Costs crisis and loss of EU funding compounding community learning challenges - Derry meeting
AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, met with representatives of more than 20 local community learning groups in Northwest Regional College’s Strand Road campus recently to discuss these and other issues.
Called ‘Supporting the Sector, Supporting the Learner’, the event focused on the crucial, person-centred support that community education offers, including via drop in sessions or short courses.
A spokesperson said: “Community education providers can focus on the mental health and social benefits of learning – as one participant put it, community education ‘tries to fix what others miss’.
“The discussion looked at what’s working well, what the challenges are, and the importance of securing sustained financial support for the sector. It was kindly hosted by Northwest Regional College, a member of AONTAS.
“The cost of living crisis and the loss of European Union funding in Northern Ireland have made financial problems even more stark, affecting both learners in the community and the groups that support them. Participants at the meeting spoke about operating ‘heat hubs’ for those who struggle to heat their homes, while sometimes struggling to meet their own financial costs.”
AONTAS will shortly launch an ‘NI Community Education Census’ to capture this kind of experience, as well as the positive impact that community education brings to learners. The findings will be shared with all Community Education providers to use for their own advocacy for adult learning.
This builds on a 2020 Community Education Census carried out during COVID-19, which informed the development of a specific fund for mitigating educational disadvantage.
To find out more about the census or to take part, please contact Dr. Eve Cobain at [email protected]
To find out more about AONTAS, visit www.aontas.com.