FALNI presents case to Assembly Committee

7 Dec 2011     Last updated: 20 Jun 2014

At First Steps Women's Centre in Dungannon today, FALNI, the voluntary forum representing the interests of adult learners in Northern Ireland, met the Assembly's Committee for Employment and Learning.

FALNI members Colin Neilands (Chair of FALNI), Ann Osborne and Alan Carr, together with Michael McGoldrick, Chief Executive of First Steps Women's Centre, Dungannon, gave evidence to the Committee on the values, benefits and contribution of Adult Education in NI.

In what Michelle Gildernew MLA and Pat Ramsay MLA described as an insightful and excellent presentation, Colin Neilands gave an overview of the work of FALNI to date. This included the production of Manifesto for Adult Learning in NI and the recent publication of research conducted by Dr Helen McLaughlin: Northern Ireland: a Learning Society.

Ann Osborne gave details of the barriers facing adult learners, including rural isolation and lack of childcare provision, and also gave the committee members an account of the wider benefits of people engaging in adult learning. These range from helping people to manage their finances, to greater community participation, to bridging community divides.

Alan Carr asked the Committee how we can afford not to invest in adult education, emphasising the need to bring learning to where people are.  Bringing delivery to local communities means flexible, relevant and accessible opportunities can be made available to all.

Whilst FALNI welcome the current skills strategy, it is concerned that the strategy is too narrow in its focus; a point acknowledged by Michelle Gildernew MLA after the presentation.

FALNI's presentation concluded with a request for the Committee to work in partnership with its members and to use FALNI members' skills, knowledge and experience to present questions to the Minister.  There is an agreed need to do more research into adult education in Northern Ireland and gather evidence to develop what FALNI describes as a long term vision and investment into Adult Education. The Committee gave an assurance it would support Adult Learners' Week in early 2012.


NICVA is a member of the Forum for Adult Learning NI (FALNI), a voluntary network of stakeholder organisations with region-wide interests and responsibilities. Current membership is made up of:

Statement of purpose:

"The Forum for Adult Learning NI is committed to the view that learning is a basic right and enables people to take control of their lives" and the Forum's aim is to ensure that adult learning is high on the agenda of the NI Assembly. The Forum also aims to persuade others that improving, increasing and extending opportunities for adults to learn throughout their lives has real public, as well as personal, benefits.
FALNI launched its manifesto in April 2011 and seeks to achieve its aims by:
  • Gathering evidence of the role, impact and value of adult learning to the social and economic development of Northern Ireland.
  • Engaging the interest of local politicians, policy makers, funders, those with responsibility for resource allocation and other key influencers.
  • Participating in and influencing policy development.
  • Facilitating information sharing and dissemination within the wider sector.
  • Keeping a watching brief on policy implementation.

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