30 Jun 2021

AONTAS Membership Support - June 2021

Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO

Dear AONTAS Member,

As we reach mid-year and reflect on the achievements of adult learners and educators in 2021, it is fitting that we launch the latest research report, Community Education in a Time of COVID-19.  As reflected in our Strategic Plan, in response to our members call for a greater evidence base to support our ongoing aim to fund community education sustainably, we started a Community Education Network (CEN) census. For the first time, we endeavoured to answer the perennial questions of who engages in community education, what courses are provided, how it is funded, and critically how it effectively supports people to fulfil their potential. Principally led by Dr Eve Cobain, AONTAS Senior Research Officer, since 2019 and further supported by additional staff, including Dr Akisato Suzuki, with the advice of a steering group, this research has taken on even greater importance as it captured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report covers 76 community education organisations funded by 9 government departments through 51 funding streams while engaging about 15,000 learners across Ireland. The emerging picture of community education is one of dynamism in responding to learners, inclusiveness in terms of learner cohort and challenge due to unsustainable funding systems. The report is accompanied by a policy paper, that you can read and use to support your funding applications. To read the policy paper please click here.

The research will also aid our campaign to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on adult and community education. AONTAS is keen to capture the learning from the last year, the challenges, but also innovations that enabled learner engagement in an online context. As part of this, I published a blog for the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning, which considers the potential of blended learning in supporting access. To read the blog please click here.

Our Wednesday Membership Webinars are continuing to prove popular with our members. Over the last month, we have covered the Community Engagement Praxis for Research in the Arts and Humanities (CEPRAH) research project between AONTAS and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Long Room Hub; inclusion tips from the AONTAS STAR Award winners, The Irish Wheelchair Association and in recognition of Pride 2021, held a collaborative event with BeLonG To and Roots in Africa-Ireland (RIAINetwork). As always, a lot was happening with the AONTAS CEN, with ongoing support for the community of practice and the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) programme development training.

In terms of advocacy, AONTAS completed an extensive submission to the  National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2022-2026 which included views from members and amplified points from other organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Additionally, over the last month, I spoke at a number of events, including for the EAEA (European Association for the Education of Adults) and the National College of Ireland's Festival of Learning. And to end on a high note, Dearbháil Lawless, Head of Advocacy was elected to the Board of the EAEA, topping the poll. This is an important space for EU policy influence and to promote the great work that’s happening in adult learning across Ireland.

Next month we will launch the National FET Learner Forum Annual Report on Wednesday 21st July and look forward to working with Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and SOLAS in bringing a stronger national Further Education and Training (FET) learner voice to the fore.
For more information on this and future events, please stay tuned to our events section on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

I hope all our members and friends across the field of lifelong learning are preparing for a well-deserved summer break. In the meantime, if we can assist your organisation, through promotional work or advocacy always feel free to reach out to AONTAS.

In support,

Niamh O’Reilly  


To view the full AONTAS newsletter please click here.

AONTAS is committed to advocating for educational equality for all adults in Ireland. Please email with any queries.

Keep up to date with our advocacy work by following our social media channels including @aontas on Twitter.