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This is in line with the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science Report on Adult Literacy, published in May 2006.

Did You Know?

AONTAS also supports NALA’s seeking of the introduction of paid educational leave for workers with Junior Certificate qualifications or less, to develop their basic skills

Childcare AONTAS demands that childcare becomes an integral part of all adult learning programmes as a matter of course Currently, programmes that provide assistance for childcare are VTOS, Youthreach and Senior Traveller Training Centres. In 2007, the BTEI will include childcare for the first time, with an allocation of €500,000. The maximum sum per child per week currently stands at €63.50, which has not been increased since the introduction of the scheme in 1998. Given the current costs of childcare… AONTAS demands that the childcare allowance should be doubled to €127.00 and reviewed on an annual basis

Adult Educational Guidance and Counselling Services The Adult Educational Guidance Initiative (AEGI) was established in 2000 and currently comprises 38 projects nationwide within the VEC structures. It has been one of the most successful initiatives developed as part of the adult education service and its success has led to an increase in demand for services for adults, including those outside the initial target groups. An allocation of €45 million was earmarked for its development under the NDP 2000-2006, but just €14 million was actually spent. The allocation for 2006 stood at €5,587,000 and just €1 million has been allocated for 2007. AONTAS demands that the new government provides at least another €45 million to mainstream the service over the course of the next NDP. The funding must allow for investment in staff and technical resources and for the seeding of new services in areas that are, as yet, without one

Back To Education Allowance The Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) was introduced in 1990 as a key support for full-time students in both further and higher education. At present, to qualify for this allowance, the student must be in receipt of a social welfare payment for a set period (6 or 12 months, as appropriate). If the student was in employment before taking a course they do not qualify for the Back of Education Allowance. AONTAS demands a revision of the eligibility criteria for the BTEA to include low-paid workers. The criteria for the allowance should be means-tested, based on annual income rather than social welfare payments. AONTAS also demands that the payment be for a full year – 12 months rather than the 9-month academic year

Disability AONTAS believes that all adults have a right to access to education and training opportunities, regardless of ability. While many real and successful developments have been made by the VECs and Higher Education providers, many barriers still exist for adults with special learning needs. AONTAS calls on the new government to establish a national forum for all parties involved in the education and training of adults with special educational needs, with a view to developing a national framework for provision of education and training opportunities for these learners, and to provide appropriate investment to support them


Less than 8% of Irish adults between the ages of 25 and 64 participate in adult education and training opportunities, as compared with the EU average of 11% and rates above 25% in the UK and Scandinavia (CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, May 2006)

Irish adults can expect to spend far less time in non-formal job-related education and training than their counterparts in other European countries. Irish adults will spend just over 200 hours in such training throughout their working life, as compared to 900 hours for their Danish counterparts (Education At A Glance, OECD, September 2006)

Nearly 30% of the Irish workforce has lower secondary education or less



(CSO, 2006)

73% of 55 US companies employing large numbers of people in Ireland report that they have struggled to secure skilled labour in the past 12 months (American Chamber of Commerce, May 2006)

90% of Irish people with a third level degree participate in the workforce, as compared with 52% with lower educational levels (CSO, 2006)

9% of the workforce and 11% of the population are newcomers to Ireland, yet there is no dedicated funding to support the teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Over one third of learners availing of literacy provision are ESOL learners (NALA, 2006)

Obviously, much remains to be done in embedding lifelong learning into education and training policy. New opportunities now present themselves in the formation of the new National Development Plan, to which AONTAS has made a detailed submission, the forthcoming general election and the Ten-Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement which espouses: “a focus on upskilling, early school leavers, literacy, lifelong learning and particular emphasis on retraining those with least educational attainment” (p.23) For the first time in the history of the State, the availability of financial resources is no longer an issue. The government is now in a position to make a quantum leap in terms of developing a seamless educational system that fully embraces lifelong learning. AONTAS demands that the new government takes the necessary steps to realise this. AONTAS will be monitoring its progress throughout its term of office.

AONTAS, National Association of Adult Education, 2nd Floor, 83-87 Main Street, Ranelagh, Dublin 6 Tel: 01-4068220, Email:

AONTAS Pre-Election Campaign 2007 AONTAS is the National Association for Adult Education, with nearly 600 members, including statutory and voluntary providers of adult and community education, as well as individual adult learners, tutors and researchers. Its mission is to ensure that every adult in Ireland has access to appropriate and affordable learning opportunities throughout their lives, thus enabling them to contribute to and participate in the economic, social, civic and cultural development of Irish society.

DEMAND YOUR RIGHT TO LEARN! Why A Pre-Election Campaign?

Through three general elections, AONTAS has campaigned for recognition and resources for adult and community education. AONTAS made a major breakthrough with its pre-election campaign in 1997, which resulted in the appointment of the first Minister with responsibility for Adult Education and the subsequent publication of the White Paper on Adult Education, Learning for Life (2000). While much has been achieved since then, during the past three years, adult and community education has received mixed attention from government. The overall budget for education now stands at approximately €8 billion, yet adult and community education resources have remained static in relative terms at approximately 2% of the budget since 2004. During our pre-election campaign in 2002, AONTAS acknowledged the growth in the adult education budget from 0.01% in 1997 to 2.8% in 2002 and identified as one of its key demands continued investment in the adult education service to bring it up to 10% by the end of 2006. As we can see, this has not happened. Political commitment to adult and community education – as a distinct sector of the education system, with recognition and resources on a par with other sectors – is paramount to the development of the full potential of every adult living in Ireland today. A new government will be elected in 2007. Regardless of its composition, investment in the adult and community education service must be a key priority for this government.

How has Adult And Community Education fared since 2002? In 2002, AONTAS identified 10 key demands as part of its pre-election strategy. In 2007, AONTAS is revisiting those demands, monitoring progress and setting out its agenda for the forthcoming general election. The demands fall into three broad categories: structures, funding and supports.

Structures Demand 1 2002: Retention of a Minister of State with specific responsibility for adult and community education 2007: Retention of a Minister of State with a stronger brief and a crossDepartmental focus, which would include a cross-Departmental, multiannual fund for adult and community education. The main Departments involved are Education and Science; Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and Social and Family Affairs

Demand 2 2002: Doubling of the investment for the National Adult Learning Council (NALC) to ensure the establishment of the Technical Support Units 2007: The National Adult Learning Council was effectively abolished in 2003, with no explanation or feedback to its members. A review that was allegedly conducted by the Department of Education and Science has never been

produced. The lack of coordination of the adult and community education service is one of its biggest weaknesses. AONTAS demands that the new government convenes a meeting of the Council, publishes the review and works together with the adult and community education partners to develop an over-arching national structure as a matter of urgency

Demand 3 2002: Establishment of the local adult learning boards, with an attached fund for set-up support and training 2007: Local structures have never been established, although many of the old ad-hoc boards operated by the Vocational Education Committees (VECs) still exist. AONTAS demands that the new government invests in the establishment of effective co-ordinating structures at local level, led out and informed by the work of the VECs

Funding Demand 4 2002: Continued investment in the adult education service to bring it up to 10% of the overall education budget by 2006 2007: Investment has been eroded from a high of 2.8% of the total education budget in 2004 to just over 2% at the end of 2006, despite increases in programme funding. AONTAS demands a cumulative investment of 1% per annum of the total education budget until the end of the new National Development Plan (NDP) in 2013

Demand 5 2002: A capital expenditure budget for adult education, starting with an initial allocation of €12 million 2007: There is still no capital expenditure budget for adult education facilities. AONTAS demands that the new government establishes such a budget head, with an initial spend of €12 million, allocated through the VECs

Demand 6 2002: Investment of €20m per annum for the community education sector 2007: In 2006, the Department of Education and Science spent approximately €9 million on Community Education and Special Initiatives for Disadvantaged Adults (SPIDAS). A further €1.9 million was provided through the Back to Education Initiative Community Strand Programme. Yet, many community education groups are still dependent on small grants and limited tutor hours to support their provision. AONTAS demands that the new government double the existing Community Education and SPIDAS budget to support the learning activities of all providers of community education

Supports Demand 7 2002: Free access for all to upper second level education 2007: The Back To Education Initiative (BTEI) has created opportunities for people with less than upper second level education. A budget allocation of €16.5 million was allocated in 2006, resulting in 24,000 participants returning to learning. However, wage earners are still required to pay a course fee. For people on low incomes, this creates a barrier to access to learning. AONTAS demands that the BTEI continues to receive increased investment and that

people earning less than €35,000 per annum be eligible for a BTEI course fee waiver

Demand 8 2002: Immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education 2007: The National Access Office (NAO) was established in August 2003 to oversee policy and practice in educational access and opportunity for learners who are under-represented in higher education. It launched its Action Plan 2005-2007 in 2005. AONTAS works on the Advisory Committee to the NAO to ensure attention is paid to the needs of adult learners and supports the recommendations of the Action Plan

Demand 9 2002: Abolition of fees for adult students on part-time distance and modular courses 2007: Fees still stand for these categories of learners and are one of the biggest barriers to access for them. AONTAS demands parity of esteem for part-time adult learners, through the abolition of fees for higher education courses

Demand 10 2002: Development of recognised qualifications for workers in the Adult Education Service, including Accreditation of Prior Learning (APEL) 2007: No real progress has been made on this issue to date and recent changes brought about by the Part-time Workers Act have effectively marginalised those working in the system who have no formal qualifications. AONTAS calls on the new government to establish the Inter-Agency Working Group, as recommended in the White Paper on Adult Education, to progress work in this area. AONTAS also calls on the new government to provide an integrated training budget and integrated training supports, under the remit of the VECs

More To Do In addition to the above demands, AONTAS calls on the new government to increase investment in the following areas:

The National Adult Literacy Programme The National Adult Literacy Programme was one of the key pillars of the White Paper on Adult Education. The increased investment made by government since 1997 has enabled more than 35,500 learners to avail of a range of programmes. This, however, represents only 7% of the target group identified by the OECD International Adult Literacy Survey in 1996 and, indeed, 28% of these learners are speakers of other languages. AONTAS supports its partner organisation, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), in its call for a doubling of the Adult Literacy Budget from its current allocation of €26 million in 2006 in order to: • • • • • •

Extend the availability of intensive basic education Establish a dedicated Adult Numeracy Fund Support adults with specific learning difficulties Invest in innovative approaches to literacy Invest in research and evaluation Establish a dedicated funding line for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

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