On Tuesday 28th January, 13 Dublin City Council (DCC) staff received awards in Dublin’s Mansion House for completing a Return to Learning programme in 2013.
Jacinta Stewart CEO of CDETB speaking at the ceremony said; ‘It’s a real pleasure to meet tonight’s students. It is clear from talking to you that this programme has made a real difference to your lives. I want to congratulate you on your spirit of adventure and courage in pursuing this opportunity. This programme is at the heart of what adult education is about – meeting the student exactly where they are at and providing them with opportunities that are tailored to their needs’. She went on to acknowledge the groups that make it happen. ‘This is real team work. Everyone is involved. Return to Learning would not have taken place in DCC without, for example, the support and encouragement of the Trade Unions, Managers, Inspectors and Engineers who supported the programme by promoting it and releasing staff to attend the course while ensuring that key services were still delivered’.
The Return to Learning programme began in DCC in 2002 as a response to the 1997 Adult Literacy Survey by the OECD which found that 25% of the Irish adult population scored at the lowest level of literacy. The course was developed as an initiative of LANPAG (Local Authority National Partnership Advisory Group), NALA (National Adult Literacy Association), the VEC (now ETB) and the Department of Education and Science. To date over 820 employees have made enquiries about the course and 346 employees have been released from work to start the course. There is a 90% completion rate, which is significantly above average for adult education at all levels. The programme is designed to support and encourage staff to improve basic literacy skills. It runs for 20 weeks during working hours. Classes are held in Liberties College, Bull Alley, D.8.
The aim of the course is to offer high quality, adult-friendly learning opportunities in the workplace from which staff will get valued personal outcomes, including a renewed (or a new) pleasure in learning from that experience.
The benefits of course to participants include increased skills and more confidence. They will be, for example, better at form filling, will have increased independence and less need to rely on others. They will be better prepared and motivated to apply for promotion. They will be able to support family learning, to enjoy doing homework with their children.
The Return to Learning programme won the prestigious Life Long Learning Award from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2004.