10 July, 2008 - Reports on ICT in Schools Published

Minister for Education and Science, Batt O'Keeffe, T.D., today published two reports on ICT in Schools.  Investing Effectively in Information and Communications Technology in Schools 2008-2013 is the Report of the Strategy Group appointed to advise on the priorities for investment in ICT in Schools having regard to the critical success factors for successful integration of ICT into learning and teaching.  ICT in Schools reports on the evaluation of the impact of ICT on teaching and learning undertaken by the Department's Inspectorate.    

Importance of ICT in Education
The Government's commitment to integrating ICT in teaching and learning is set out in the Programme for Government and the need for investment in this area is recognised in the National Development Plan where provision is made for investing €252m over the period to 2013.Achievements to Date
The Reports being published today acknowledge the progress made to date on foot of the investment of almost €200m under the ICT in Schools Programme, with large numbers of teachers undertaking ICT professional development programmes and schools developing ICT facilities.   The priority attached to the integration of ICT is also evident from the investment in ICT by schools themselves. New Focus on Developing E-Learning Culture in Schools
The Reports identify the need for a holistic approach addressing the areas of professional development, appropriate digital content, ICT infrastructure in all classrooms, broadband connectivity and technical support.   They also highlight the critical role of the Principal and ICT Co-ordinator in driving the integration of ICT within the school. Key Role of School ICT-Co-ordinator
The role of the individual school ICT co-ordinator will now be prioritised. This is in keeping with international best practice where local school based and peer to peer support is identified as the most effective way to further ICT integration in schools. The National Centre for Technology in Education will publish a handbook for principals and ICT co-ordinating teachers Planning and Implementing e-Learning in your School.  A professional development course for ICT coordinating teachers on the development of e-Learning Plans will be available along with nationwide seminars on e-Learning for principals and ICT coordinating teachers to be run in the Autumn.  ICT Integration Across all Support Service Activities
Recognising the need to incorporate ICT into all school support activities, the NCTE will collaborate with the various school support agencies to integrate ICT into the delivery of all support services. New online & blended ICT professional courses will be made available and ICT will be integrated in all curriculum development activities. Digital Content
Substantial digital resources are currently being accessed on the web portal Scoilnet and the NCTE will expand and develop further digital content for teaching and learning.Broadband
The Department will shortly be tendering for the next round of service under the Schools Broadband Programme and the range of services available to schools will be expanded.  A free website hosting service will be provided to schools, which will provide a unique '.scoilnet.ie' website address to schools.  The Government objective of equipping second-level schools with 100Mb per second of broadband connectivity and installing local area networks as outlined in the Next Generation
Broadband Policy Paper will be pursued.Infrastructure Developments
Since 2004, all new school building projects must comply with the Department's ICT Infrastructure Guidelines. Major new primary school building projects now include an ICT equipment budget as in the case of post-primary building projects. Support for Disadvantaged Schools
Disadvantaged schools are benefiting from the €3.4m ICT Grant Scheme for DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Schools from the Dormant Accounts (Educational Disadvantage) Fund.  Building on this scheme, a further €1m Fund is being provided to assist up to 100 DEIS primary schools achieve digital status.  Applications will be invited from the schools concerned on their return in September.Minister O'Keeffe thanked the members of the Strategy Group for their personal contributions and commitment in developing their Report and complemented the Department's Inspectorate on its evaluation Report.   In publishing these Reports, Minister O'Keeffe said"I will be working with my Department and all relevant parties to pursue the substantial agenda outlined in the Reports.  While we face significant challenges in implementing some of the recommendations made in these Reports having regard to the current public finance position, I am committed to investing in this area as resources permit and I am anxious that we progress a number of key deliverables as soon as possible."Overviews of the two reports follow, while links to the two reports are available at:Link to Inspectorate report
Link to Strategy Group report (English)
Link to Strategy Group report (English) Irish
Overview of ICT in SchoolsICT in Schools is an evaluation report prepared by the Department's Inspectorate. Based on case studies of over fifty schools, inspections in over 180 schools and survey evidence from almost 1400 teachers, over 900 principals and over 900 students, ICT in Schools is the first major study of the impact that ICT is having on teaching and learning in Irish primary and post-primary schools.The report notes that significant improvements that have taken place in reducing the student-to-computer ratio since the commencement of specific ICT funding initiatives for schools. The evaluation found that in the main, schools make effective use of ICT grants provided by the Department to develop their ICT systems. It also shows that most schools have an ICT plan and an acceptable-use policy (AUP) in place. The report also indicates that the majority of teachers use ICT in lesson planning and preparation and acknowledges that large numbers of teachers have participated in continuing professional development courses in ICT. However, the Inspectorate's evaluation recorded limited integration of ICT in the classroom at primary level. The evaluation found that the use of ICT in primary schools is currently focused on developing students' numeracy, reading and writing skills, and that it is also used in the teaching of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (History, Geography and Science). At post-primary level, the inspectors found that ICT impacts predominantly on the development of students' research and investigation skills, as well as their writing and presentation skills. The highest levels of integration of ICT were found in the science and applied science subjects, in Mathematics and in subject such as History, Geography, Music and Art, Craft and Design. It is also used in Transition Year and in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).  The inspectors report that ICT is widely used by schools at both primary and post-primary levels to support students with Special Educational Needs, more often by special needs teachers than in mainstream classes. The inspectors recommend wider use of ICT across the curriculum. For example, they note the lack of ICT usage in the teaching of Irish despite the availability of resources in the language. In post-primary schools, limited use is made of ICT for developing higher-order thinking skills in students, as well as creative skills, social skills, independent working skills and communication skills. The inspectors note the challenges that lie ahead to improve students' learning experiences by extending the use and frequency of use of ICT by students and teachers at all levels.The Inspectorate report shows that while much progress has been achieved in the roll-out of ICT in schools, considerable challenges remain. One significant challenge facing schools is the ongoing maintenance and replacement of hardware. The report identifies that the provision and maintenance of hardware within schools and the provision of increased opportunities for teachers to engage in relevant teacher training are strategically important with regard to the development of ICT in schools. The report highlights that improvement in schools' ICT infrastructure is required and that better provision needs to be put in place for ICT technical support and maintenance for schools. It also suggests that schools should have a designated staff member responsible for ICT development and that an ICT plan and an AUP should be put in place in every school. It also suggests that the focus of schools' ICT planning now needs to shift from the current emphasis on infrastructural issues to exploring ways of further integrating ICT into the teaching and learning process. Investing Effectively in Information and Communications Technology in Schools, 2008-2013The then Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin T.D. appointed a Strategy Group to advise on the priorities for ICT in Schools in February, 2007.  The Group was chaired by Mr Jerome Morrissey, Director of the NCTE and comprised individuals with a range of complementary experiences and expertise in education, industry and the public service. ICT Strategy Group MembersMr. Jerome Morrissey, Director, National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE).
Dr. Sean Baker, Chief Corporate Scientist, IONA Technologies PLC.
Dr. Conor Galvin, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, UCD
Dr. Máirín Glenn, ICT Co-ordinator, Scoil Naisiúnta an Inbhir, Ballina
Mr. Michael Hallissy, Director of Learning, Digital Hub Development Agency
Mr. Matt Hume, Principal, St Joseph's Boys National School, Terenure
Mr. Seamus Ryan, Principal, Dunshaughlin Community College
Ms Theresa Ryan, ICT Policy Unit, Department of Education and Science
Mr. Tim O'Sullivan, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Mr. Frank Turpin, Educational Manager, Intel Ireland Ltd.The Report "Investing Effectively in and Communications Technology in Schools, 2008-2013" sets out the views of the Steering Group having regard to the critical success factors for successful integration of ICT into learning and teaching. The report is clear and comprehensive arguing for an integrated approach across the recommendations of the Strategy Group.  There recommendations cross 7 related areas:Continuing Professional Development - to ensure that teachers gain the capabilities to make meaningful use of ICT in their workSoftware and Digital Content for Learning and Teaching - to ensure that there is an adequate supply of innovative, high quality and Irish curriculum-related digital teaching and learning material available to teachers and students at all levelsICT Equipment - to ensure that adequately specified , up-to-date teaching and learning technology is available in sufficient quantity in all schoolsSchools Broadband Services - to ensure that every school has access to n appropriately specified, cost-efficient broadband service that is delivered to all necessary learning area within the schoolTechnical Support and Maintenance - to ensure that all schools can provide, with a high degree of certainty, a functioning and dependable ICT infrastructure, and that they have access to appropriate technical support and maintenance to sustain this quality of serviceImplementation Structures - to ensure that there is a well-informed, well-resources and responsive authority that can progress the initiative of transforming schools into e-learning environments with the seriousness of purpose and the vision requiredInnovative Practice and Research - To ensure that our vision for digital technology in education becomes and remains vibrant, relevant and at the forward edge internationallyThe Group believes that addressing any one area in isolation will reduce the impact and outcomes for the learner.  The Strategy Group Report highlights the need for systematic planning to ensure maximum impact from the planned ICT Strategy for schools.  The report stresses that the critical role of the Principal and ICT Co-ordinator in driving the integration of ICT within the school is pivotal to developing a whole-school shared vision of ICT as a motivational and inspirational tool for use in meeting the objectives of the curriculum.  The report states that the challenge now is to ensure that the emphasis on ICT in schools shifts, in the immediate future, from technology provision to a focus on its deliberate use by the learner.  The pursuit of creativity and inventiveness are now pivotal skills in a knowledge economy and the embedding of ICT in learning can greatly facilitate their development.