Community Education Framework Launched by Minister Patrick O'Donovan

FET for Communities/04.06.2024

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O'Donovan TD today (04.06.24) launched the Community Education Framework, together with SOLAS, the Further Education and Training (FET) authority and key partners from the FET sector. The publication of the Framework marks an important milestone in ensuring a more consistent approach to SOLAS funded community education across the country.

The development of this Framework was led by SOLAS and involved an extensive consultation process with key stakeholders within the FET sector. The document outlines principles and an approach to making positive changes in how we learn; how we provide; how we coordinate; and how we fund; community education in Ireland.

Community education includes both formal and informal learning, addressing learners’ personal development, building skills while offering educational options through simplified pathways, and further opportunities to progress to other areas of FET and beyond. 

Welcoming the launch of the Community Education framework, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O'Donovan TD said:

“Community education plays a vital role in the FET system, and in local communities across Ireland as it offers local, accessible, and welcoming learning opportunities for individuals. The distinguishing factor of community education is the wide-ranging outcomes for learners which include skills development, confidence building, greater community involvement,

social justice outcomes and progression to other types of FET provision.”

"Investment in community education has grown beyond recognition in recent years, supported by Reach Funding, and we have also seen an increase in demand for community education provision. This Framework will provide a solid basis to shape how SOLAS and the ETBs fund, coordinate, support, develop and monitor community education and will ensure that we can continue to provide access to education those that need it the most.”

Commenting on the launch, SOLAS CEO, Andrew Brownlee said:

“We are delighted to launch the Community Education Framework today, which marks a significant step forward for the FET sector. The Framework is part of our commitment to ensuring consistent approaches to community education across the FET sector, and that we have a structure in place that supports innovative ideas and best practice across the country.”

“Community Education plays a critical and unique role in the FET system, and in local communities across Ireland. It not only benefits learners and communities, but also supports a democratic society. It is now more important than ever that we recognise community education for its ability to foster social cohesion and active citizenship.”

“Whilst the development of this Framework was led by SOLAS, it has been a collaborative process which involved key stakeholders within the FET sector, including feedback from learners. This Framework belongs to the whole FET sector, and it would not be possible without the valuable engagement and support from all of those involved.”

Also commenting on the launch, George O’Callaghan, Chief Executive of Limerick and Clare ETB, said:

“There is a huge vibrancy of community education provision in Limerick City and across the Limerick and Clare region. Its delivery, in partnership with a network of community organisations, is making a real impact on the lives of those learners who participate, by responding to their needs. We are really pleased to see the publication of this Framework and we look forward to working with SOLAS and our colleagues across the ETB Networks to ensure that we can continue to provide this vital provision in the heart of our communities.”

REACH Funding

Minister O’Donovan also welcomed the allocation of €5million under the REACH Fund to community education groups across Ireland, which will support almost 50,000 educationally disadvantaged learners to access and participate in community education.

REACH Funding is allocated by SOLAS to the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) through whom the funding will be administered to 700 community education groups across Ireland. The funding will be used to support local projects with online learning, to connect communities, and to provide social supports to the most vulnerable groups.

Announcing the funding today, Minister Patrick O’Donovan said, “The impact of Reach Funding over the past four years is evident. Originally introduced in 2020 to support the most disadvantaged learners throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it now provides important funds to assist ETBs and community education providers to increase their capacity and ensure that they can support the participation of disadvantaged learners within their communities. Reach Funding is growing from strength to strength, and I am look forward to seeing the outcomes and impact of the funding this year."

Priority cohorts for Reach Funding include the long-term unemployed; young people; people with disabilities; members of the Traveller and Roma communities; migrants and refugees; women wishing to return to the labour market; and lone parents.

Since 2020, over 2,300 individual projects have been supported through Reach Funding and demand is growing year on year. This is testament to the incredible work that is happening at local level by ETBs and community partners as they work to tackle barriers that prevent learners from accessing education and support them to re-engage and participate with local provision.

View the Report