AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, has welcomed the focus on adult and community education in the Programme for Government.
Commenting today, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “In recent years, government policy tended to value the economic impact of education above all other factors. The focus was on further education and training to meet the skills agenda, with less focus given to community education.
“AONTAS has long argued that community education is the most effective way to engage the most educationally disadvantaged learners, so we welcome the fact that the new Programme for Government specifically references community education and has a focus on ‘empowering those who did not get an equal opportunity for education in their youth’.
“We hope that this commitment will be backed up by adequate resources. Currently, community education receives only 1.6 per cent of the overall SOLAS budget; we would like to see this doubled to 3.2 per cent.
“We are also calling on the new Government to waive the QQI fee for community education organisations. The proposed re-engagement fee of approximately €5,000 per provider will result in many community groups not being able to provide accredited programmes – to the detriment of the community education sector overall and local communities nationwide.”
AONTAS also welcomed the section of the Programme for Government that relates to ‘Empowering Women’.
“The Government is committing to locally-delivered courses for women to assist them to return to the labour market and promote entrepreneurship. They are also pledging to ensure that households headed by women are no longer at a higher risk of poverty.
“Adult and community education will have a key role to play in achieving this goal, and we look forward to working with the Government in this regard.”