19 June, 2017 - Minister Bruton launches new plan aimed at maximising the potential of digital technology in the classroom

Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Action Plan 2017 is the first of a series of annual action plans aimed at achieving the ambition of the Digital Strategy

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., today launched the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Action Plan 2017.

The Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 sets out a clear vision to embed ICT in schools to realise the potential of digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning and assessment so that Ireland's young people become engaged thinkers, active learners, knowledge constructors and global citizens to participate fully in society and the economy. Making this ambition a reality requires targeted and innovative use of technology to enrich teaching, learning and assessment.

Since this plan was launched implementation has been proceeding; the plan launched today is aimed at giving a new impetus to that work. Today’s plan sketches out in detail, quarter by quarter, the actions to be implemented in 2017 to implement this ambition. It will be followed by annual action plans in 2018, 2019 etc.

Publication of today’s plan is a key action under the government’s Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade. Fully harnessing the potential of digital technologies in teaching and learning is a key part of becoming the best education system in Europe.

Key element of the plan include:

  • A new clustering programme, through which schools across the country will collaborate with each other on innovative projects for using digital technology in teaching and learning. This will be an important means of encouraging schools to innovate in this area, and also for the system as a whole to develop new methods
  • A programme of curriculum reforms will see ICT embedded in all emerging curricular specifications and intense preparation for the phased introduction of Computer Science as a Leaving Certificate subject option from 2018 and coding as part of the primary school maths curriculum
  • A new Digital Learning Framework will be trialled in the new school year and will allow schools to evaluate their progress and measure how they stand against benchmarks of highly effective practice of using digital technologies in teaching and learning. Examples of good practice will continue to be captured and shared amongst the teaching community.
  • Provision of a range of professional learning programmes for teachers and school leaders to enable them engage effectively in whole school planning and self-evaluation to support them to embed digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment
  • A full suite of content and exemplars of good practice available through an online portal which will also facilitate the sharing of good practice between teachers.
  • The continuing rollout of a €210million capital investment programme backed by the dissemination of research on best practice in equipment selection, collaboration and technical support
  • A progressive programme of high-speed broadband connectivity
  • New ways of business and industry supporting schools in embedding digital technologies in all aspects of their activities
  • Reviewing policy on the ethical use of the internet and online safety for young people

Today’s plan is the product of a programme of work in this area undertaken by Minister Bruton after taking office. Having considered the best possible way of progressing policy in this area and implementing the Strategy and its ambitions, Minister Bruton convened a half-day round-table discussion in late 2016, attended by industry leaders, academic experts, practicing teachers and school principals as well as policy-makers from the Department and its agencies.

Following on from that forum, Minister Bruton established an implementation advisory group in this area (membership outlined below) chaired by Professor Brendan Tangney of TCD. This group was tasked with reviewing implementation of the Strategy up to this point, and provide advice on the best means of implementation from here on. The plan being published today is the first major output from that group, and will be followed by a 2018 implementation plan to be published at the end of this year.

Input from key stakeholders including educators, learners and industry has been captured to inform the development of the Action Plan through consultation including at a recent event in Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh.

Speaking at today’s launch, Minister Bruton said:

“Through the Action Plan for Education we will realise the potential of digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning and assessment to help students become engaged thinkers, active learners, knowledge constructors and global citizens.

“We want to ensure that Ireland is well placed to take advantage of the digital revolution which is taking place, and having a transformative effect on our economy, workplace, and lifestyle.

“Creative thinking and problem-solving skills are critical to our children developing and achieving their potential. In particular, their ability to think critically and develop solutions in the digital world will be vital for their prospects in life. Digital technology is revolutionising our careers.

”This year I have provided €30m in ICT grants to schools, and in the next four years I will invest a further €180m to upgrade the ICT facilities in our schools. A key priority also will be enhancing the broadband service to primary schools, and my Department will work with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in progressing this objective, having regard to the National Broadband Plan.”


Note for Editors

The actions from Q1 have all been delivered (some actions for Q1 will however be ongoing for the duration of the Strategy).  Where groups are being established as part of this plan, they will include external expertise where appropriate, e.g. academic experts, industry practitioners and so on.

What does success look like?

As part of this plan, Minister Bruton has sketched out what success looks like a number of years down the road. Today’s action plan outlines the next steps aimed at delivering on that. The targets are:

  1. All functions of teaching and learning in  schools are fully digitally supported and enabled, with full engagement across the entire school community
  2. All subject specifications support a constructivist learning model and reflect the role of digital technologies in facilitating this model
  3. All students have a digital portfolio with self-created content across the entire curriculum and a recognised capacity in discerning the ethical use of digital technologies
  4. All schools can demonstrate effective or highly effective practice as described in the Digital Learning Framework, underpinned by a whole-school approach to e-planning
  5. All teachers have upskilled and embed digital technologies in their teaching practice
  6. Our Providers of Initial Teacher Education have become recognised leaders in innovative learning for quality outcomes
  7. An increasing number of schools participating in clusters each year leading innovation in the use of digital technologies that can be disseminated to all schools
  8. Good protocols are in place to assist schools in managing their digital resources with robust relationship with industry, business and higher education institutions
  9. All schools have high speed broadband connectivity
  10. Schools use a variety of ICT equipment and delivery models for supporting their learning activities with demonstrable cost effectiveness and shared learning


Implementation Advisory Group Membership

Professor Brendan Tangney - Trinity College, Dublin (Chairperson)

Professor Deirdre Butler - St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra 

Ms Giustina Mizzoni - CoderDojo Foundation

Ms Claire Conneely - Google Ireland

Dr Ruth Freeman - Science Foundation Ireland

Mr Donnacha O Treasaigh - Principal, Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh

Mr Joe Hogan - OpenNet

Mr Conor Quinn - Adviser to Minister for Education & Skills

Ms Sarah O Neill - Adviser to Minister for Education & Skills

Mr Eddie Ward - ICT Policy Unit (DES)

Mr Eamonn Moran - Curriculum and Assessment Section (DES)

Mr Tony Weir - Inspectorate (DES)

Mr. Seamus Knox - Inspectorate (DES)

Mr Sean Gallagher - PDST Technology in Education (PDST-TIE)

Ms Majella O’Shea - National Council for Curriculum & Assessment

Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020Action Plan 2017

The Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Action Plan 2017 outlines over 120 actions and sub-actions to be implemented during the year by the Department, its agencies and others across government. Timelines and lead responsibility have been assigned, progress on the implementation of the 2017 Action Plan will be reviewed every quarter and the Department will publish an end of year review of 2017

Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Enhancing Teaching Learning and Assessment

The “Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment” was published in October 2015 and forms the basis for ICT policy for first and second level schools in Ireland. The Strategy sets out a clear vision that is focussed on realising the potential of digital technologies to transform the learning experiences of students by helping them become engaged thinkers, active learners, knowledge constructors and global citizens who participate fully in society and the economy.   

The Strategy is organised around four themes:

  • Teaching, Learning and Assessment Using ICT
  • Teacher Professional Learning
  • Leadership, Research and Policy
  • ICT Infrastructure

The Strategy recognises that schools need some financial certainty in terms of their planning and procurement.  Accordingly, there is a commitment in the Strategy to provide multi-annual grants in line with the availability of resources. A fund of €210m has been committed beginning with an investment of €30m in respect of the 2016-2017 school year already distributed to schools via the ICT Infrastructure Grant. Funding will rise to €50m towards the end of the Strategy.

Advisory Group - established in early 2017

The Group includes industry and academic experts, representatives of the voluntary digital sector, in addition to the Department of Education & Skills and relevant Government bodies.


View the full report here: Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Action Plan 2017