A journey through community education

An Cosán focuses on the needs of learners through its online courses

An Cosán provides locally based courses and seven early years centres

An Cosán provides locally based courses and seven early years centres


An Cosán, a pioneer in community and adult education, was founded by former minister Dr Katherine Zappone and her late wife, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, in 1986.

Now based in Jobstown, a suburb of Tallaght, the centre provides online learning nationwide, as well as locally based courses and seven early years centres.

Anne Genockey, deputy chief executive at An Cosán, says community education is focused on the needs of learners and of the local community.

“There are people from 16 years of age and older who may not have confidence to go into other education settings and may also need additional supports such as early years support for their children, counselling, family support, study skills and mentoring,” she says. “Our programmes include early school leavers, the long-term unemployed, lone parents, people living in direct provision and members of the Travelling community.”

Genockey left school at 14 and had two children at a young age. “ETB courses weren’t for me. I needed to care for my kids, I had no money, I needed counselling and wraparound supports. Evening classes weren’t for me; I needed more than to be given information while I sat at a desk. I didn’t want a handout, I wanted a hand-up. So I went from a creative writing course at An Cosán to learning about study skills, then specialising in early years education, getting a masters degree and becoming deputy chief executive.

“I believe in early years support to reach children at an early age. I believe the onus is on educators to meet the parents and families where they are. If someone is struggling, we provide counselling and support. For some 17-year-olds, what they might need is to get a level five or six qualification before moving on to a degree. I still live in Jobstown and, while none of my family went to third level, I was determined that my two children would: now one has a degree and one has a masters.”

All An Cosán courses are part-time, flexible and built around the learner. The centre runs literacy courses, business administration, digital skills and more. They link in with about 190 community partners around the country, including community education organisations, family resource centres, women’s networks, Traveller networks and more.

“People see others in their community getting an education and see that they can do it, too. For some, the goal might be a degree; for others it is getting their child to school everyday and seeing the difference it can make to their life. We’re here to support everyone.”

See AnCosán.ie for more information.