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23 May 2019

AONTAS AGM 2019: Celebrating 50 Years

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Over 70 AONTAS members came together at our 49th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin on the 22nd May 2019. Taking place in AONTAS’s fiftieth year, the 2019 AGM was an exciting event, presenting an opportunity for members to reflect on the history of the organisation, to celebrate our collective achievements over the past fifty years, and look to the future as we launched our new Strategic Plan 2019-2022: A Vision for Educational Equality.

Elections to the AONTAS Board

Tara Farrell, AONTAS Chairperson led the meeting. The first section of the event covered AGM business and provided an opportunity to introduce those running for election to the AONTAS Board. There was competition for organisational members – general with nine excellent candidates seeking either election or re-election to the AONTAS Board, with four spaces available. Voting was held amongst members and the results of the election were announced at the end of the meeting. 

We are delighted to welcome new organisational members Seona Highland (Adult Educational Guidance Association of Ireland) and Deirdre Markey (ALBA Association); re-elected members Brian Dooney (Age and Opportunity) and Moira Leydon (ASTI); and new community education member Liam McCarthy (SHEP) to the Board. A sincere thank you to the outgoing Board members for their valuable contributions.

Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO presented the Annual Report for last year, and gave an overview of some of the main outcomes of our work in 2018. Niamh focused on the achievements in key areas including: supporting community education through the AONTAS Community Education Network (CEN), making an impact at European level and prioritising Learner Voice through activities including the National Further Education and Training (FET) Learner Forum.

Launch of AONTAS Strategic Plan, 2019-2022

Niamh and Tara were also delighted to introduce the new AONTAS Strategic Plan, 2019-2022: A Vision for Educational Equality, developed over the past year in consultation with members and other stakeholders.

Niamh outlined the three goals of the plan:

1. Learner Voice for Action
2. A thriving Community Education sector
3. Lifelong Learning for Sustainability

and expressed a commitment to continue to support our members, provide a platform for learner voice and to strive for educational equality over the next four years.

Reflecting on 50 Years of AONTAS: Membership Discussion

AONTAS Chairperson Tara Farrell then led a vibrant panel discussion of AONTAS members; Bríd Connolly (Maynooth University), Noeleen Watson (Adult Learner), Ted Fleming (Individual Member), Luke Murtagh (Individual Member), Bairbre Fleming (University College Dublin), Jimmy Prior (Limerick Community Education Network) and Nuala Glanton (Cork ETB) on the achievements of AONTAS over the past fifty years, and, more broadly, on the history and visions for the future of adult and community education in Ireland. There was great participation from around the room, both reflective and forward-looking, with many members highlighting the need to continue to support community education and its practitioners. Learners also shared their positive experiences of returning to education. The discussion was a fantastic way to kick off our fifty year celebrations.

“For me one of the highlights of AONTAS 50 years is the Community Education Network, bringing us back to the realisation that community education is a social action model of education – at its heart community education is about social change” – Liz Waters, An Cosán

“I’m glad for the opportunity to be able to advocate and work with AONTAS and share my story - The voice of adult learning is for everyone, it can help you achieve your dream” – Joy-Tendai Kangere

“AONTAS gives us a unified voice, and there’s great power in unity.” – Nuala Glanton

SOLAS FET Strategy Consultation 2020-2024

The final part of the day featured a presentation from Andrew Brownlee, Director of Strategy and Knowledge at SOLAS on the next FET Strategy 2020-2024 followed by a discussion session where members shared their views on what they would like to see included in the new Strategy, with an emphasis on continuing to value learner voice and to work towards sustainable funding for community education.

AONTAS would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of our members and guests who attended and made it a hugely enjoyable and energetic event.

As a membership organisation we draw on the strength of our members and meaningful relationships with adult learners to advocate for the rights of all adults to quality learning through their lives. We do this based on a grassroots, authentic understanding of lifelong learning that benefits the social, personal and skills development of adults, their family and community.

To view or download a copy of the AONTAS Annual Report 2018, or AONTAS Strategic Plan, 2019-2022: A Vision for Educational Equality visit our publications section on our website here.