Adult Learning Across Borders

The Network for Adult Learning Across Borders brings the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales together in our shared vision for educational equality.

This network - NALAB - is an umbrella partnership of leading organisations within the field of adult and community education. Individually each organisation conducts advocacy work and research to promote and protect the rights of adults and their communities to equal participation in quality education and learning. NALAB’s regional network advocates for educational equality for adults across the five jurisdictions building expertise, sharing best practice and addressing challenges in both policy and practice.


Network for Adult Learning Across Borders - Policy Day Event

Friday, 5th March 2021

A Shared Vision for Educational Equality

As part of the  AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival, a Policy Day event was organised to bring together policy makers, adult learners, practitioners and tutors from across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, through our Network for Adult Learning Across Borders (NALAB). In keeping with the theme of the Festival, Better Together, the purpose of the event was to bring together our neighbours in adult learning, to learn, discuss and work towards greater educational equality across the region. Over 80 participants from Education and Training Boards (ETBs), community education organisations, Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), academics, adult learners and policymakers discussed the key issues from a range of perspectives.

Workshops included the value of learning to health and wellbeing; developing a cohesive adult learner advocacy structure across the region; collective efforts for promoting adult learning; and shared learning for policy action. The final reflection by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) and SOLAS offered insights into the importance of inclusion and effective funding for adult learning, particularly community education, and the focus on addressing the fallout from COVID-19 on participation levels.

Key themes that emerged from the event included:


For the first time, a video of adult learners from across the region was created, which described their experience of learning. Listen to the great insights from Karen Woods, England; Emma Williams, Wales; Liam Shortall, Republic of Ireland; Heather Brown, Scotland and Denise Donaldson, Northern Ireland in this video.

Please click here to view this unique video.



Launch of NALAB

AONTAS Lifelong Learning Summit

Dublin, 18th November 2019

Special Guest Speaker Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills in the Republic of Ireland launched NALAB as part of the AONTAS Lifelong Learning Summit. This included a panel discussion, and a parallel session; Bridges, Borders and Boundaries: Learning with our Neighbours. Representatives included:


― Stephen Evans, CEO Learning and Work Institute, UK

― Jim McHarg, Senior Manager, Scotland’s Learning Partnership

― Trevor Neilands, Northern Ireland Impact Forum for Adult Learning

― Niamh O’Reilly, CEO, AONTAS the National Adult Learning Organisation

Read AONTAS’ blog post about the launch here.

Why was NALAB created?

Adult and community education has a proven track record of increasing social inclusion; fighting sectarianism, xenophobia and racism; supporting economic prosperity; and empowering individuals to be part of active and engaged communities. Simply put, adult and community education organisations have demonstrated their cost-effectiveness and capacity to make deep and lasting positive contributions to achieving a variety of public policy goals that apply within and across our borders.

The ongoing demographic, economic and societal changes will only increase the vital role played by adult and community education within Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. Adult and community education can help to ensure people are best placed to make the most of the opportunities that these changes will bring – learning is central to helping people do this and building integrated, cohesive and active communities. There is value in sharing our experiences of tackling these issues together.

Who is involved?

What progress has been made?

The Borders, Boundaries & Bridges: Learning with our Neighbours Conference

Belfast, 14th October 2018

Representative members came together in Belfast as part of the European Agenda for Adult Learning programme. Meeting for the first time as a collective body they shared their expertise and looked ahead at future cooperation.

 To read Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO’s blog post about the event, click here.


Policy Implementation and Guidance

The Project Advisory Group and the Northern Ireland Impact Forum are advisory bodies with national stakeholder representatives for adult learning across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Each supporting the implementation of the European Agenda for Adult Learning.

Members of AONTAS, the Learning and Work Institute and FALNI support cross-border collaboration by attending meetings and presenting for both advisory bodies.

This happens continuously throughout the year on an on-going basis.

 A cross-border and co-hosted event with support from EPALE; ‘Cultural Heritage: The Challenges of Diversity’ took place in October 2018 with representatives from both advisory groups.

What will NALAB do going forward?

Together NALAB will work across borders in the coming years so that we can ensure the successful implementation of adult and Community Education in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.