31 Mar 2021

AONTAS Membership Support - March 2021

Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO


Dear AONTAS Member,
The last month has been a hive of activity, and a particular highlight being our flagship annual event, the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival. It was wonderful to see the incredible engagement of organisations and learners throughout the week, so thank you for supporting this work. Whilst moving the Festival online was a huge undertaking, the team and our members managed to maintain the spirit of the Festival.  It was a lift we all needed, and we were delighted to see the innovative events organised, and the celebration of STAR award winners and highly commended projects; the excitement was palpable during the ceremony.
In addition to the details in this bulletin, I wanted to highlight key developments in policy and a short report that outlines what is happening in adult education in Ireland to mark the #WeAreALE 5-year global campaign for adult learning and education. We know the restrictions arising from COVID-19 have exacerbated educational inequalities, and there is a growing body of evidence that highlights the urgent need to take action; the report captures these concerning trends.
As part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival, our annual Policy Day event was organised to bring together policy makers, adult learners, practitioners and tutors from across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, through our Network for Adult Learning Across Borders (NALAB). In keeping with the theme of the Festival, Better Together (#BetterTogether), the purpose of the event was to bring together our neighbours in adult learning, to learn, discuss and work towards greater educational equality across the region. Over 80 participants from Education and Training Boards (ETBs), community education organisations, Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), academics, adult learners and policymakers discussed the key issues from a range of perspectives. Read more about the event here
At the event, we launched a report on the impact of the Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF). We welcomed the comments from Phil O’Flaherty, Principal Officer, Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science  (DFHERIS) and Andrew Brownlee, CEO, SOLAS regarding the focus on inclusion, and acknowledgement of the exacerbation of educational disadvantage and the need to support community education. AONTAS will continue to advocate for an additional MAED Fund.
#WeAreALE – short report on what’s happening in Ireland
On Monday, 22nd March, AONTAS joined with our fellow adult learning civil society organisations worldwide to promote the understanding and practice of adult learning and education. The International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) leads the 5-year campaign and notes the central role of adult learning in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the need for adequate funding and the value of adult learning and education (ALE) in a healthier planet and a better, more just world. The purpose is to speak with one voice in advancing the value of adult learning for all. As part of the “we are adult learning and education” (#weareALE) campaign, I compiled a short report outlining the context for Ireland, what is happening at a local level for learners, the rapidly changing policy context at the national level and notes pertinent European policy developments. Read the full report here

We deeply value your engagement with AONTAS. Please register for our popular  Wednesday membership engagement webinars, they are free, informative, and you are sure to meet a friendly face!
Stay in touch,
Niamh O’Reilly


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

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