Awarded Fund

Youth Education Fund 2018-2021

Improving access to higher and further education for students affected by disability or disadvantage.

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland with members of the ‘Sing Out With Strings’ Orchestra

The Youth Education Fund has been created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. Through the Youth Education Fund, we are aiming to improve access to higher and further education for students (up to age 25) affected by disability or disadvantage.

Education largely determines the opportunities afforded to people throughout their lives. Those who leave education without qualifications are hindered in their ability to find well-paying jobs, and as a result are more at risk of poverty.

We call out to innovative projects or programmes in Ireland that:

  • Improve the retention of youth learners up to age 25, who are affected by disadvantage or disability at level 1 to 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or equivalent accredited programmes/courses
  • Demonstrate movement of learners along the NFQ ladder or equivalent

The Youth Education Fund aims to have wider impact and will contribute to Ireland’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.



Foróige Futures addresses the problem of early school leaving and low educational achievement in rural areas, where many students lack adequate access to support services. Young people who have, for various reasons, fallen behind in the education system are identified on a local level through established youth clubs, and local supports are put into place to help them navigate and progress in the education system. Through participation in this programme, rural communities will increase their resilience by safeguarding, harnessing and realising the potential of their population of young people.


Leadership for Life means equipping young people with skills and knowledge that they will need to excel in all areas of their lives – not just to pass their exams. The Foróige Leadership for Life programme enables young people to develop crucial knowledge, confidence and a suite of 21st century skills to prepare them for a future in the new, changing economy. The programme is delivered nationwide through local youth clubs, and upon completion the participants achieve a Level 6-accredited Foundation Certificate in Youth Leadership and Community Action from NUI Galway.


The Midlands Science project works to progress socio-economic development in the Midlands of Ireland (counties Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath), through the promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education. Midlands Science aims to create greater interest in STEM education among young people, enabling and preparing them for future careers in the area, thereby furthering the development of the region. Activities and events are provided for all age groups, with the aim of inspiring children to receive STEM education from an early age, granting them broader horizons and possibilities throughout their lives.


The My Future, My Business programme aims to address educational disadvantage by encouraging young people at risk of early school leaving to complete second level education and break the culture of unemployment. The programme works with schools across Ireland and motivates, challenges and empowers students to take charge of their own careers and futures, introducing them to professionals from various fields as well as equipping them with financial literacy skills.


Raheen Wood Steiner Secondary School, home of ALFA (Active Learning For Adolescents), provides a full-time, progressive education for 12-16 year olds in East Clare. It is a radical alternative to the mainstream Junior Cycle, with a team of experienced educators offering a project-based learning programme. It develops key 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, problem solving, critical thinking and resilience. The curriculum puts emphasis on the quality of the relationship between students and teachers, making it a successful approach for children that struggle and underperform in the mainstream education system.


Sing Out with Strings provides free access to high quality music education in areas of acute social and economic disadvantage in Limerick. SOWS provides weekly workshops in singing, song writing, violin, viola, cello and double bass tuition to 300 children across Limerick city. The project was established by the Irish Chamber Orchestra as a Community Engagement Programme as part of Limerick’s regeneration process. Working with children and young people of varying ages, the programme enables its participants to build confidence, discipline and teamwork skills through music-making.