24 Feb 2021

The Path Ahead for Adult Learning – Addressing the Exacerbation of Disadvantage is Vital

Niamh O’Reilly, CEO

On the 23rd February, the Government launched the COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021  Path Ahead plan, laying out the learning so far and the measures that will be taken for living with COVID-19. While the path for adult learners is not clearly outlined in the document, and it seems unlikely that there will be a return to on-site learning in this academic year, there are a number of points of interest for AONTAS members.

It is important to note that issues facing Further Education and Training (FET) and, indeed, community education learners are outlined, and there is a recognition of the “exacerbation of disadvantage for marginalised groups”. Additionally, the essential role of the community and voluntary sector is also named in the Path Ahead, highlighting the importance of community education in supporting disadvantaged communities during the pandemic. Action is required to address this issue and build on the potential of community education.

COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 - The Path Ahead, Pg 26


On Friday 5th March, as part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival, we will launch a report on the benefits of the Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF), as the extent of the need is so great. An additional MAEDF should form part of a broader strategy to address the fall-out from COVID-19 on those most educationally disadvantaged across the tertiary education system to include:

AONTAS will continue to raise issues and propose solutions at the COVID-19 TES Steering Group meetings with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS), in addition to working groups on connectivity and student and learner wellbeing. To address the challenges facing adult learners immediate action is needed.

NALAB Policy Day - Adult Learners' Festival 2021

Join us at the AONTAS annual Policy Day on Friday 5th March where we will bring adult learners, practitioners and tutors from across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, through the Network for Adult Learning Across Borders (NALAB), to discuss adult learning across the region.

In February 2021, AONTAS conducted two surveys to capture the processes and impact of MAEDF through the perspective of community education groups and ETB representatives who administered the fund. A brief report developed by AONTAS will be launched at the Policy Day Event. To register for the event please click here.