All primary and secondary schools are to receive grants totalling €50 million next month to ensure they have digital technology in place to provide remote learning as a Covid-19 contingency measure.
The closure of the school system earlier this year emphasised the importance of having high-quality digital learning platforms as well as access to devices among teachers and students in order to continue teaching and learning remotely.
The funding will be paid on an automatic basis to all publicly funded schools in the country in the first week of December, and may be used to buy digital devices, software, learning platforms and other solutions.
Minister for Education Norma Foley will formally announce on Monday that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) grants for schools will be paid in early December.
A total of €40 million will be issued to schools in line with previous years to support embedding digital technologies in teaching and learning.
A further €10 million in “top-up” funding will go towards providing for continuity of teaching and learning using digital technology as a Covid-19 -specific measure.
The size of individual grants will vary according to the size of school and how recently they moved into new school buildings.
For example, a 500-pupil school can expect to receive a minimum of between €17,000 (at primary) and €23,000 (at secondary).
Fee-paying schools will receive funding at 50 per cent of the rate of normal schools.
Ms Foley said the funding will allow schools to put in place robust systems to enable the use of digital technologies and also provide for remote learning.
“Those measures can include the purchase of digital devices to loan to students and teachers, software, essential learning platforms and other ICT solutions, as determined by the needs of the individual school. It will be paid on an automatic basis to every recognised school in the country,” she said.
She said the importance of digital learning has come into sharper focus in light of recent experiences.
“This year’s extended period of school closure has served to underscore the immense value of education and its power in our children and young people’s lives. Investment in education is one of this government’s top priorities,” she said.
This funding is the final tranche of an overall package of funding – worth €210 million – for ICT infrastructure, as provided for under a five-year digital strategy for schools 2015-2020.
Schools opened prior to 2017 are eligible for all funding, including both the €40 million fund and the €10 million top-up funding.
Schools opened since 2017 may receive grants from the top-up funding only, as new schools and new school buildings receive once-off ICT equipment funding as part of their furniture and equipment grant.
Fee-paying schools will receive funding at 50 per cent of the rate of normal schools from the €40 million fund only.