13 Dec 2021

Mitigating against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF): €6.85m in additional funding announced

Mitigating against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF): €6.85m in additional funding announced

“This funding has made such a difference to how we can provide our service to the learners. No words can do it justice.” Community Education Organisation (MAEDF Review, 2021)

AONTAS welcomes today’s announcement by Minister Simon Harris TD that the Mitigating against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF) will be a “regular feature of our education system”.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, AONTAS has advocated for specific funding for adult education, specifically focussing on most under-funded area within the sector, community education, which directs support to people from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds.

AONTAS has consistently raised the need for specific learner-centred funding for community education in order to encourage greater participation from educationally-disadvantaged learners. This became particularly relevant and urgent with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through engagement with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, SOLAS and Minister Simon Harris TD, AONTAS has been advocating for this fund throughout 2020, and again in 2021, as evidenced by the CEN Census 2020 research, the COVID-19 Community Education Support fund for 2020/2021 and the Pre-Budget submission for 2021 and for 2022, in addition to maintaining regular face-to-face meetings with Department representatives.

In December 2020, together with our members, we documented the positive impact of the initial MAED funding and how future iterations could be improved. In March 2021, as part of the annual AONTAS Policy Day, we published a report on this titled; “Making an Impact: A Reflective View of the Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF)”, which found that MAEDF was “game changer” and put recipients in “a much stronger position starting 2021 than [they] were previously.”

In preparing for the second iteration of the fund, we supported our members through webinars, application support, an FAQ page, and information regional deadline dates so that groups could obtain maximum benefit from the fund. According to the Community Education Organisation:

The fund has [been] extremely effective. We have successfully linked up online with our older people's group and we have been able to post mail out to over 200 older people living safely at home.” (MAEDF Review, 2021)

At the most recent AONTAS Community Education Network meeting, we provided a further space to reflect on the importance of this fund, which highlighted the huge benefits and impact of the fund, including the provision of IT support and devices to learners, and connecting learners and communities.

As demonstrated in the AONTAS CEN Census 2020 - Community Education in a Time of COVID-19 research report (30th June 2021), community education organisations and advocates have risen to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating resilience, innovation and persistence to meet the needs of learners and the local community.

AONTAS CEO, Dr Niamh O’Reilly, commented that “furthering educational equality is all our responsibility. This fund represents a real commitment to empowering community education organisations to respond to their learners. The success of the fund is testament to the collective effort made by community education groups and local ETBs”.

AONTAS members are delighted to play a part of making access to education a reality for all adults.

For further information or support with regard to the MAED Fund, please contact AONTAS CEO Dr Niamh O’Reilly or AONTAS Head of Advocacy Dearbháil Lawless.