Adult Education is an integral part of the mission of a community school. In a document from the Department of Education & Science (1970), reference is made to education as “a life long process” and “that second chance education must be provided at all levels”. It goes on – “The Community School would provide adult education facilities in the area and subject to reasonable safeguards against abuse or damage to buildings, equipment, etc. would make facilities available to voluntary organizations and to the adult community generally” (paragraphs 3 & 4, Department of Education, Community Schools, 1970, Studies Volume 59).
Our mission is to provide as broad a curriculum as possible, catering for the personal, professional and leisure interests of adult learners in the school catchment area and further afield. In specialist areas of study we draw on learners from a very wide catchment area. We aim to provide a warm and welcoming centre where adult learners can pursue an interest, make new friends and experience friendly and social evenings. This is fulfilled by our excellent team – admin, tutor, library, canteen, car park and furniture personnel.
Many courses are certified by external colleges and institutions. We are an off-campus centre for UCD Adult Education Centre, NUI Maynooth, International Equine Institute of the University of Limerick, National College of Ireland, St Nicholas Montessori College Ireland, The School of Practical Child Care, Irish Red Cross and ECDL. Professional courses in management are provided by the National College of Ireland and in the Montessori Method of Education by St Nicholas Montessori College Ireland, both of them awarding HETAC credits, which in many cases are used to pursue a degree in the parent college. Our association with NUI Maynooth leads to NUI Certificates in Foundation in Counselling Skills and in Psychology, again seeing many students progressing to professional qualifications at various universities. On the educational front also we are pleased to have on site a course leading to a recognised qualification for Special Needs Assistants from The School of Practical Child Care and Froebel College of Education. Essential for today’s business is the computer qualification ECDL and this is still popular. A rather unique course is the one associated with the University of Limerick whereby students attend tutorials for the Certificate in Equine Science. All these professional courses add significantly to the status of our Adult Education Programme and are in line with our mission to offer a broad curriculum.
Here in Old Bawn we have a large programme – attended by about 1100 each term – autumn and spring. About half our students come from Dublin 24. Courses run from 10 weeks to 2 years. Fees range from €75 to €1,900. We strive to offer courses at as reasonable a fee as possible so as to be available to all. We have to be self-financing so concessions are minimal. Fees are struck at 130 % or more of the tuition cost. Our management of the whole programme follows the guidelines set down in Circular Letter 46/00 from the Department of Education & Science. We are open from mid September to late May – the post Easter term is used by a number of classes that run over 25 to 30 weeks in the year. Detailed returns to the Department of Education & Science are prepared annually and shorter statistics each November.
We evaluate our programme delivery each term as follows. At the end of term each student completes, anonymously, an evaluation form on the course delivery and on the general management of the programme. These are very helpful for current and future planning. Each tutor also completes an evaluation form for the management team. These forms also point to future possible courses which is very valuable. We believe in being very learner friendly so that any student who has a particular problem or difficulty may feel at ease to approach the tutor or any of the management team. The team of teacher post-holders meets several times a year to review and plan. Responsibilities are agreed in respective job specs.
Twice each year we produce and deliver 25,000 brochures and have enrolments in September and January. We have a Graduation Evening in November for students who graduated with external colleges in the previous year.
The Adult Education Programme is administered as follows: four members of the OBCS teaching staff – these posts are – Director, one assistant principal and two special duties (based on the number of enrolment hours of the previous year); a Secretary, a Librarian, a Canteen Manager. Extra office assistance is used at pressure times in September and January. The caretaking, car park and cleaning staff all play an important part in the programme.
There are over seventy tutors/lecturers involved in delivering the programme. Of these approximately twenty are employed by external colleges whilst the balance is employed directly by Old Bawn Community School.
We are constantly renewing our programme and keeping up-to-date with current trends in adult education, professional training and leisure interests. In recent years we have co-operated with the Day School in arranging some courses that merge with daytime attendance. These are principally the NCI First Line Management course on Wednesday afternoons and some early computer courses. Given trends in other schools as in our own whereby second level numbers are decreasing we are keeping an eye to future developments in adult education where more of the programme will be delivered in the daytime. We look forward to the relocation of our library within the planned new venue for the school library and resource centre.
The Adult Education Team appreciates the support and encouragement of the Principal and Deputy Principals, all the Teaching Staff, the Office Staff and the Board of Management.