The next Government must increase funding for community education by €10 million. That’s according to AONTAS, the national adult learning organisation.
Launching the 2016 Adult Learners’ Festival today (15.02.16), Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “Funding for community education stagnated during the recession – at a time when the demand for community education exponentially increased. Our members working in community education have reported a surge in the number of people looking to access their services during this time.”
“The community education budget currently stands at €10 million, this figure has remained the same since 2008. AONTAS is calling for this figure to be doubled in line with the increasing demand for services. We want to see the next Government acknowledging and promoting the hugely significant work conducted by community education providers nationwide.
“Community education, which includes non-accredited programmes, has a history of successfully engaging the most hard-to-reach learners and supporting them to achieve their potential and progress to further studies and employment. The impact of years of austerity and long-term unemployment – particularly for individuals who left school early – requires a learning experience that increases adults’ ability to engage in learning again.
“Community education provides an essential ‘first step’ back into education for adult learners and supports their progression. In the wake of the recession, this is more needed than ever before.”
Ms O’Reilly was speaking today at the launch of the programme of events for the 10th annual Adult Learners’ Festival. The launch took place at the National Print Museum, and was attended by adult learners from the Museum Culture and Heritage Studies programme.
Announcing the festival’s programme of events, Ms O’Reilly said: “Over the past decade, over 5,000 adult learning events have taken place nationwide as part of the festival, including information sessions, taster workshops and open days. The wide range of events encourages adults to try something new in an informal setting and, for some, it provides their ‘first step’ back into education.
“The Adult Learners’ Festival gives us the opportunity to highlight the wide range of learning programmes on offer throughout the country, including community education programmes. In 2015, over 58,000 community education places were provided through SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority but we believe that more places are needed.
“In the coming weeks, as part of the festival, we will be highlighting the high levels of demand for community education, the impact of community education services, and the steps that need to be taken by the next Government to protect and promote this vital sector.
“Our festival is coinciding with the general election campaign, and we will be encouraging our members nationwide to engage with their local candidates and highlight to them the need for increased investment in community education.”
The Adult Learners’ Festival opens on Monday 22nd February with the STAR Awards Ceremony for adult learning projects, where eight outstanding examples of adult education will receive their awards.