Saturday, 19 August, 2017

President Higgins presents STAR Awards to outstanding adult learning initiatives

20 Feb 2012 05:11 PM

Today (Monday February 20th) President Michael D. Higgins recognised the achievements of five outstanding adult education initiatives at the AONTAS STAR Awards Ceremony at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. President Higgins announced the winners in five categories - Munster, Leinster, Connaught, Ulster and Nationwide, and presented them with their awards at a special ceremony which began at 11.30 am. Over 250 people attended the ceremony.

Speaking at the awards, President Higgins said, 'We know that career and indeed other opportunities are often determined by the level of educational attainment we achieve. For some the lifelong learning journey has been a natural progression through primary and second level and onwards but for others that experience may have been very different and the path of reengagement with the world of education may seem daunting and uncertain. Many of the groups nominated for the Awards today have done wonderful work within communities in helping others with previously low levels of education to resume the journey.'

Award winners this year include Age Action Ireland for their 'Getting Started' programme, Croí na Gaillimhe Resource Centre (a St Vincent de Paul centre in Galway), Limerick Community Education Network and the Knockmay Women's Quilting Project from Portaoise. 'Destined'- a bespoke learning and development programme for people with intellectual disabilities delivered by NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) was the recipient of the Ulster Award. Music at the ceremony was provided by the Ballymun Lullaby Choir which includes a string group, a brass group and a choir group.

This is the sixth year that AONTAS has organised the STAR Awards. Berni Brady, Director of AONTAS said 'The STAR Awards has gone from strength to strength each year. When we started the initiative back in 2007 we received 43 nominations. This year, AONTAS received 119 nominations. The nominations give an insight into how adult education can respond to the learning needs of adults. Initiatives that have been shortlisted for these awards have really demonstrated strong outcomes to their work - helping people move onto further and higher education and employment. Through collaboration at local level, these initiatives are enhancing education services for people, contributing to the development of their communities and seeding ideas for small but sustainable social enterprises. For many adults around the country who are feeling disillusioned in these difficult times, adult education is offering them a second chance.'

Some of the initiatives shortlisted were developed by local VECs. Others have strong support from the private sector through the involvement of companies like Google and Intel. A number of organisations in the community and voluntary sector also featured in the shortlist - they include Focus Ireland, Age Action and the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU).

The Judging Panel for the STAR Awards this year brings together a number of experts in adult and community education. The panel includes representation from the VEC sector, Teagasc, Pobal, the NQAI (National Qualifications Authority of Ireland), the community sector, the Small Firms Association (SFA) and academia. The Judges had a difficult task in deciding on the winners this year. The initial 119 nominations were reduced to a shortlist of 41 projects. In early February, the judges travelled around the country to meet with the shortlisted projects. Speaking on behalf of the Judges, Claire Byrne from the NQAI said 'The winning projects demonstrated a high level of collaboration, imagination, entrepreneurial spirit and actively involved learners themselves. This really gave them the X factor.'

The STAR Awards is the opening event for the AONTAS Adult Learners' Festival, which takes place from February 20th to 24th. Over 350 events will take placed during the week of the Festival.


For more information contact

Niamh Farren Communications Officer 01 406 8220/087 911 0569

Note to Editor

1. Photographs from the ceremony are available from AONTAS.
2. Details on the five winning projects are as follows:


Getting Started Programme: Age Action Ireland

The Getting Started Programme teaches older people (over 50s), basic computer and Internet skills. Teaching takes place on a one to one basis and is done by volunteers. The individual attention from tutors, who all give of their time for free, works very well with the older generation and builds confidence in their sense of being able to give this a go. These classes are taught in libraries, community centres, workplaces and in the Age Action offices.


Croí na Gaillimhe Resource Centre

The Centre is based in Galway city and is part of the St Vincent de Paul society. Croí na Gaillimhe provides a social club for older people. It provides educational and developmental supports for young people and a wide range of educational programmes for the wider adult population. It also has a very active volunteer programme and an innovative intergenerational programme of learning.


Limerick Community Education Network

Limerick Community Education Network (LCEN) is a network of on-the-ground providers of community education and statutory agencies in Limerick City. Its aim is to ensure the continuation and further development of quality learning opportunities for adults. It provides a mechanism for community education providers to identify learners' needs and to work together to provide appropriate learning opportunities in a co-ordinated manner.


Knockmay Women's Voice Quilting Project

The aims of the project was for the Knockmay Women's Voice Group to build the capacity of local women living in poverty and social exclusion, to empower the local women to express their experience of poverty and social exclusion and their dreams for change. This was done through a quilt of creative imagery and poetry. The completed quilt was hung in the foyer of their brand new community resource centre which was built as part of the regeneration of the Knockmay estate.


Destined Level 3 Award in Effective Management

Destined for Success is an innovative 4 day bespoke accredited learning and development programme delivered by NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) aimed at helping Destined's Directors and Management Team develop the skills needed to perform their duties as the decision makers for the organisation. Destined's core ethos is based on the involvement and full participation of its members with a learning disability in all aspects of activity and at all levels of the decision making process. Their mission statement "access to citizenship through empowerment" reflects the importance placed on personal development for every member.