The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD has today (Wednesday 22 April 2020) announced a special €10 million fund to support the purchase of technology and devices for disadvantaged students.
A total of €7 million additional funding will be provided in the post-primary sector and €3 million in the primary sector.
“Providing €10 million for schools now to buy devices like laptops is going to be a huge help to students and teachers as part of our response to Covid-19,” Minister McHugh said.
“And schools know their students best. So they are being empowered to support those who most need access to technology, with the right equipment.
“Schools are being asked to prioritise exam classes, and then to look at where else access to technology is most needed. I am confident this will make a real difference to thousands of students and provide the technology they need to be able to access online supports.”
In January the Minister announced the latest round of funding for ICT under the Digital Strategy for Schools. €40m grant funding will be distributed in the coming weeks to eligible schools as previously notified. Today’s announcement includes a top-up scheme which will see €10m issuing to schools in the coming weeks also.
The Department of Education and Skills will issue a circular to schools providing the details governing the funding for the grant and the top-up funding.
The Department is working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and telecoms companies through industry body Ibec to make a number of relevant websites “zero rated”. This would allow students to access these sites with no data costs.
Minister McHugh added: “At this time it is imperative we go further as a society to support more vulnerable young people. By redirecting funding we are focusing our attention on where it is needed, with a priority on Leaving Certificate students. Combined with an emphasis on wellbeing, this funding will help to give students the tools they need to succeed.”
The measures are part of a number of initiatives taken by the Department to support children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage during the period of school closures.
They include –
- Guidance being issued to all schools to support the ongoing learning of children with special educational needs and children who are at risk of disadvantage
- Collaboration with Cisco/WebEX to support schools with training in video conferencing software – for use by teachers with their classes
- Guidance and resources developed by the National Council for Special Education on supporting children with special educational needs
- Continuation of the School meals programme, funded through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, to provide food parcels to children who are at risk of food poverty
- Continued funding of Home Tuition or, where this is not possible, flexibility to bank hours for use at a later time in the year
- Resources to support good mental health and wellbeing amongst students produced by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)
- €10 million funding package secured as part of the Digital Strategy for Schools ICT Infrastructure Fund
Minister McHugh added: “I believe the tech grants now being issued to schools can help harness the hard work, innovation and creativity being shown by our schools and their students to the greatest extent possible. The efforts of our school communities are something to be proud of.”
The Department of Education and Skills will issue circulars to schools providing details governing the grant and top-up funding.