10 Oct 2019

Northern Impact Forum Conference Towards a Lifelong Learning Strategy for Northern Ireland

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In this blog, AONTAS Advocacy Lead Ben Hendriksen reflects on discussions in Belfast as part of the Northern Impact Forum Conference Towards a Lifelong Learning Strategy for Northern Ireland.

As part of the Northern Impact Forum, which is currently funded through the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL), there was an effort in Belfast on 8th October 2019 to tackle policy questions around lifelong learning. 

Across Europe, those of us working in the field of adult education have been grappling with the increasing interchangeability at policy level of the terms adult education and lifelong learning.


Trevor Neilands from the NI Impact Forum
The agenda for the day started in a way that all events discussing policy implications for citizens and adult learners should begin. The event was opened with two learners, Andrew spoke about his entrance to education as someone working with unique learning abilities; and Claire, Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, spoke about her return to education as an adult trying to make a better life for herself and her family.

Following from this, the day moved onto inputs from researchers from the Learning and Work Institute from Wales and England. They spoke about lifelong learning policy and political developments in Wales, England and across Europe regarding lifelong learning.

To round out the day’s events, conference participants engaged in table discussions to think about and provide their answers to the following questions which can easily also be asked south of the border:

Based on these discussions the overwhelming sentiment from participants was that with the current lack of a government in Stormont, and with the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit, now is likely not the time to be seeking lifelong learning as a right in the North. Instead, efforts should continue to be made from grassroots to the public service to ensure the good work that is already being done can be implemented in the future.

As AONTAS has members both North and South of the border the conversation was very enlightening and highlighted the need for us to continue our grassroots and political engagement across the island to achieve our organisation vision for all adults to achieve their educational aspirations through an equitable lifelong learning system regardless of the political structures that may be in place today or tomorrow.

For More Information:

To learn more about the work of AONTAS and our advocacy work contact Ben Hendriksen, AONTAS Advocacy Lead at