Adult Learning Initiatives from Dublin Shortlisted for Prestigious AONTAS STAR Award

AONTAS STAR Award 2021

Eight Dublin based adult learning initiatives have been shortlisted for an AONTAS STAR Awards 2022. The STAR Awards (Showcasing Teamwork, Awarding Recognition) is an awards initiative organised by AONTAS, the national adult learning organisation, to recognise and celebrate the work undertaken by adult learning initiatives throughout the island of Ireland.

The eight groups include The Hep C Programme: This programme, run by the SAOL Project, counters misinformation about Hepatitis and Hepatitis treatment, particularly among the drug-using community, through providing training and up-to-date information about Hepatitis and its treatment, and the skills to share this information with others.

Shortlisted in the Learner Voice Category: Digi-ID: This European project addresses the challenge of digital inclusion and digital literacy amongst people with intellectual disabilities (ID) including those with autism. The project allows for a co-creation process with approximately 250 adults with ID, supporters, professionals and families or carers to develop an innovative digital skills education programme delivered via an accessible app.

DCU Ability Project: This project supports adults with intellectual disabilities, particularly those with limited work experience, and supports them towards employment. DCU Ability has worked with 117 participants from 13 different counties across Ireland, as well as 15 different employers, 19 disability support services and 31 families to support their family member towards work and education opportunities. 

Cultural and Heritage Studies LTI, National Print Museum: This is a Local Training Initiative (LTI) in Cultural and Heritage Studies, which provides students with the opportunity to study subjects like archaeology, history, heritage, folklore, Irish culture, customer service and communications, while also training as a tour guide in the National Print Museum for the duration of their course.

Shortlisted Sustainable Development through Education Category: Careers In Mind – This Education and Employability programme run by Northside Partnership supports women who have been excluded from the labour market to return to education and work. The programme gives choices to women and facilitates access to sustainable long-term employment. It provides advice and guidance, action planning, confidence building and employability training, employer engagement, and a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 3 Accreditation in Personal Effectiveness.

Shortlisted in the Third-level Access and Engagement Category: An Cosán – Wraparound Learner Support Initiative: This initiative provides free childcare to enable women to attend adult education courses. An Cosán works with the Institute for Technology, and with a network of 180 partner organisations across Ireland including Family Resource Centres and Community Development Projects, corporate partners and the Government. These partnerships facilitate students to access technology, create peer learning communities, and gain funding opportunities. 

Irish Refugee Council Education Team: They support 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 including Universities and Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to help them support refugees and those living in Direct Provision.

Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities: The Centre is part of the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin and promotes the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in education and society. They enable people with an intellectual disability to develop their potential with a combination of high-quality research, dissemination of new knowledge, lifelong learning and professional training.

Commenting on the shortlist, Dr Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “The STAR Awards are an excellent opportunity to celebrate the positive contribution that adult learning initiatives make to individual adult learners, local communities, and the Irish public. The focus this year is on the wider benefits of learning for development of a collective sense of belonging, equality, wellbeing, and growth. This is really reflected across the shortlist this year, and AONTAS is delighted to have such wonderful initiatives shortlisted for the STAR Awards.”

Judging of the STAR Awards comprises two stages: In the first stage, nominated projects are shortlisted by an independent judging panel, whose membership is drawn from the education, business and technology sectors. The second stage gives staff and learners from the shortlisted projects the opportunity to meet with the judging panel online before they make their final decision.

STAR Award winners will be announced during the week of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival (7th-11th March 2022) and a celebratory event will also take place to acknowledge the incredible achievements of all of the groups involved.

The STAR Awards form a key part of the annual AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival. Over the past sixteen 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. This year’s Festival will feature a programme of events that will include a mix of online and face-to-face events across the country. A key focus of this year’s Festival is highlighting the variety of learning options available to prospective learners and sharing the message that you can #LearnYourWay in your local community. 

The STAR Awards is proudly sponsored by the Open University in Ireland and the Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCNNI), the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), Concern Worldwide, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the European Social Fund (ESF) and Mental Health Ireland. Sponsors will be offering special prizes to all 2022 STAR Award winners.

Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks

Sarah has worked in marketing and content creation for many years. In her role at Newsgroup, she is the online editor of with a particular interest in local news and events. Sarah also works closely with our editorial team on our printed editions in Tallaght, Lucan, Clondalkin and Rathcoole/Saggart. If you have a story and would like to make contact please email Sarah at



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