff. 

Like Bernie, Deborah was extremely focussed on what she wanted to do and CE helped her achieve her goals. 

“I knew I wanted to get the level 8 and I was able to do that and get the hands-on work experience all while still being mammy. I would highly recommend going down the same road as me and Bernie. 

“It was perfect for us at the time because we both had young children at home. I really think it’s great for young mums especially,” she added. 

To find out more about the Community Employment Childcare Scheme, which is co-ordinated locally through the IDP office in Buncrana, see or call CE Supervisor Pauline Coyle on 086 1739920