“Show Me the Money”: a meeting of the AONTAS Community Education Network

6 Oct 2023
The latest meeting of the Community Education Network focused on funding for community educators. Funding is an issue that we hear about all the time. Lack of funding in the sector remains one of the core issues raised by members of the CEN.

Writing by Lorraine O’Connor, AONTAS Community Education Officer 

The lack of core funding and the ad-hoc nature of that funding creates major hardship and insecurity for those working in the sector.

Issue ranges from an inability to retain staff, no parity of pay with others working in the sector, lack of job security, and inadequate resourcing across the board.

Attendees at a recent AONTAS event on community education, four women standing together smiling and holding a hashtag sign that reads community education
In the face of these challenges, our Advocacy team at AONTAS felt it was crucial to provide some positive support for our members.

We invited Jemma Lee form Léargas and Emma Murtagh from the Wheel to present their considerable knowledge of what funding is available to the sector and to explore the best ways of achieving that funding.  

At the meeting, which took place online on 27th September, CEN members spoke about the pressure they are under to find funding streams. Some said they do not have dedicated staff to complete funding application. Some members have considerable knowledge in completing funding applications others are uncertain, and many just do not know where to start looking. 

Grants and Funding for the Community Education Sector

Emma opened with things to consider when applying for funding. She advised participants to ensure that their goals are aligned with that of the funder:  

“Understand what you are looking for, complete every step of the application do a good application.” 

Emma stated the main reason applications fail is that they are often just not completed properly. She said that the Wheel is always happy to help and explained that they run workshops on funding applications. The Wheel are currently conducting a funding roadshow around the country. Our CEN members were incredibly grateful for this information. 

European Projects

Next up was a presentation from Jemma Lee of Léargas. Jemma explained that there is a large pot of money available for European Projects and all community organisations should get in touch if they’re interested and she will talk them through the various projects.  

EU funding can benefit an organisation by allowing their staff and volunteers to go on study visits or training to develop their skills through KA1 projects. This helps improve staff competencies and make connections. A new development is that there are now also opportunities for learners to travel and gain experiences that may otherwise be closed to them. 

Léargas are also offering partnership projects, ranging from small to large-scale projects. Organisations can have an opportunity to work in partnership with another European partner organisation. The small-scale partnerships are beneficial if you want to engage in a smaller project. The beauty of projects is that you only need a minimum of two parties from two European countries. You can design the theme or activity based on what you want to achieve. This could be staff training, designing resources, or sharing work practices. Organisations can apply for grants from €30,000 to €60,000 and the duration is 6 to 24 months. These projects are a fantastic way of developing skills and resources that small community education programmes would not have funding for. 

Speaking at the “Show Me the Money” meeting, Michael Kenny course director of the Post-Graduate Higher Diploma in Further Education at Maynooth University said:  

“Erasmus+ projects are tremendously enriching, and they have enriched my academic life, but also my understanding of Europe. We have developed materials, tools, a huge range of things. Even my career has benefited from publications that come from it, Léargas are super helpful, there are great possibilities for us here in Ireland.”  

Here in AONTAS, where we are participants in many European projects and implement the New European Agenda for Adult Learning (NEAAL) in Ireland, we can only agree. 

Overall, the funding streams available can support our work in community education to a large degree.  

If you are interested in finding out more about some of the funding discussed, you can contact Lorraine at I’ll be happy to put you in touch with Emma or Jenna. 

More meetings of the CEN are in the pipeline. Get in touch for more details and check out our Events webpage for more.