Erasmus+ Mobility visit to Ireland

Day 1 – Star Awards

No sooner had we landed in Dublin when we were whisked off in a taxi to the Aontas Star Awards at the Rotunda Hospital in the City. The awards are the equivalent of the L&WI’s Inspire awards. Obviously there were many similarities but a few notable differences. The Star Awards shared the emotion and the passion of that of their Welsh counterparts. The awards started at 10am with time to network, drink coffee and enjoy some of the wonderful croissants and cakes. There was also opportunity to have a look at some displays of the work carried out by some of the award winners and nominations – there were also publications made available to take away showcasing the organisations, policies and strategies for adult learning in Ireland.

All of the categories for awards are for projects, and as yet there are no plans to introduce an individual  award but, if that is what the learners want then Aontas have said that they will of course consider a new category.

Following the awards presentations there was a key note speaker then a wonderful 3 course meal.

Award categories include:

Health and Wellbeing
Third Level Access and Engagement
Social Inclusion
Sustainable Employment

‘Dublin Adult Learning Centre’

DALC gave us opportunity to meet up with our colleagues from The Netherlands

Following the inspiring awards our next stop was to visit the fabulous Dublin Adult Learning Centre (DALC) where we were shown around their city centre community hub – and the word here is definitely ‘community’.  The centre works with adult learners from over 30 countries and is a definite jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Adult Education landscape. They are keen to see individual adults to learn but they are equally keen to see the transformational power of adult learning transform their entire community – they champion bringing different nationalities together to share culture and learn how to live together.

We spent time at the centre hearing and empathising with some of their challenges (not dissimilar to those we face in Wales) and  hearing about the creative ways that they overcome barriers. For example, having an on-site Creche has been invaluable to help those with child care issues.

Day 2 – NALA

Saw us welcomed at the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) where the staff talked through the service that they provide to increase Literacy levels in Ireland. One of the key areas of influence for NALA is making services accessible for all learners.  NALA have some great ideas when it comes to hearing the learner voice and providing opportunities for learner engagement including:

• A freephone service that allows them to listen to people and identify issues and also if necessary to teach over the phone.
• Student away days – they provide opportunities for their student board to get away for the day to somewhere that they have never been before. Whilst there the students are given a theme to discuss and feedback (e.g. Do you use the library?). These away days are only for students – led by students for students.
• NALA work closely with national TV Station RTE to create very powerful videos to promote their work and the learner journey. These videos allow the learner to share their story in a very powerful engaging way.

AONTAS

The final destination to conclude our Erasmus visit was to the offices of the Star Award organisers Aontas.

Aontas are a Community Education Network that works to connect and listen to providers, provide advocacy and funding opportunities. They are advocates of ‘Change Orientated Education’ – educating people to not only change their own lives but to then go on to change the community that they came from

Aontas shared with us the highlights and the challenges of putting on the Star Awards – some of the key points to take home include:
• They put on 2 festivals each year – one to celebrate adult learning and one to explore the challenges for the year ahead (a nice balance I thought).
• Each winning group and nominated group takes away a full publicity package which includes an email tag, professional photo shoot and a professional video.
• Learners used in celebration events are given professional training – e.g. public speaking to prepare them.
• More learning about promotion of “Change Orientated Education”

Secret Street Tours

The highlight for me was the opportunity to take part in one of the Aontas Awards nominated project’s – a secret street tour given by a former homeless man. Secret Street Tours are a Community Interest Company set up to provide education, training and work opportunities to homeless people. The project employees people who have experienced homelessness and trains them to be guides. The guide is then able to take small group of visitors on a street tour of Dublin – talking along the way a mix of personal experience and historical facts concerning social housing in Ireland. This project really epitomizes for me what education and opportunity can do in a person’s life – it was inspiring and it was thought provoking – do Cardiff have a Secret Street Tours? If they haven’t – they soon will!


This case study has been written by: Scott Jenkinson, founder of 4:28 Training and former Inspire! Tutor Award winner