13 Nov 2020

AONTAS Offers Support to Members Applying to the Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund

Over 70 AONTAS members came together to represent community education organisations nationwide on Wednesday, 11th November for a webinar which aimed to support, encourage and empower community education groups to submit an application to the newly announced €8million Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF) made available by SOLAS and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

While AONTAS is not an expert on the MAEDF, our weekly membership webinar - which has been in place since the move to remote working in March 2020 - offered optimal space for members to come together for peer learning, support and the exchange of ideas.

AONTAS CEO Niamh O’Reilly introduced the webinar by taking members through the application process, advising that local ETBs can confirm requirements including submission dates. Niamh described the four categories for funding consideration:

  1. Digital technologies
  2. Learner assistance fund
  3. Reach-out and/or mentoring
  4. COVID-19 exceptional circumstances

Additional points to remember around the MAED fund are as follows:

AONTAS Chairperson Tara Farrell then moved to describe how Longford Women’s Link, of which Tara is Deputy CEO, intended to approach the application, providing details on items they intend to use the fund for. This stimulated discussion amongst members in breakout rooms as they considered how they each could maximize the potential of the fund to respond to individual learner needs.

Members recognised the huge potential offered by the fund and enthusiastically exchanged ideas, indicating that items such as zoom licenses, tutor equipment, phone credit, data plans to enable 1:1 phone support for learners, website development and equipment eg PPE to ensure facilities and services are in line with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines are among those that will help to engage the most marginalised learners.

Many attendees were previously unaware of the fund or unaware of its specific requirements. Noting the tight deadline and the challenges presented, the high level of attendance by members and their enthusiasm to submit the application highlighted the significant need for additional financial support in the sector.

As a national organization dedicated to the rights of all adults to high quality learning throughout their lives, with a specific focus on learner voice and community education, AONTAS is delighted to see this funding opportunity made available to members. The fund of €8million follows months of advocacy through the DES COVID-19 Tertiary Education and Steering Group from which AONTAS CEO Niamh O’Reilly was made chair of a Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Working Group (MED Group). AONTAS members have diligently advocated for their learners including through their support of AONTAS’ advocacy activities eg October’s “Community Education in a Time of COVID-19: responding and building back better together for community education” event which welcomed Minister Simon Harris. The fund certainly represents an output of this advocacy. Additional resources documenting this advocacy may be found here. AONTAS will continue to make every effort to support members to reach those learners, and prospective learners, most in need.

AONTAS continues to support members who are working hard to complete the fund applications. Documenting the financial needs of community education groups under the four categories previously listed is vital to ensure the education system can tackle systemic issues of disadvantage, and create a fairer, more inclusive Ireland. Members are reminded to contact AONTAS Head of Advocacy, Dearbháil Lawless at: for additional support and to continue collaborating with one another.

Education and Training Board (ETB) deadlines vary, some may have already passed. Please contact your local ETB for confirmation. Some deadlines are available below. 

City of Dublin ETB
16th November, 12pm
23rd November

Cork ETB
18th November

Donegal ETB
20th November
4th December

Dublin & Dun Laoghaire ETB
27th November

Galway & Roscommon ETB
17th November

Kildare & Wicklow ETB
27th November, 5pm

Kilkenny & Carlow ETB
26th November at 3pm
Limerick & Clare ETB
16th November
Laois & Offaly ETB
27th November
Mayo, Sligo & Leitrim ETB
19th November, 2pm
3rd December, 10am
Tipperary ETB
18th November COB

Waterford & Wexford ETB
18th November 12pm
2nd December 12pm