Get Involved


The 15th annual AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival will take place from 1st – 5th March 2021. While we usually encourage adult learning providers throughout Ireland to open their centre doors for free open days, events and workshops, this year will look a little different as we adapt to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions in place. In 2021 we will run our first ever virtual Adult Learners’ Festival online.

By building partnerships and working together at local and national levels, we will send a strong message of hope to Ireland’s Adult Learning sector and promote the importance of Educational Equality and Mitigating Educational Disadvantage in a time of COVID-19.

Better Together

The theme of this year’s festival is “Building Back Better Together - #BetterTogether”. While we can’t come together for our usual in-person events, we are excited to collaborate with our members and organisations in the sector to deliver an exciting calendar of virtual events and opportunities to engage online.

Join us and get involved from 1st – 5th March – this is your week to highlight the incredible work that your organisation has been doing, so let us join together to raise the profile of adult learning across Ireland.

How Can You Get Involved?

You can be part of the Adult Learners’ Festival in a number of ways. The free resources and online supports below offer opportunities to engage with the festival online and to organise an event as part of the festival calendar. We encourage adult learning providers to use the Festival week as an opportunity to open up online classes, information sessions or coffee-catch ups to the public. While these events are usually open to your local public, virtual events offer a good opportunity to reach learners nationally. Additional supports and information around this is available below. AONTAS will promote all Festival events through our communications channels which had a reach of over 5.2 million in 2020. 


Join an AONTAS Event

AONTAS is organising a series of online events from Monday, 1st – Friday, 5th March. We encourage you to check this schedule on our events page here and register for any that are of interest to you.

These events are organised in line with a theme per day.


Host your own Event

We encourage you to host an event during the Festival too. Maybe you would like to organise a "taster session" or "open day" event that showcases your organisation's work or the courses available. Alternatively, you may like to invite your learners to attend a virtual coffee/tea morning. Ideas for organising an event are available in the Festival Communications Toolkit. You can submit your online events to the One Step Up calendar (events must be free of charge). We will also be using the One Step Up platform to share events taking place as part of the Adult Learners' Festival 2021. 

Download the Festival Communications toolkit for support to organise your event and other opportunities to get involved in the festival.

Raffle a 50 Euro One4all Voucher as part of your Online Event

AONTAS is offering a limited number of 50 euro One4all vouchers to AONTAS members only. These can be raffled to learners a part of your online event. Please note that we have a limited number of vouchers available so this will be offered on a first come first served basis. For more information please contact Katie O’Rourke, Head of Communications, AONTAS, korourke@aontas.com

Join the Conversation Online

As part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2021 we will be using our online platforms to promote local events and create excitement and fun during the week of the Festival.

Here are some quick tips to help spread the word about your event in the Adult Learners’ Festival:

We will have a number of other activities that you can take part in too in the run up to the Festival, and throughout the week:

Social Media - Connect with the Adult Learning Community

Help us to share the message of the Adult Learners’ Festival online and spread a little positivity and connect with a whole community of adult learners online! We ask adult learners and providers nationwide to share an image that represents your learning during COVID-19. Maybe you’ve taken up a musical instrument, become a talented cook or baker, painter, reader, gardener, or maybe you’ve organised a way to stay in touch while learning, teaching or working remotely.

While we are learning and working remotely, we can share our learning together. We are #BetterTogether!

Want to take over AONTAS’ Social Media?

We are inviting AONTAS members to take part in a social media “takeover”! In 2020, AONTAS’ social media content reached over 3 million Facebook and Twitter users. By being part of this member “takeover”, you have the opportunity to share the fantastic work of your organisation and raise the voice of your learners to AONTAS’ followers. If you are interested to learn more or to take part, please email AONTAS Social Media Officer, Emma O’Kane: eokane@aontas.com for more information.


AONTAS Programme of Events

As part of the Adult Learners' Festival, AONTAS has collaborated with organisations nationally and internationally to deliver an interesting calendar of events. We encourage you, our AONTAS members, to attend these events where possible and share them with your networks including learners on your programmes. Please see further information and links to registration below. 

Monday, 1st March

Learners as Leaders: Developing Democracy through Change-Oriented Community Education in Ireland
This workshop will showcase the Learners as Leaders change-orientated adult learning methodology, the Irish model of community education, and learner voice activities. 
Who should attend? Adult educators, practitioners, academics, learners, policy makers and providers
Time: 9.30am - 12.00pm (GMT) / 10.30am -1.00pm (CET)
Click here for more information and to register. 

Tuesday, 2nd March

National FET Learner Forum
The National Further Education and Training (FET) Learner Forum is a platform where learners can share their experience of learning. 
Who should attend? FET Learners from Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (ETB)
Time: 11.00am - 12.15pm

Click here for more information and to register. 

Wednesday, 3rd March
Adult and Community Education in Northern Ireland: An AONTAS Collaboration
This event will provide a space for practitioners in Northern Ireland to share their experiences during COVID-19, outline barriers faced in the adult learning sector, build new relationships and learn from peers. 
Who should attend? Adult and community education groups in Northern Ireland (practitioners/educators) 
Time: 10.30am - 12.00pm

Click here for more information and to register. 

Paulo Freire Centenary - Celebration (1921 - 2021)
This event will commemorate the centenary since Paulo Freire's birth in 1921. AONTAS is hosting the event in collaboration with the Paulo Freire Institute of Portugal. The event offers a space to learn about Freire and discuss the impact of his work. 
Who should attend? All welcome
Time: 2.00pm - 3.30pm

Click here for more information and to register. 

Adult Learner Wellbeing Webinar
As part of the Festival, we will host this fun and informative look at how sport psychology can help learners and tutors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Key speakers include Dr. Paul Gaffney (Sport Ireland Institute) and Finola Colgan (Mental Health Ireland). 
Who should attend? All are welcome
Time: Streamed on social media from 1pm-2pm and available afterwards to use as a resource.
Click here fore more information. 

Thursday, 4th March
STAR Awards Celebration
The first online AONTAS STAR Award celebration will be hosted by Colm O'Regan Comedian, bestselling author and broadcaster. Attendees will have an opportunity celebrate adult learning together in this fun interactive event. The STAR Awards recognise the very best in adult learning in Ireland. This year we are celebrating and acknowledging the incredible work that adult learning providers have done in adapting their provision during COVID-19 to ensure that the learners’ needs continue to be met. Winners will be announced during the Adult Learners’ Festival 2021 (1st – 5th March).

Nominations for the 15th AONTAS STAR Awards were received under five categories for adult learning initiatives that support:

  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Learner Voice
  • Social Inclusion
  • Sustainable Development through Education
  • Third-level Access and Engagement

Twenty-one initiatives were shortlisted in five categories with some categories divided into Small/Medium and Large subcategories.

In addition to the above two, Special Awards will be given for Mitigating Educational Disadvantage through Innovation (during COVID-19), and a European Social Fund Special Recognition Award.

To view the shortlisted initiatives, please click here.

Who should attend? STAR Awards shortlisted projects
Time: 11.00am - 12.30pm
Friday, 5th March 
Network for Adult Learning Across Borders - Policy Day - A Shared Vision for Educational Equality 

As part of the AONTAS-led events for the 2021 AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival, this policy event will bring the members of the Network for Adult Learning Across Borders (NALAB), Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, together to discuss our shared vision for educational equality and explore the variety of approaches taken by each in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Time: 11.00am – 1.00pm

Location: Online Via Zoom

Click here for more information and to register. 

Additional Support for the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival 2021

For more details on how to get involved in the 2021 Festival, please contact AONTAS Head of Communications, Katie O’Rourke: korourke@aontas.com.