Return to Education for Four Adult Learners

With the second annual Further Education and Training (FET) Fair having taken place on Wednesday April 5, as part of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, I recently chatted with some adult learners to see how they have benefitted from returning to education.

Kevin, Jay, Ann and Kim are studying on the Personal Effectiveness, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 3 course at the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board’s (LCETB) Further Education and Training Centre at the O’Connell Avenue Campus, and they attended and displayed some of their work at the FET Fair.

The fair gave the learners an opportunity to find information about education and training options in Limerick, to meet and chat with the programme providers and learn more about the full and part-time courses from QQI Level 1 to Level 6 that are available.


Kevin, who left school aged 11, returned to education when he lost his job and found himself on the dole, “I worked my whole life, always lower paid hard jobs. I had no education.  I felt it always held me back. When I was going to school the teachers were the bullies, so how are you supposed to learn anything in that environment?”

Kevin met with an Adult Education Guidance Counsellor at the O’Connell Avenue Campus, and decided to undertake the Return to Learn, 6 week Programme. Since then he has attended other day and evening courses and by the end of the summer he will have achieved 5 minor QQI awards and two Security Licences.

“I was nervous at 46 going to school but I found that everybody in the class was in the same situation, early school leavers. If you need a bit of help there’s extra classes here to do, the Guidance Counsellor and tutors are always there to help out if you have any problems.

“I don’t want to ever be in a position again that I have to get up out of bed and hate going to work, I want to educate myself enough so I can pick a job that I don’t mind going to work,” Kevin added.

Class Project

The class project that was on display at the FET Fair was a traffic light poster, devised by Kevin and each member of the class worked on it as a team building exercise. Red represents the learners feelings before beginning their studies, being stuck in a rut and that life is over. Orange symbolises their discovery of information about courses and going back to school, and the green light represents the learners as they are now, feeling more confident having taken their courses and learned so much, happy, confident and ready to start on a new career path.


Jay, who is in Ireland for International protection, already has a degree in Information Technology, “I needed something to get my mind busy. I find the experience was incredible. I have learned lots of things. If my circumstances haven’t changed I might take in some more courses.

“It’s very friendly from the classmates to the staff. They work with you and check in on how your course is going, if you need any help and lots of extra supports. No matter the level of the course, you are going to learn something. My long term plan is to do a tech start up.”


Ann’s father was unemployed due to a serious injury he received while working on the Docks and later died in his fifties. Ann is from a family of 10 who all left school early to in order to support the family. Having worked since the age of fourteen she is now a carer for her husband.

“Last September I decided to get up the courage to come in and see what they had on offer, that was very difficult. I was scared. It was Maths I wanted to do and spellings. I decided to do three courses Communications, Personal Effectiveness and Maths,” said Ann.

Ann has two children who are college graduates and are working in their chosen careers as a dental nurse and financial advisor and with her son in second year in college she felt it was time to do something for herself.

“We came from the wrong side of the track as they called us in school, in school we never got a chance to develop. My biggest thing to my children is never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up, cause we were looked done on growing up.

“I’m really enjoying it. I’ve got the confidence back.  The staff here are very good to us, the tutors are easy going and calm. I’m glad I got the chance, I’m loving meeting everyone else, you begin to share things and see that you are not the only one here that had a difficult upbringing,” said Ann.


Kim also an early school leaver, always intended returning to education but working full time in Tesco’s while rearing a family of four left little time for her to follow her dream.

“I finished up my job last year then I said I wanted to up skill myself. A couple of years ago I did my Junior and Leaving Cert in English. I’m doing 4 courses here now also and I’ve loved it.

“You’d be a bit nervous coming back but you see they are all ages, all levels, they are very friendly in here, they are dedicated to what they do and so obliging the supports are very good,” said Kim.

Kim hopes to continue studying and eventually have a career as a Special Needs Assistant, Healthcare or Childcare Worker.

“I’ve made great friends, you miss that from work. It’s different to going to school, because you decide to come back to education, you want to do it to help yourself and make yourself feel better. I’m delighted I took the step in coming back I plan to stick to it, I’m sorry I didn’t do it years ago it’s a great service,” Kim added.

CEO of AONTAS Niamh O’Reilly launches LCEN website at the Hunt Museum

A new website for the Limerick Community Education Network (LCEN) was launched today at the Hunt Museum by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  the Irish National Association of Adult Education (AONTAS) Niamh O’Reilly.

Niamh O’Reilly CEO AONTAS

The LCEN promotes and supports adult learning in local communities and helps adult learners to access accredited and non-accredited programmes across Limerick City. Established in 1993, it consists of a network of fifteen community organisations and statutory agencies which are involved in the provision of Community Adult Education.

“I think the website is a brilliant way of promoting the fantastic community education that is offered across the city of Limerick supported by the LCEN. I’m so glad that you have a website to promote your work because what happening at a community level is hugely important, we have been able to bring across Europe the message of what’s happening in Limerick

“The LCEN is a really important member for AONTAS because if a question comes to me on community education, the first place I go to is the LCEN because it has such a grass roots understanding. AONTAS is committed to ensuring that all adults have the right to go back into education, particularly that which is practiced in Limerick.

“I would hope that the LCEN would be supported with funding because the expertise that has been built would be a huge loss to community education in limerick and also at national level if the LCEN do not get further funding to continue. The website is a way of promoting their work but it is also bigger than that, we have to look really seriously at how community education is going to be sustainably funded,” said CEO of AONTAS Niamh O’Reilly.

The LCEN website was set up from the donation of a prize that AONTAS won when they were exhibiting at an education fair in Limerick in 2016. Work on the website began in November 2016.

The connection between AONTAS and the LCEN goes back eleven years when AONTAS used the LCEN as a model of how to replicate community education at a national level.

The launch was also attended by Councillor Jo Leddin and Deputy Mayor Councillor Michael Sheehan who paid tribute to the fantastic community work that chairperson of LCEN Helen Flanagan and her team are doing in Limerick.

Helen Flanagan Chair LCEN

“LCEN is recognised nationally as a model of good practice and when AONTAS won a prize at the lifelong learning festival, they donated it to LCEN and we decided to set up a website. I think the website will make it more accessible what the work of LCEN does more accessible to our learners, it will be up to date and people will know exactly what’s happening in their local area,” said  chairperson of LCEN Helen Flanagan.

Aobhan Haverty Adult Education Officer in Limerick LCETB

Adult Education Officer in Limerick LCETB Aobhan Haverty is part of the Limerick and Clare Education Training Board (ETB) which supports the LCEN, “I think the LCEN are the most fantastic group. The website is the front of house to celebrate a lot of the work that these volunteers do that goes under the radar. We wouldn’t be able to get programmes out into the community without the wonderful work done by the local community based organisations.”