NALA is delighted that the Further Education and Training (SOLAS) Bill 2013 was passed in the Dáil on Wednesday 12 June. The Bill included an amendment that requires SOLAS to develop a strategy for the promotion and development of adult literacy and numeracy. NALA has lobbied the Government and all political parties over the last few months to get the strategy included in the Bill.
Members of the NALA student sub-committee were invited to the Dáil by Aodhán Ó Ríordán, TD, to see the passing of the Bill. The committee were thrilled to be there for such a momentous vote and one of them stated it was the proudest day of her life.
Other amendments to the Bill include a commitment to:
- the promotion of equality of opportunity in Further Education and Training (FET);
- consultation with learners and community education providers; and
- learner representation on the SOLAS Board.
Speaking about this momentous decision, Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, TD said:
“I am acutely aware of the barriers posed by illiteracy and innumeracy for so many in our society. This is one of the major policy challenges I have prioritised as Minister for Education and Skills and one I would like SOLAS to pay particular attention to. In the past I raised with FÁS literacy and numeracy issues and the difficulty people had in accessing training and remaining in training programmes. The response from FÁS officials was that it was not their problem. Not everyone learns to read at the same age and not everyone gets a second chance. In most armies with conscription in Europe the period after the war provided many young men, as it was in those days, with a second chance. They learned to read and write as adults because the skill had not been picked up in coming through the school system. I am acutely aware of this and have an interest in it because of that experience. SOLAS must act as a filter for those coming through the system to ensure they have basic literacy and numeracy skills.”
“During the discussion on Committee Stage in the other House Deputies put forward useful suggestions with regard to the literacy and numeracy strategy. Many of the suggestions were prompted by community education and other interest groups and I am pleased to say they have been addressed in the Bill. The Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, who has led on various stages of this legislation met the relevant Oireachtas committee in formal session and a follow-up informal meeting. As a result, we have been able to address all concerns in a constructive and positive manner. Issues raised include consultation with community interests and learners in the devising of the further education and training, FET, strategy by SOLAS, the inclusion of a focus on the development of a literacy and numeracy programme as part of the overall strategy, the inclusion of a learner representative in the board of SOLAS and the promotion of equality of opportunity in further education as a core function of SOLAS. While this may seem like an abstract aspiration to some, it is important for the Oireachtas to give SOLAS an ethos that will guide its behaviour and actions. The development of the FET strategy will involve consultation with the key stakeholders such as the ETBs and other providers of further education and training, including the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Intreo, the new labour market activation office of the Department of Social Protection; Enterprise Ireland; the HEA; and other bodies, as appropriate, including the addition of consultation with the other interests I have mentioned.”
NALA look forward to working with SOLAS on developing the strategy and how it can best raise adult literacy and numeracy levels.