Community Education Framework launched and €5 million for 700 community projects across Ireland announced

Minister O’Donovan launches Community Education Framework and announces €5 million for 700 community projects across Ireland

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Patrick O’Donovan TD today (04/06/24) marked an important milestone in the delivery of funding community education with the launch of the Community Education Framework.

The document, the development of which was led by SOLAS, outlines principles and an approach to making consistent and positive changes in how we learn, provide, coordinate and fund community education in Ireland.

The Framework was launched this afternoon at the Southill Hub, in Donough O’Malley Park, Limerick, where Minister O’Donovan also announced funding of €5million under the REACH Fund to community education groups across Ireland.

The funding will support almost 50,000 educationally disadvantaged learners to access and participate in community education.

Speaking today, Minister O’Donovan said:

“Community education includes both formal and informal learning, addressing learners’ personal development, building skills while offering educational options through simplified pathways, and further opportunities to progress to other areas of FET and beyond.

“Community education plays a vital role in the FET system, and in local communities across Ireland as it offers local, accessible, and welcoming learning opportunities for individuals.

“The distinguishing factor of community education is the wide-ranging outcomes for learners which include skills development, confidence building, greater community involvement, social justice outcomes and progression to other types of FET provision.

“Investment in community education has grown beyond recognition in recent years, supported by Reach Funding, and we have also seen an increase in demand for community education provision. This Framework will provide a solid basis to shape how SOLAS and the ETBs fund, coordinate, support, develop and monitor community education and will ensure that we can continue to provide access to education those that need it the most.”

Separately, Minister O’Donovan announced funding of €5 million to 700 community education groups across Ireland. The funding will be used to support local projects with online learning, to connect communities, and to provide social supports to the most vulnerable groups.

Minister O’Donovan added:

“The impact of Reach Funding over the past four years is evident.

“Originally introduced in 2020 to support the most disadvantaged learners throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it now provides important funds to assist ETBs and community education providers to increase their capacity and ensure that they can support the participation of disadvantaged learners within their communities.

“Reach Funding is growing from strength to strength, and I am look forward to seeing the outcomes and impact of the funding this year.”

SOLAS CEO, Andrew Brownlee said:

“We are delighted to launch the Community Education Framework today, which marks a significant step forward for the FET sector.

“The Framework is part of our commitment to ensuring consistent approaches to community education across the FET sector, and that we have a structure in place that supports innovative ideas and best practice across the country.

“Community Education plays a critical and unique role in the FET system, and in local communities across Ireland. It not only benefits learners and communities, but also supports a democratic society. It is now more important than ever that we recognise community education for its ability to foster social cohesion and active citizenship.

“Whilst the development of this Framework was led by SOLAS, it has been a collaborative process which involved key stakeholders within the FET sector, including feedback from learners. This Framework belongs to the whole FET sector, and it would not be possible without the valuable engagement and support from all of those involved.”

LCETB CEO George O’Callahan said:

“There is a huge vibrancy of community education provision in Limerick City and across the Limerick and Clare region.

“Its delivery, in partnership with a network of community organisations, is making a real impact on the lives of those learners who participate, by responding to their needs.

“We are really pleased to see the publication of this Framework and we look forward to working with SOLAS and our colleagues across the ETB Networks to ensure that we can continue to provide this vital provision in the heart of our communities.”

About the Community Education Framework

The publication of the Community Education Framework marks an important milestone in delivering on our commitment to ensure a more consistent approach to SOLAS funded community education across the country.

This commitment is set out in the Future FET: Transforming Learning, Further Education and Training Strategy 2020-2024, under the key objective of fostering inclusion.

The Framework sets out key principles and an approach for policymakers, funders at national and regional levels, community education providers, and their staff, volunteers, learners and their representatives.

It is constructed around enacting positive change in how we learn; how we provide; how we coordinate; and how we fund; community education in Ireland.

In developing this document, we now have a structure in place to record, reflect, and recognise the diverse nature of community education that exists across the country.

Reach Funding by ETB

REACH Funding is allocated by SOLAS to the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) through whom the funding will be administered to 700 community education groups across Ireland. The funding will be used to support local projects with online learning, to connect communities, and to provide social supports to the most vulnerable groups.

Priority cohorts for Reach Funding include the long-term unemployed; young people; people with disabilities; members of the Traveller and Roma communities; migrants and refugees; women wishing to return to the labour market; and lone parents.

Since 2020, over 2,300 individual projects have been supported through Reach Funding and demand is growing year on year. This is testament to the incredible work that is happening at local level by ETBs and community partners as they work to tackle barriers that prevent learners from accessing education and support them to re-engage and participate with local provision.

The 2024 REACH Funding allocated by SOLAS across the ETBs is:

Cavan and Monaghan ETB€155,915
City of Dublin ETB€1,399,540
Cork ETB€531,380
Donegal ETB€218,642
Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB€266,260
Galway and Roscommon ETB€149,879
Kerry ETB€60,040
Kildare and Wicklow ETB€190,000
Kilkenny and Carlow ETB€248,671
Laois and Offaly ETB€322,579
Limerick and Clare ETB€400,000
Longford and Westmeath ETB€203,857
Louth and Meath ETB€110,000
Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB€108,877
Tipperary ETB€120,818
Waterford and Wexford ETB€791,352

The funding categories under the Reach Fund are:

  • Community education learner assistance support; including education outreach, mentoring projects, transport costs for learners, urgent educational response.
  • Innovative green projects.
  • Projects focused on increasing participation in learning of target groups.
  • Events/awareness campaigns that contribute to equality policy and legislation.
  • Community groups in pre-development phase to support the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups.
  • Support for refugee groups to support education and training delivery and promote and/or support cultural and social inclusion, including research and/or needs analysis.

Support the ALL strategy, specific actions that:

  • Support individuals and groups with unmet literacy needs to access education and training offered by *ETBs and community education providers.
  • Target funding on access to technology and devices.
  • Expand community access to Wi-Fi and broadband resources.


SOLAS is the state agency responsible for Further Education and Training (FET) in Ireland. Our vision is to power the potential of individuals, communities and enterprise through lifelong learning and workforce transformation. SOLAS manages, co-ordinates and supports the delivery of FET by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs); monitoring its delivery and providing funding based on good quality data and positive outcomes.

SOLAS has led an ambitious FET Strategy Transforming Learning and driven change across the FET system – providing easier access; simplified pathways; a consistent learner experience; and a stronger identity. FET is meeting the changing needs of Irish society by responding to, and driving the demand for key skills areas including construction, technology and the green economy. Flexible FET options are available in every community and offer a broad range of valuable and recognised learning pathways.

SOLAS has ensured significant investment in community education in recent years with learner numbers expanding rapidly. SOLAS is working with ETBs to ensure consistent approaches to community education across the FET sector, and implementing structures that supports innovative ideas and best practice across the country.

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