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National Learner Forum – Mansion House – 26th February 2016

National Learner Forum – Mansion House – 26th February 2016
Date: 07 Mar 2016
The learners who attended, represented all sixteen Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and included learners from Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses, Community Education Programmes, Apprenticeships, Back to Education Initiative, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) and Youthreach programme. Six learners represented Limerick and Clare ETB. Those attending heard from Niamh O Reilly of Aontas and Fiona Hartley of SOLAS. Niamh O’Reilly said: “This new forum gives adult learners an opportunity to share their views at national level and to help influence policy”. We heard various Learner’s Stories which were very inspiring as well as some humorous insights on education and on empowering the learner voice by Christy Kenneally (Writer) before being encouraged to tell our own Learner Story. We were in groups of six to seven with a facilitator and a scribe and we each gave a summary of our own learning story. This set us up for the group discussions, the main part of the Forum. “Speak today, shape tomorrow” was the slogan for the Forum. Group Discussions followed: Two questions were discussed – “What do you think is working well in Further Education and Training”? and “What is not working in Further Education and Training and how can it be improved”? These discussions were very informative, and we were surprised by some of the answers. When we returned in the afternoon. There was a choice of four workshops based on different learning styles: reading and writing, kinaesthetic, visual and auditory. These used different ways to empower learners to use their voice such as through creative writing, art and crafts, media skills, public speaking and discussions. Afterwards Liam Kilbride, the Vice-President of Aontas, gave a summary of the issues we raised and reflections on the day before Críona Ní Dhálaigh, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, gave the closing speech. She said she was inspired by the learners she had met and listened to today and told us that she had returned to education too a few years ago. Críona said the points that were raised “will be taken very seriously by policymakers and politicians”. Overall, it was interesting, enlightening and beneficial and I look forward to seeing how it can affect future policies. As Fiona Hartley (Solas) said: “Adult learners’ contribution at today’s event is hugely valued and it will have an impact on the decisions that are made in the future.” (Sara Mee, PLC Kilmallock). Picture Left to Right - Sara Mee (PLC Kilmallock, Childcare Studies), Michael Sheehan, (BTEI Limerick City), Críona Ní Dhálaigh (Lord Mayor of Dublin), Dermot Graham (PLC Ennis, Community Health Studies), Niamh O’Reilly CEO AONTAS, Megan McCarthy (LCFE, Nursing Studies). Missing from Photo – Martin Mongan (Youthreach Miltown Malbay) and John Hogan (Raheen Training Centre, Electrical Apprentice)