Almost 100 learners take part in the National FET Learner Forum 2017

13 Apr 2017
The National Further Education and Training (FET) Learner Forum took place on Friday 7th April in Croke Park, Dublin. This event 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 particpants from Traineeships, community education, the Youthreach programme and the Back to Education Initiative.

The Government committed to the establishment of a forum for learners in the Further Education and Training strategy, published by SOLAS – The Further Education and Training Authority in 2014. SOLAS tasked AONTAS – the National Adult Learning Organisation with developing a forum for FET learners as AONTAS has previously consulted with learners to find out about their experience of these services. This national forum gives learners an opportunity to share their views at national level and to help influence policy. Their feedback will be collated into a qualitative based policy report and will help to inform future decisions about the delivery of FET programmes.  

The agenda included a range of speakers, including the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD who officially opened the forum event; panel speakers included Paul O’Toole, CEO of SOLAS, Clare McMahon, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) and Alan Hand, adult learner representative. John Lonergan also gave an inspiring input on the Power of Education for Change.

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD

We were delighted to have Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD officially open the forum. The Minister payed tribute to all of the learners who gave their time to participate in this important event. He noted the value of FET in offering learners a wide variety of programmes to support employment, development of skills, and career and education progression. The Minister also noted the many positive benefits that FET has on health and well-being and how it provides great opportunities to meet new people, to engage in local communities and overall to participate in wider society more generally.

Panel Discussion

A panel compromising of key stakeholders in FET ranging from Paul O’Toole (CEO SOLAS), Clare McMahon, ETBI and Alan Hand (Adult Learner) discussed the importance of having a forum for learners in FET and how the forum places the learner voice at the centre of national FET policy.

John Lonergan

John Lonergan, a former prison governor gave a captivating input on the ‘Power of Education for Change’. Through his many years of working in the prison service, he saw human nature at its worst - and often, unexpectedly, at its best. John spoke about how education enables us to explore ourselves and the world around us and how every person is unique and has a special gift.

Sharing the Learner Voice

Learners made a valuable contribution on the day by taking part in two key discussion sessions about their experience in FET and how their FET programme is currently meeting their needs. Learners were also given a variety of fun spaces to share their feedback through interactive games in the Learner Voice Hub. We also captured their views through photos, video and feedback forms.

Next Steps

AONTAS will publish a qualitative policy report based on the feedback from the learner discussions which took place at the forum. This outcomes of this report will influence future national FET policy decisions.

Some parts of the National FET Learner Forum were broadcast live on Facebook and can be viewed here. We are also creating a video that documents the event and we look forward to sharing this with you in the near future. For more information on the event, please email Karen Williams, Learner Supports Officer at: