Adult Learning Awards Winners Announced

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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The winners of the AONTAS STAR Awards were announced online recently. The STAR Awards (Showcasing Teamwork, Awarding Recognition) are an awards initiative organised by the national adult learning organisation, AONTAS, to recognise and celebrate the work undertaken by adult learning initiatives throughout Ireland.

The national winners announced today are:

  • Power in Participation, a collaborative project between Community Action Network (CAN), Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) and Community Education, National University of Ireland Galway, which looks at the impact of an outreach Diploma in Community Development Practice on the personal and professional lives of programme graduates, all from the Traveller community. A key focus of the project is promoting access to educational opportunities and widening participation in higher education for under-represented groups. Power in Participation won in the Third Level Access and Engagement category.
  • Roscommon Women’s Network for their Cycle Up project, a community environmental protection initiative where participants design & up-cycle textiles while raising awareness of protecting the environment. The group also explore income generation models and opportunities, firmly rooted in community, social and environmental. Cycle Up was a winner in the Sustainable Development through Education category.
  • Age Friendly Roscrea, based in Tipperary, for their Care and Connection through Covid initiative which has provided an essential service to participants including care packages, support and friendship services, and health and safety information during COVID-19. This initiative won in the Health and Wellbeing – Small/Medium Organisation category.
  • East Limerick Traveller Project, based in Limerick, a collaborative project between Ballyhoura Development and the HSE Traveller Health Unit (Mid West). The project works with the Traveller Community to improve health outcomes and quality of life for members of the Travelling Community in East Limerick. They were winners in the Health and Wellbeing – Large Organisation category.
  • The Aiseiri Progression Programme, based in Waterford, for their specialised education & training programme that supports men and women in addiction treatment and in the early years of addiction recovery to access meaningful education and training. The programme also looks at setting goals for work and equipping participants with the skills and confidence to achieve these goals. This initiative won in the Social Inclusion – Small/Medium Organisation category.
  • The Irish Wheelchair Association for their Ability Programme which provides job seeking and employability skills coaching to young people aged 18 – 29 with any physical disabilities. Ability focuses on developing decision-making skills, critical thinking, self-directed learning and self-advocacy skills. They were winners in the Social Inclusion – Large Organisation category.
  • Belfast Recovery College for their “Making Silent Voices Heard”, a unique Learning and Leadership Initiative that places the Learner Voice at the core of the college. Through advocacy and building learner capacity, the programme enables learners to pursue their dreams to participate as equal citizens in economic, educational, community, social inclusion and family life. They were winners in the Learner Voice category.
  • Blossom Ireland, based in Dublin, for their My Blossom Channel Assertiveness Course which provides skills- based training and support for young people with an intellectual disability between the ages of 15 and 20. This Assertiveness Course was delivered through an accessible blended learning model called My Blossom Channel. They were the winners in the Mitigating Educational Disadvantage through Innovation (during COVID-19)
  • WALK, based in Dublin, for their REAL Ability Project that has kept service users connected and motivated during the COVID-19 restrictions by providing an accessible online space for them and staff to share information and resources. They won the European Social Fund Special Recognition Award.

Commenting on the STAR Award winners, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “I’m delighted to award these fantastic initiatives for the outstanding work they are doing in the area of further education and training, adult and community education. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic these organisations are continuing to provide essential supports and services to those adult learners most in need. “

“The work these organisations do is benefitting the individual learner, their families and their local communities. The STAR Awards is an opportunity for them to be recognised for their positive impact on society.”

Colm O’Regan, author, broadcaster and comedian will MC as special online celebratory event on Thursday, 4th March to acknowledge the outstanding contribution that all of the shortlisted STAR Award projects have made to the adult and community education sector.

The STAR Awards form a key part of the AONTAS annual Adult Learners’ Festival. Over the past fifteen years the Festival has become a firm fixture in the Irish adult learning calendar, showcasing the range of learning opportunities available across the country and encouraging adults to try something new. The 2021 Adult Learners’ Festival is AONTAS’ first ever virtual Festival. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, a programme of events will take place online. A key focus of this year’s Festival is on collaboration and the theme of #BetterTogether.


Steven Galvin

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