ALOA & CEFA Collaborative Conference November 21st in Galway

ALOA and CEFA supported by ETBI and SOLAS will host a one day collaborative conference

on Valuing and Evaluating non-Formal and Informal Learning.


Date: 21 November 2019

Venue: Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill Road Lower, Galway, Galway, H91 W295

The conference will cover key aspects of non-formal and informal learning from policy to practice, highlighting the value of learning and showcasing current tools and methodologies which measure the value of such learning on people’s lives.

Experts from Ireland and Europe will speak at the event and there will be four workshops to complement the theme.


Places can be booked through Eventbrite.

Vocational Education and Training week in Brussels (November 2017)

Alison Jones, ALO from GRETB, went to Brussels to receive the special award from the EU as part of the Vocational Education and Training week in November 2017. The award was given in the category of Innovation in recognition of the project to establish literacy and numeracy supports for apprentices. The jury said that:

The jury considers the effective method of improving literacy and Math capabilities in apprenticeships a good practice. Remedying numeracy and language skills as soon as possible will foster participation in future schooling activities that are necessary for continued employability.

The support takes the form of tailored Maths assessments, Maths support classes, Study Skills using a dedicated Study and Learning Handbook for Apprentices, as well as individual study help in reading, comprehension and language as needed. Technology Enhanced Learning is also being used in the programme and new literacy friendly materials and resources developed. An ‘Ideas for Integrating Literacy’ book for craft instructors and tutors has also been produced which includes a section on TEL and Dyslexia.

Launch of new UIL publication on family literacy and learning

A new FL resource has been developed by UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning (with a sub Saharan African focus) .

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) is launching a new publication highlighting the critical role family literacy and learning play in breaking down barriers between different learning contexts and engaging hard-to-reach adults and children in education. Learning Together Across Generations: Guidelines for Family Literacy and Learning Programmes was developed as part of a family learning project initiated by UIL in 2016. Based on the experiences of promising family literacy and learning programmes implemented in all world regions, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa, it provides stakeholders in Member States with evidence-informed guidance on how to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate a pilot family learning programme, stressing, in particular, the value of an intergenerational approach in addressing the learning needs of disadvantaged families and communities.

An innovative approach to literacy and learning

The innovative family-centred and community-based approach to literacy and learning has great potential in overcoming the barriers between school, home and community. It requires providers of early childhood care and development or pre-school education, primary education, and adult literacy and education to work together to redress educational disadvantage among vulnerable families. Evidence shows that such an approach also helps to overcome gender disparities. The publication provides guidance on how to respond to the learning needs of women and their families through the strengthening of positive, gender-conscious and culturally sensitive intergenerational learning practices.

The Guidelines are divided into three sections:

  • A theoretical introduction clarifying the concept of intergenerational and family learning.
  • A set of guidelines supporting potential providers in planning and delivering a pilot family learning programme.
  • A collection of examples of pedagogical materials.

The Guidelines aim to support stakeholders in Member States in successfully piloting a family learning programme. The principles, recommendations and examples of pedagogical materials featured in the publication were gathered during the International Workshop for the Development of a Resource Pack to Reach Vulnerable Families with Intergenerational Approaches to Literacy, which took place in Hamburg, Germany, in November 2016.

While they speak to all Member States, the examples included in this publication should resonate most with those who plan to implement a family learning programme in multilingual and multicultural contexts in rural or peri-urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa.

This piece is taken from:


This document is available to download in the ALOA downloads page.

A Window Into The Creative Talents Of Portlaoise Women

Live original performances of spoken word and music from a Portlaoise mother and son rounded off the launch of a special exhibition of work in the Dunamaise Arts Centre last Thursday, March 2.
‘Window of Opportunity’ is a new project comprising artwork and storytelling, showcasing the talents of eight local women, all parents of children who are attending Scoil Bhride in Knockmay.

The project was run in Scoil Bhríde Knockmay in association with the Home School Community Liaison Officer in the school and Portlaoise Further Education and Training Centre.

As part of the project, the women wrote and illustrated short books for their children.
One of the talented first-time authors, Rhona Walsh read out her work at last Thursday’s launch, which saw a huge crowd turn out despite the inclement weather.

Rhoda dedicated the story, ‘The Buddy Bench’, to her five children, and at the conclusion of the event her 16-year-old son, Curtis, performed his original track, ‘Million Dollar Shakes’. Curtis, who attends the Academy of Popular Music in Cork, represented Laois at the Irish Youth Music Awards recently, and is the youngest person ever to have played at the Electric Picnic.

Besides Rhoda, the other women involved in the project are Ellen Momo, Karla Jordan, Deirdre Redmond, Edel Phelan, Nicole Delaney, Sabrina Bowden and Nicole Redmond.

Michelle De Forge, director of the Dunamaise, said that ‘Window of Opportunity’ was a fantastic project and the Dunamaise was really excited to have the group exhibiting on the wall of the centre used to host local artists.

Giving the women and their families complimentary tickets for a forthcoming show in the Dunamaise, Michelle expressed her hope that everyone would come back to the centre often.
“The door’s always open for you,” she said.

Deirdre Delaney, home school liaison officer with Scoil Bhride, congratulated the women on their achievement, and said there were tears of joy when they handed over the finished pieces.
Praising their hard work, she said she hoped the women continued to engage with future projects.

Kathleen Dunne, Adult Literacy Organiser with Laois Offaly ETB, congratulated tutors Denise Dunne and Mary Delaney, who gave their hearts and souls for the project.

Muriel Wall-Coughlan, principal of Scoil Bhríde, received copies of the women’s books for the school, and there are also copies for the county library.

The exhibition runs at the Dunamaise Arts Centre for the month of March.


Ryan Dunne

Family Learning Longitudinal Group, Co. Clare

Mary Flanagan tells us about a group of parents of children at high risk of not making the transition from primary school to second level school who were invited to attend a Family Learning course in 2002. A very strong inter-agency group of community and adult education supports was put in place around the group and this was reviewed annually. Five settled Irish and two Traveller mothers attended and progressed onto Further Education and Training Awards Council (now Quality Qualifications Ireland) Level 3. A number of students then progressed onto Level 5 courses and one completed Level 6. All their children went on to second level. As the mothers became more confident they got involved in the community campaigning for a playground and another as a Family Resource Centre Board member for a number of years.

See below interviews from two of the mothers:


Interview 1 with mum in February 2015 –  13 years after starting Family Learning.

Completed Level 5 Art

Mums voice:

My kids were young and my friend introduced me years ago.

There was classes starting so I gave it a go.

They helped me put my kids into the crèche at the time and supported it.

Which was good for me as it got me out of the house, mingling with other people and you know what I mean, I suppose learning, I was good at school but I wasn’t that good at school. Crafts and maths and communications and stuff like that.

Then moved from that then to Level 3, same thing, same group of people and new people came in then on top of it.

And took it from that then to when we all kind of split up, went our own ways.

People I knew did Childcare, I did Art, other people did different things. We were all in the same group.

More than anything it was just getting out, getting support, and getting help

I felt good about myself

Getting up in the morning, getting the kids out, mingling with adults and having an adult conversation and just instead of being stuck in the house, that’s how it started out, instead of being…I felt isolated at home and I was getting out and about.

I suppose with Emily anyway or Amy (she’s the oldest), when I did do the maths from what I remember… what I was learning I was going home and if she asked me something, because years ago being in school, you would forget bits and pieces like.

So that actually helped.

When I started doing the crafts and found what I wanted to do, like with Amy I’d actually help her with the art like I was pretty… I found what I wanted to do and it was the art, but helping her, it felt good like.

I always liked it but never had confidence to do anything.

‘Cos I wouldn’t do it by myself.  So I’d the support of people helping you and pushing you in the right way.

Mingling with people socialising, something I wouldn’t have doing.

When I got further on and I was doing the art I actually told my sister, she lives here in Ennistymon, I actually said it to her, and she came on and gave it a go.

She did like, she did. Em she liked it and she stuck at it for a while then as well, you see she started too late. I started from the beginning and worked my way up.

I remember the time I sold my painting in the Art Gallery, the kids came along with me.

They actually still say it on and off. You know what I mean that Mam help me with my art. I haven’t done in a while, but as in they remember being there when I sold it. It made me feel good.

Years ago the way I felt as a lone parent, by myself with the kids, kind of at home with nothing to do.   With the support and the help I’d definitely give it 10 out of 10.

Helping them at home, and do you know, not, you’d just say by the time I’d got back and I got my kids, I wasn’t as do you know what I mean…cranky or whatever. I was out and about my head was clearer. Do you know that kind of way, mingling with people.

More happy like in myself, so if I’m happier in myself, my kids can see it like.

Definitely 10 out of 10 I know I shouldn’t… it would be because they did see a big difference.

If I didn’t do what I did back then, I probably would have gone insane.  At this stage…yea you know…

Kids… a big impact you know.

And even now my kids are 16 now and 11 and when I did move back here make and… seeing can I get back in, to pick up where I left off. Seeing where I could better myself that bit more.

So you know so it is good like … I think.

 Yea, the day I sold the painting, the day I sold the painting… I was like je… I’m worth…I can actually do this, I can do something that before I couldn’t. Like the support that they gave me is like… is like in one way I know it sounds stupid like a child supporting me, helping me, pushing me along that I could do it like do you know what I mean that kind of way. It was tough when I did the Level 5. The two years Art, that was tough.

But the support was brilliant. And I think that helped me from the start to build my confidence all the way up along to do what I did then and now I’m hoping to continue and finish it.

Build the foundations and work your way up.

Like I did go to school. I did do my Junior Cert and I did the Applied Leaving. But when you do leave all that you’ve kids and you’re taking care of them

You forget, you forget, you actually forget, and then your kids are coming home with their homework, and then you’re trying…. so it was easier when they came home doing even…. At the time like doing like even communications stuff like a small bit of childcare we were doing as well do you know. Stuff like that helped them and my kids didn’t see me as much under pressure, cranky. Socialising bit was the best bit and the crack and the laugh we had together was brilliant as well and meeting people as well.

Even my parents, the time when in the Art Gallery, even my family came down and everything and supported me. I thought it was brilliant.

And a painting that I did do, my mam actually still has it at home. ‘Cos like she thought it was amazing, it was really good. They always said it you were good with…but it took me to do ‘cos I had Amy at 19 and I kind of, you know…had taken care of her and forgetting about myself  but to do this helped me build myself back up to move onto more what I wanted to do and the support and help with the childcare as well. Knowing that Emily was …or Amy, I think Emily was born, she was. Yes Emily was. Yea Amy was upstairs in the crèche and Emily was downstairs so the two of them got looked after, I could breathe, do what I was doing and then you know an adult conversation as well.


Interview 2 – Completed Level 6 Childcare now employed

Traveller Mum:

You know I went to school in my early days, three hours a day in to learn for the Confirmation or the Holy Communion. I never got secondary school. I came from a family of twelve and in them times the Travellers didn’t believe in having kids in school. I came from the side of the road to be honest moved into a council house.

In 2002 I just moved into the Clare area and I was approached that family learning classes were going to take place.. My daughter was only six at the time. She was starting primary school in the area and I needed to know more as a mother would.. So I wanted to be able to help her with her homework, so I went along to the classes. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest at first. The first day was a bit daunting. There was a lot of people that I didn’t know. … I came to the head of the road and I was actually going to turn back and not go in. Cos it is shaky, there’s no point in not saying it….you’d have this attitude you’d  be judged. You’re not going to be judged. It’s your own thought in the back of your head and it can be as big as a mountain

There was classes for maths, cooking, literacy and numeracy skills, there was art, there was no end to the classes that we done after that. And Janet and Jacinta was involved in the guiding of it, and anything that you felt you were stuck with; if you weren’t aware of where to  go or what to do you could always go back to them. They were always a support … It makes such a difference in your life. You don’t have to be a genius to take part in it.

So I met Katie and I explained I had a problem… that I wanted to go into childcare as a professional, being a Traveller I didn’t think I’d be able to achieve it,

I needed the background of family learning because I’ve dyslexia so my understanding of spelling wouldn’t be great. I could read but I wouldn’t be able to spell… So for me to put something down on paper, and awkwardness… to be able to go on and do the work, the studies and the exams, I wouldn’t be able to do it alone to be honest with you. 

I never ever thought that I’d go to work or ever go back to school and learn as much as I’ve learned. Or be able to sit and do an exam, even for the communications, to be able to stand up in front of a crowd. O my God I thought I was going to drop, but even that day when Jacinta said to me you can do so much for yourself. At the time I hadn’t self esteem. I hadn’t belief in myself. And two year after that, I had… you can do that you’re well able. 

My work was a very big bonus  when my brother died because I didn’t go back to work for two weeks. After it happening at least I could feel normal.  I had friends around me. I didn’t feel isolated. But as I said without having my job, at the time, I’d have too much time for thinking; God knows what would have come out of it.

 But when I had my daughter I wanted so much for her that I never had. And when I heard about the classes in family learning, I think that’s what made me hunger. Embarrassment and everything else went out the door when I put a foot through that door. All I wanted was to achieve so much to prove to her, that if I could do it at my age there was nothing to stop her… so that was the most thing to get me going. I knew I could do more. I know I can do more.  I will be doing more. .  It’s a whole lifestyle for yourself as well.

I have six sisters and six brothers, two deceased. None of them actually work. Actually none of them worked. My father is going through his seventies. My father sat down a few weeks ago, and he said ‘I’m proud of you. You’re one out of the lot that made something of yourself. I never got the chance when I was young. We were reared outdoors, living from house to house, waiting for handouts to survive. I done as much as I could with you,’ he said, ‘from what I had, but you went on.’ 

So that, without the family learning we wouldn’t have the courage to be honest with you. I got on and done that and it was from here that I got the courage to do my driving test.  My daughter got a seizure in my home one year. And there was nobody here driving, …and I said I’d never be caught like that again. Within six months I had applied for my driving test. I failed the first time round and came back and applied the day I failed. I sat the test six weeks after.  I passed my full driving test and that was six years back (and I haven’t) and there’s been no end to me after that

Aw, look some Travellers say to me ‘Aw you’re too big in your boots. I say ‘No you are never too big in your boots.’ I’ll want for my daughter what I never had. Now that I have ambition, I’m going to pass it on. I’m not afraid to work, not afraid to learn, and I have great support. So there’s no point in excuses ‘O , I can’t do it, I can’t do it!’ You can do it if you want to do it. I always keep telling Lily and I mean, why wouldn’t I tell her, she’s my priority, she’s my daughter, she’s my responsibility.

But as I said without the family learning, none of this would ever be achievable, not to my family anyway. If I wasn’t in these classes, I’ll tell you what I’d be doing at the moment, I’d be home scrubbing the tables and putting on the dinner, and I wouldn’t be out working and I wouldn’t be involved in community. I’d be half scared to mix with the community


But, it felt like just walking into part of your family, from stage one.   Everyone introduced each other and there was no pressure on anybody. Everybody discussed their own kids, there was confidentiality, there was nothing taken away from it. And even if you wanted to talk about a personal  problem,  with a child, it was just like family bonding. You didn’t feel like you were alone, and that was a good thing. As I said I moved into the county, I didn’t know anyone in the county and it was  a great step for me personally.. to understand that I wasn’t the only girl in the county that was struggling.

If something happened in class, and the class had to be cancelled, you’d be kinda disappointed that you couldn’t go, didn’t meet my friends this week,

The first classes that was ran, achieved so much for so many families in the parish…without that I don’t think a lot of those families would reach a quarter in their life. It’s been a very very big bonus to us…

You’re involved in a whole community. Even at times myself and my daughter,  we actually went and done fund raising for other members of other communities, other parts of this community. There’s no way in the world going back,  I’d get involved in this. I just wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t have the courage.  I was on a Board of Management of the Family Resource Centre for four and a half years. I’ve only stepped down in the last few years. I’m involved in other bits around, it will keep me busy. I’m involved in any fundraising that comes up, for the school my daughter is going to, anything that I can help with, if anyone wants to they can ring me.

You know I‘ve been involved in meetings with Clare County Council on behalf of Travellers. I spoke up for Travellers. You know going back to me fifteen years ago … I never thought that it would ever, ever happen, the experience or having the inspiration or having the self esteem to do something like that.

Now my daughter is eighteen and she’s still in school. She is doing her Leaving Certificate next year.

She has done work experience in Childcare up where I work. And I want her to go down that road, only if she likes it. And if she falls back on anything, I know there is support here for both of us.

Lilly is finding it difficult, she’s like me as well;  she has dyslexia and is getting special help in school. She get’s stuck at homework and there are always two or three friends you can ring.


Really and truly I think health is your wealth but your education is the biggest thing in life. Because without education you know nothing, you can go nowhere.

To have the confidence to step in and do the work, for me without my qualification I wouldn’t be able to do anything. So I’d be there depending on the husband coming home with the Social Welfare, Lily still inside in school and I’d have no independence. So from this I have gone on I’ve done Level 5 through the strength and support of family learning

From being an ordinary parent, to teaching kids as a childcare worker in a crèche, (I knew I had to have a Level 5 and Level 6 before I could step in to take up a full time position or part time position.)

I’m fifty years of age next February for God’s sake. I started late in life to learn. But I tell you I’m not sorry. It still is wonderful to be able to go out, do a day’s work, learn, meet your friends…

Financially, I’m able to save a bit more. I appreciate what I’m earning because I’m doing it for myself. I can go home and I feel, I feel  I know but that’s how I feel as well that my family are looking up to me because I’m going out and doing it.


I’ve got a lot of inspiration from my family learning classes from day one. And every day I get up I push …and I’m glad I got the opportunity.

Because the overall picture has been very beneficial to me, very beneficial to my lifestyle, very beneficial to my daughter, to my husband to my family. My sisters can ring me up, they’ve, most of them have got kids, there’s something going on with the kids, I can actually discuss that and give them advice on it. I’ve done special needs and I’ve done training in child behaviour and all that.

As I said we took up art classes under this programme, and I actually sold one of the pictures I painted here to a local, and that’s actually hanging in her hall. And it’s those kind of things you never forget.

Without them it wouldn’t have been possible. You know , they, they actually believed in me.  They saw more in me at the time, than I saw myself.





Three years ago, we were looking for a new way of encouraging students to engage in the enjoyment of reading.  We came across ‘The Six Book Challenge’, which is organised by the Reading Agency in England.  We looked at this programme and tailored it to suit our needs.  We had received a grant from Better World Books Fund and we used the grant to purchase the necessary resources to offer learners this programme.  These included diaries, Quick Reads, pens and an incentive to take part in the Challenge.

For the Reading Challenge to work, we needed a simple and effective tool to build local partnership, so the starting point was the local library. We wanted to encourage the use of the local library and we were fortunate that the staff at Killarney Library were delighted to help in whatever way they could.   They have been a great support to our Adult Literacy Centre.    There is now a partnership agreement with Kerry ETB and Kerry County Library to fund the printing of the diaries and the certificates.  The Reading Diary is the key element of the programme which students take pride in completing.

The Reading Challenge encourages less confident readers to pick six reads, record their reading in a diary and write a piece describing their experience in less than fifty words, in order to receive a certificate and an incentive.  There is no ‘set’ of books or resources for the Reading Challenge and no stipulation that only books can be used.  This is what makes this programme unique and so successful.

The whole aim is to engage students in text and that may be best achieved for new readers through books, magazines, newspaper articles, ebooks, poetry or social media.

A successful pilot programme was run in 2013.  After that, tutors (group and 1:1) were encouraged to introduce the Reading Challenge to their students.  This was a slow process but now the tutors see the benefits for their students in reading, writing, spelling, listening and speaking.  The Reading Challenge is a programme to be incorporated into the literacy class.  So from humble beginnings, forty two students completed the Reading Challenge in 2016 and the 2017 Reading Challenge is already underway.

Tutors and students need to take ownership of the Reading Challenge and instead of being a chore, it has become a nice way to finish the class session each week.

The benefits for the students are many –

  • It stimulates an interest in reading
  • Reading independently, often for the first time
  • Being able to read a story to your child at bedtime
  • Using the library – intergenerational taking your children or grandchildren to the library
  • Being able to express an option about a piece of reading, this in turn builds the student’s confidence.

Quote from a student

“Taking the time to sit and read has opened a new door in my life.  Wherever I go from here I will always have a book with me.  For me this has been a wonderful journey, it has helped to open up my mind again.”


Mary Concannon – Adult Literacy Organiser, Killarney (Kerry ETB)