On average Ireland spends approximately 4% of our GDP on the education sector each year. There are more than a million people in Ireland in education at all levels. While the sector is dominated by the state in the recent past a large number of companies have started to provide additional services or reach out to schools to assist the students in their education.
Started by Alma Jordan in 2015, AgriKids is a social enterprise whose mission is to create a safer environment for children and adults on farms around Ireland. Alma and her team do this by going into schools and giving talks (in person or virtually) to primary school children on simple tips to be safer on farms and reduce the amount of accidents that can result in serious injury or deaths, they have given workshops to over 38,000 children to spread their mission and they have received support from Zurich and Flogas to create this impact. Recently they teamed up with Agri Aware and the Irish Farmers Association to launch the pilot programme, Farm Safe Schools www.farmsafeschools.ie. It is supported by FBD and the aim is to carry the AgriKids ethos to engage, educate & empower children to be our farm safety ambassadors. Alma has over 300 registrations so far. The company has been nominated for the new Digital Influence category at the annual Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards and was one of the winners of the 2019 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) awards.
When Nicole Ryan’s brother Alex died having taken a recreational synthetic drug in 2016, Nicole and her family’s lives were turned upside down. Nicole decided to return to Ireland and create Alex’s Adventure, to educate young people on drug use and what actually happens in your body when you take certain drugs. Alex’s mission is to reduce drug use in students and give students and their parents the information they need to reduce further loss of life.
As their website states, Aontas mission “is to to advocate for the right of all adults in Ireland to quality learning throughout their lives, and to promote the value and benefits of lifelong learning….We seek to increase the visibility, raise the voice of, and promote the value of adult learning”. They have “a growing membership of 400 organisations and individuals committed to lifelong learning. Our membership includes learners; tutors; and statutory, nongovernmental, community, and voluntary organisations from across the island of Ireland” and “more than 4 million people reach out to Aontas communications in 2019”. In terms of the population as a whole “Over 20,000 learners accessed information” through their services in 2018. The organisation is now one of Ireland’s biggest advocates for adult learning particularly for adults who may have dropped out of school or college at an early age previously, or had an undiagnosed learning difficulty.
Since 2003 BeLongTo has worked with young people aged between 14-23 who are LBGT+ or support LGBT people. Their mission is to “create a world where they are equal, safe, and valued in the diversity of their identities and experiences” and thus reducing the amount of homophobia or transphobia in the classroom. By providing advice, youth groups and supportive material the organisation helps LGBT+ young people by providing a community of like-minded people. But the organisation also supports parents and carers of LGBT+ by providing resources such as guides to aid discussion with young people. Finally the organisation also has a stand up awareness week in all schools that takes place in November, as well as providing training to corporate companies.
A social enterprise created by Avril Ronan and CEO Alex Cooney in 2015. Cybersafe Kids mission is to “empower children, parents and teachers to navigate the online world in a safe and responsible manner.” They do this by giving talks to students, teachers and parents in schools or virtually, in the area of internet safety. With a team of volunteers that facilitate a frank and open discussion of how to stay safe on the Internet, the dangers of social media and young people and some of the common ways people can be misled online.
Created by Seán Love and author Roddy Doyle, Fighting Words is empowering young people and adults to embrace their creativity and creative writing skills. As they say on their website “At its core, Fighting Words is also about something much broader and more inclusive. It is about using the creative practice of writing and storytelling to strengthen our children and teenagers – from a wide range of backgrounds – to be resilient, creative and successful shapers of their own lives”. The charity is now in fourteen locations nationwide. Fighting Words programmes are currently online due to Covid-19.
Only 20% of girls are choosing a career in STEM subjects. This inspired a number of companies to create iWish. A four day long celebration of Irish Women in STEM. Designed to empower more teenage girls to take up STEM subjects, iWish invites female secondary school students to the RDS in Dublin, where they can interact with others interested in STEM subjects, hear inspiring female speakers on stage, see some of the amazing projects female Irish professionals are doing in the workforce today and hopefully reimaging what a career in STEM looks like, so that percentage can increase in the years to come.
The charity was founded in 2006 and is on a mission to give young people aged between 12-25 the support that they need to overcome mental health issues in their lives. Now advocates for mental health change in Ireland, they also create a community where young people can support each other, and educate caregivers and educators on mental health issues with young people so that they can create a supportive environment in classrooms as well.
A social enterprise created in 2017 by David Neville and Pádraic Hogan, the team are on a mission to democratise education in schools and provide affordable grinds for Junior and Leaving Cert students. Up to 49% of students studying for the exams will have grinds. But often only those who can afford it can be given that luxury of extra classes. JumpAGrade sets out to change this by offering affordable grinds that can be delivered virtually and can get any student to a higher grade. In 2019, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland awarded them the title of Social Entrepreneurs of The Year, they were recently awarded €50,000 in funds so that they can increase the scale of the company in the future.
Often young people with additional needs can feel increased anxiety or stress in new situations, such as going to a doctor, being in a new school or new area. Caitriona Watters-Crehan created Prepare Me based on her own family’s experience. This led Caitriona to create new resources for her child who was on the Autistic Spectrum so that they could prepare for new situations, such as those mentioned above. This led to vastly reduced stress for the child and better experiences for everyone. Caitriona created the business so that other families can have access to the resource that can reduce stress for their children.
SpunOut.ie is Ireland’s youth information website. The mission of SpunOut.ie is “to help create an Ireland where young people aged between 16 and 25 are empowered with the information they need to live active, happy, and healthy lives.” They set out to accomplish this mission by providing accessible and relevant information on their site to that age group on education, employment, health and wellbeing, LGBTI+ issues, sex, relationships and mental health. SpunOut.ie has become one of the most credible places on the internet for young people to get their information. Their site also provides a platform for young people to directly share their experiences, opinions and advice through their ‘Voices’ section. This helps other young people feel less alone when dealing with life’s challenges. With more than 150 volunteers and 10 full time staff, the company’s website has almost 2 million visitors a year, or almost 25,000 daily views. SpunOut.ie can also give information and advice to educators and parents who support these young people so that they can learn from others’ experience on similar topics.
As their mission statement reads “Teen-Turn is turning teens toward tech”. By working with DEIS (under-privileged) schools the Teen-Turn team works with students from these schools to provide 2-week placements in large tech organisations. They prepare girls for the world of work, provide mentors and in some companies they provide projects that they then present to staff at the end of the placement. Though it is an unpaid internship the cost of travel and lunch is included. The company also provides after school activities for girls to give them the best start to their education and they can also take part in team projects, or increase their skills in certain areas so that they can join a tech organisation in future.
Approximately 10% of the population have dyslexia. That means in Ireland there are approximately 55,000 children with dyslexia in primary school alone. Many of these children have difficulty reading.
Sarah Lumsden Watchorn and Sarah Dieck McGuire, two teachers with a combined 40 years teaching children with Dyslexia, founded The Reading Academy in 2015. The idea came about by the need to teach reading to individuals who have Dyslexia or who struggle to read. Offering small group specialised tuition to struggling readers and children with Dyslexia they also offer a self-paced, on-line course for teachers, ‘How to teach struggling readers and individuals with Dyslexia’. This course is unique in that it not only teaches ‘how’ to teach reading but provides a full reading programme to use with struggling readers and students with Dyslexia.
CEO Tammy Darcy created The Shona Project to celebrate women and inspire girls across Ireland to understand themselves and the world more clearly. As they say on their website “We visit schools all around Ireland to meet and talk to girls about how to find their place and identity. We encourage girls to be kind to each other, and especially to themselves. We made this website to share news that is relevant to young Irish women. We celebrate the achievements of powerful, successful and inspiring women from Ireland and all over the world. We ask “experts” for advice on common issues. Most importantly, we give young women a platform to share their own stories, in the hope of helping others and proving that none of us are alone. And sometimes, we’re just here for the craic.” They also host a conference every October where 300 14-16 year old girls come together to hear from inspirational speakers and learn from experiences.
CEO James Northbridge, struggled in school and then dropped out of university. However years later he went back and got a Degree in Business and a Masters in Disability Studies. Since then he received a Marie Curie Fellowship in Umass medical school in Boston. James created Urability in an effort to empower people with Dyslexia to improve their education with assistive technology. They now have assistive technology, workshops, summer camps and online tutorials for those with the condition.
Young Social Innovators (YSI) is a non-profit organisation that empowers young people to use their talents, insights, passion and creativity to come up with innovative solutions to social challenges. Through fun and engaging programmes facilitated by trained educators, students are supported to create team-based action-projects on issues they care about, putting their innovative ideas into action to bring about positive social change for the benefit of people, communities and the environment.” For twenty years, Young Social Innovators has been giving young people a voice and agency on the issues that matter to them and preparing them for a changing world by giving them a sense of control over how that world is shaped – into one that is more caring, equal and fair.