Weekly Membership Update and Engagement | Webinar 10

10 Jun 2020
Advocacy needed now more than ever despite slow progress to form new government

“I’m an adult educator but now that’s become so many things, lots of jobs, like IT specialist!"

- AONTAS member


With attendance and interest levels from AONTAS members remaining as high as ever, last week saw AONTAS’ 10th Weekly Membership Update Webinar take place. The gathering saw AONTAS Advocacy Lead, Ben Hendriksen, discuss the importance of members leveraging the value of their vote and engaging with their local Teachta Dálaí (TDs) and Councillors. Ben went over some methods for doing this and shared a template letter that members could use to communicate to their local TDs in order to express concerns and place adult and community education on politicians’ . As government formation talks begin to crystallise and the next programme for government takes shape it is clearly now more important than ever to make sure that decision-makers are aware of how important adult and community education is to the daily life of local communities, especially in the lives of those who have been and will continue to be hardest hit by the current situation.  

As Ben mentioned, Tell them about the great work you have been doing to support your learners over the last 2 ½ months and remind them of the AONTAS election priorities from earlier in the year” 

The priorities set out by AONTAS in the run up to the recent General Election are not only still relevant to our new shared reality, they now apply even more so. AONTAS therefore encourages all of its members to use this auspicious opportunity between governments to get in touch with local and national decision-makers and communicate to them about your organisation’s fantastic work prior to and during the health crisis. Learners who lost out and were left out before March of this year must not be left further behind or, worse, risk being lost for good.

How have learners at the Dublin Adult Learning Centre (DALC) been coping during COVID-19?

Ben’s input was quickly followed by a presentation delivered by Mary Maher, Director of the Dublin Adult Learning Centre (DALC). In tune with the recent data shared by Pamela Latimer from Longford Women’s Link on the experience of learners and the organisation transitioning to learning online, Mary discussed the findings of a recent survey carried out with DALC learners over the telephone.

DALC is a dedicated Basic Adult Education Centre, catering for around 650 adults per year.  The majority of learners are early school leavers availing of second chance education. Many DALC learners are improving their literacy skills while others aim to attain accreditation and improve their employment prospects. Located in the North Inner City of Dublin, the centre has a vibrant English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programme catering for those learning English with little or no education in their own language.

Survey Findings

Some of the highlights of the survey findings which Mary focused on included:


Mary’s presentation prompted webinar participants to raise a range of interesting and important issues surrounding learners’ experience during this difficult time. Many of the learners at DALC are older adults and also people who have migrated to Dublin and made Ireland their home. Therefore, basic and digital literacy were standout features over the past months. It was noted by many at the webinar that the importance of being physically present together must not be overlooked or superseded by digital methods as education provision has moved online with varying degrees of success. The bonds and dynamic between educators and learners, and amongst learner cohorts, that develop organically in real time and with physical nearness simply cannot be replaced. Paralleling a longing to be close again was a high degree of willingness and interest from educators and learners to develop their digital skills and learning more about using social media and online learning platforms. As one AONTAS member pointed out:

“this whole time we’ve been trying to build the confidence of learners to use Zoom and other things but we’ve only just got the confidence ourselves!”


Virtual National FET Learner Forum: We've moved online and we're still listening to your learner voice!

With the changes to learning that have occurred as a result of COVID-19, it is now more important than ever to listen to the experiences of adult learners in Ireland and to share #LearnerVoice. AONTAS Research Officer Learner Voice, , followed Mary’s presentation by drawing everyone’s attention to some key dates for upcoming Virtual National FET Learner Forum. She also spoke to webinar attendees about the online survey being used for engaging learner voice and how the results will be used as part of AONTAS advocacy work regarding QQI and the Mitigating Educational Disadvantage including Community Education during the COVID-19 Crisis Working Group (MED Group).

As Laura pointed out, AONTAS is continuing to listen to learner voice and feed the experiences of adult learners during COVID-19 back to SOLAS and the Department of Education and Skills.

Interested in sharing your experiences of learning during COVID-19?


Tomorrow’s webinar sees AONTAS Board member Joy-Tendai Kangere facilitate a discussion on the topic "What role does Adult and Community Education play in the process of anti-racism?" at this historical moment for the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racism in Ireland and globally. Click here for details to register.



In order to effectively and comprehensively feed the issues learners and members are currently facing AONTAS relies on your support and input to continue its work with, for and on behalf of the sector (Registration for the upcoming webinars is available on our Events page.

If you are an AONTAS member and can contribute to the weekly online gathering with your experience, suggestions and solutions to the common challenges facing the sector then please get in touch via email: or call 087 114 9278.