National Winners of AONTAS STAR Awards Announced

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The winners of the AONTAS STAR Awards were announced this week. 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.

National Winners of AONTAS STAR Awards Announced

  • Dare2Dip, a new programme developed and delivered by The LightHouse, a Social Enterprise powered by Inishowen Development Partnership. It provides introductory sea swimming safety guidance to new and novice sea swimmers, while promoting the mental health and wellness benefits of being in the sea. They were winners in the Health and Wellbeing – Small/Medium Organisation category.
  • The Hep C Programme, run by the SAOL Project which counters misinformation about Hepatitis and Hepatitis treatment, particularly among the drug-using community. The programme provides training and up-to-date information about Hepatitis and its treatment, and the skills to share this information with others. They were winners in the Health and Wellbeing – Large Organisation category.
  • The Biodiversity Garden and Tree Nursery Project, run by Cranmore Community Co-Op, encourages the local community to get involved with environmental and biodiversity awareness and climate action. The workshops give participants the opportunity to save local wildflower seeds, observe bees, and learn about the importance of wildlife in the food chain. They were winners in the Sustainable Development through Education – Small/Medium Organisation category.
  • Sustainable Climate Action and Local Advocacy Youth Villagea project that was carried out by a group of volunteers to share important information about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and what can be done to achieve them. A group of young people from the Cork Life Centre worked on the project making birdhouses from repurposed materials and gathering information for seventeen SDG stations on a walking trail. They were winners in the Sustainable Development through Education – Large Organisation category.
  • Cultural & Heritage Studies, CSN, College of Further Education, is a one-year full-time programme focusing on Archaeology, History, Folklore and the Arts. It has been running for over 30 years with over 1,000 graduates and was the first of its kind in Cultural and Heritage Studies in Ireland. They were winners in the Third-level Access and Engagement – Small/Medium Organisation category.
  • Education Access for People Seeking Protection – Irish Refugee Council which supports refugees and people living in Direct Provision to access education. The initiative offers an Education Fund annually to cover fees, transport and materials for learning in further and higher education. They also advocate with Government to expand financial supports, and encourage and support a range of organisations to help them support refugees and those living in Direct Provision. They were winners in the Third-level Access and Engagement – Large Organisation category.
  • The Ability Board-Your Voice: An advocacy group from Ability@Work by Cope Foundation, a service that brings young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism closer to the labour market. The Ability Board collaborated with Inclusion Ireland and with the HSE to stablish the new ‘Decision Support Service’, which will promote the rights and interests of people who may need support with decision-making. They were winners in the Learner Voice category.
  • The Aiseiri Progression Programme, a specialised education and training programme which supports men and women in addiction treatment and in the early years of recovery from addiction to access meaningful education and training, to set career goals, and to develop the confidence and skills needed to achieve these goals. They were winners in Social Inclusion – Small/Medium organisation category.
  • Development Perspectives’ Amplifying Voices project which supports migrant communities to engage with cultural and educational activities for social integration. This project included podcasting and storytelling where eight migrants featured in a different podcast episode, sharing their stories of moving to Ireland. The podcasts provided a platform for migrants to enhance their confidence, develop relationships with their new communities, share information on issues related to migration, and challenge common myths, biases, fears around migration integration in new communities. They were winners in the Social Inclusion category – Large organisation category.
  • Foundation 4 Life is a transformative, education, life skills, and job activation programme for disengaged young people aged 18 – 25 who are not currently employed, in education, or training. It was developed by South West Mayo Development Company in partnership with the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme. They won the European Social Fund Special Recognition Award.
  • Start360 Switch onto Employment –This programme has offered education, training and employment opportunities to the hardest-to-reach young people across the wider Belfast area. The programme delivers training in literacy and numeracy, IT, employability and youth work. 60 young people from the ages of 16 to 24 participate annually. They won a Mitigating Educational Disadvantage through Innovation (during COVID-19) Special Recognition Award.

Commenting on the STAR Award winners, Dr Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “We are delighted to award these fantastic initiatives for the outstanding work they are doing in the area of adult, further and community education. During the pandemic, these projects demonstrated great innovation and learner-centred approaches to engaging adult learners in challenging times.”

“The STAR Awards is an important opportunity the recognise the work of these organisations and the achievements of their learners. The diversity of these adult learning projects demonstrates the incredible impact of education, the role it plays in bringing people together, and the need for us to ensure educational equality across the island of Ireland.” is Ireland’s largest part-time course finder database, with thousands of part-time courses, evening, morning and weekend classes and adult education courses to choose from. You’ll find your perfect course on

Steven Galvin

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