Friday, 23 June, 2017

National forum gives learners the unique opportunity to influence further education policy

7 Apr 2017 08:00 AM

Ireland is leading the way in making a commitment to learner representation with the establishment of a national forum. That’s according to AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, which held the second meeting of the National Further Education and Training (FET) Learner Forum at Croke Park, Dublin, today (07.04.17).

The Government committed to the establishment of a forum for learners in the Further Education and Training Strategy, published by SOLAS in 2014.

Today, marked the second meeting of the forum when 100 learners from across Ireland met to discuss their achievements and challenges in FET. The learners in attendance were nominated to join the forum by their local education groups, and included representatives from Apprenticeships, community education, the Youthreach programme and the Back to Education Initiative.

Commenting at the event, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “This national forum gives learners an opportunity to share their views at national level and to help influence policy. It is vital that learners are given a platform to talk about their own personal experiences. They must be consulted regularly about the type of education and training they need, as well as the supports they require to complete the courses on offer.

Through this and future meetings of the forum, our hope is that learners will share their feedback and views with senior policymakers and contribute to the development of more effective further education policies.”

Today’s meeting was officially opened by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD and learners in attendance also heard from Paul O’Toole, CEO of SOLAS.

Thanking the learners for their valuable participation, Minister Bruton said: “I would like to pay tribute to all of the learners who have given of their time today to participate in this important forum.  It is clear from your feedback that FET is offering a wide range of programmes to support learners to develop skills for employment, career progression and to progress to further and higher education.

The benefits of participating in further education and training are not simply limited to labour market outcomes.  As well as offering opportunities to upskill and reskill, participation has many positive benefits on health and well – being and provides great opportunities to meet new people, to engage in our local communities and overall to participate in wider society more generally.

The sector has undergone major reform over the last number of years, with the aim of developing a world-class system of further education and training to meet the needs of learners, communities and employers and all who engage with FET.  The action plan for education includes a number of key actions to support that vision and see it firmly established as the fourth pillar of the Irish education system.”

Paul O’Toole of SOLAS, said: “AONTAS has previously consulted with learners to find out about their experience of these services and, because of this, SOLAS has tasked them with creating this forum. Our aim in SOLAS is to ensure that high-quality FET programmes are delivered. I would like to thank all of the learners for their valuable contribution today, their feedback will help inform the decisions we make.”


For more information contact:

Katie O’Rourke, Communications Lead: 01-4068220/ 087-9086168,

Notes to the Editor


AONTAS is the National Adult Learning Organisation, a membership organisation which represents approximately 500 providers of adult and community education, along with tutors, researchers and individual adult learners. AONTAS provides information to adults returning to education, advocates on behalf of adult learners and promotes the benefits of adult learning.

About the National FET Learner Forum

AONTAS will establish an annual National FET Learner Forum event for the duration of the SOLAS Further Education and Training Strategy (2014-2019). The national forum will provide a space for learners who are currently in FET to come together and have a unique opportunity to directly influence the FET service based on their needs.

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