For the first time, a formal structure exists through which adult learners in Ireland can influence the policy decisions that affect them. That’s according to AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, which held the first meeting of the new National Adult Learners Forum at the Mansion House, Dublin, today (26.02.16).
The Government committed to the establishment of a forum for adult learners in the Further Education and Training Strategy, published by SOLAS in 2014.
Today, this commitment came to fruition when 80 learners from across Ireland met to discuss their achievements and challenges in further education. The learners in attendance were nominated to join the forum by their local adult education groups, and included representatives from community education, the Youthreach programme, the Back to Education Initiative and the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.
Commenting at the event, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “This new forum gives adult learners an opportunity to share their views at national level and to help influence policy.
“We know that a learner’s own personal experience provides important information that can be used to improve services and policies. Adults returning to education must be consulted about the type of education and training they need, as well as the supports they require to complete the courses on offer.
“On polling day – a significant day for any democracy, it is fitting that the National Adult Learners Forum is meeting for the first time. Through this and future meetings of the forum, our hope is that adult learners will share their feedback and views with senior policymakers and contribute to the development of more effective policies for the further education and training sector.”
At today’s meeting, the learners in attendance heard inputs from the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, as well as Fiona Hartley of SOLAS.
The Lord Mayor said: “I have had the great pleasure to speak to some inspiring adult learners here today and I commend and congratulate all of those who have participated in this fantastic event. It gives me great hope for the future of adult learning and I am confident that the points raised from today will be taken very seriously by policymakers and politicians. Guím gach ráth oraibh”
Fiona Hartley of SOLAS, said: “AONTAS has previously consulted with learners to find out about their experience of these services and, because of this, SOLAS has tasked them with the important job of creating this Forum. It is an exciting new development as now learners will be placed at the heart of the FET service. Adult learners’ contribution at today’s event is hugely valued and it will have an impact on the decisions that are made in the future.”