15 December, 2017 - Minister Bruton launches School Excellence Fund – Digital

Schools are today being invited to apply to the Department of Education and Skills to become part of a digital cluster

Part of Government’s overall strategy to embed digital technology in teaching and learning

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, will today launch the School Excellence Fund – Digital in the Lego Education Innovation Studio in DCU.

All schools are today being invited to apply to become part of clusters of schools, working together on innovative projects in teaching and learning using digital technologies. Schools can apply in an already formed cluster with a project proposal and a lead school identified, or can apply individually indicating a clear area of interest and clusters of schools sharing the same interest will be formed by the Department at a later stage.

The Minister has set the ambition to make Ireland’s Education and Training Service the best in Europe by 2026. Key to delivering on this ambition will be the ability of our education system to adapt to an economy and society transformed by digital technology. Today’s announcement is one of a number of actions the Minister is taking in this area, as detailed in the Digital Strategy and STEM Education Policy. 

Children are naturally curious, adaptable and inquisitive. Digital technology can create an environment that nurtures, values and stretches these attributes. They are all also competencies that our children will need to develop to thrive in the future.

Clusters can be made up of between 4 and 6 schools, although the Department will consider larger clusters depending on the project. They can be made up of just primary schools, just post-primary schools or a mix of both. Each cluster will be expected to work on their project over the course of 3 years. Each cluster will receive the following resources:

  • An average grant of €30k per cluster for identified needs over the period e.g. software, hardware, additional training etc.
  • The opportunity to participate in a number of networking, training, and showcase events
  • Paid substitution cover for networking/training/showcase events, for nominated teachers within the cluster
  • Each school will receive support from the cluster co-ordinator based in the lead/co-ordinating school
  • The cluster co-ordinator will receive up to 2 hours per week paid substitution cover for work on the project
  • Online support and training

Successful projects will, for example:

  • Demonstrate the use of the digital technologies to embed curricular change e.g. Politics and Society, Leaving Certificate Physical Education
  • Use digital technology to enhance students' Literacy and Numeracy
  • Show collaboration between schools and Higher Education
  • Show collaboration between schools and industry
  • Explore the use of digital technologies in designing assessments

Clusters will be expected to report on the impact of their projects on the participating schools and consider how the learning can be disseminated to all schools.

Launching the School Excellence Fund – Digital, Minister Bruton said, “The School Excellence Fund is designed to ensure that innovation in schools is supported and rewarded. School Excellence Fund- Digital will support clusters of schools to collaborate and work together in really exciting ways on projects related to teaching and learning using digital. Truly transformative change does not come from the centre but from the ground up, schools and teachers working together and sharing good practice.

“This is one of a number of actions we are taking to really embed digital technology in teaching and learning, as this will be key to achieving our ambition to become the best in Europe by 2026. We must ensure our students are well equipped to thrive in a future which will be transformed by technology and I look forward to seeing the projects which emerge from this first call”

Information on this scheme, and the application process for schools can be found at: http://www.pdsttechnologyineducation.ie/en/Good-Practice/Projects/Clusters/

Notes for Editors

Application process: Schools should come together to work on an agreed project. A lead school should be nominated, a co-ordinator, and representatives from member schools identified. One application per cluster should be completed by the lead/cluster co-ordinating school.

On application, the cluster should provide the following information, through the online application form:

A Project Outline and Plan, to include:

  • A short summary of the project;
  • The reasons for undertaking the project;
  • The intended impact of the project on teaching, learning and assessment, particularly relating to learner experiences;
  • Project methodology and mechanism for delivery (including indicative identification of requirements such as software, hardware, training, etc.);
  • A proposed project schedule. This should include planned progress and outcomes in each year, with milestone dates, deliverables and monitoring;
  • A project communications plan – to detail how the collaboration will be facilitated and managed (via an Education Centre for example);
  • Roles and responsibilities of each member school;
  • Defined outcomes, to include how those outcomes will be communicated and disseminated (e.g. good practice videos, resources made available online, professional networks, etc.). These outcomes should be linked to the proposed project expenditure(e.g. infrastructural requirements, proposed training and external expertise);
  • A proposed evaluation and assessment model for the project, during (monitoring) and on completion;
  • Likely relevance and application for wider system;
  • Any other relevant information, including any existing links with a third level institution, local education centre, local industry, previous/existing projects etc.

Individual school Applications:

Schools can apply individually, supplying much the same information as above. The application will not be expected to be as developed as it might be in the case of a cluster application, however in order to produce clusters from the individual schools, a clear indication of the type of project that is of interest will be required. A clear understanding of the level of commitment involved and the overall aims of the programme should also be demonstrated.

Selection Process

For the purposes of this scheme, the Department is, in effect seeking a purposive sample of schools, the primary aim being to demonstrate the innovative use of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment, collaborative practice and the impact on learner experience.

In selecting the clusters, the Department would aim to have the following represented (in addition to ensuring the selected schools are broadly representative of the wider school system):

Primary, post-primary and cross-sectoral configurations;

  • Development of practice such as Bring Your Own Device;
  • Use of digital technologies to mediate and embed curricular change (e.g. Politics and Society at post-primary level, the primary languages curriculum, The Junior Cycle Framework, etc.);
  • Enabling key policy initiatives such as STEM;
  • Collaboration between schools and the third level sector, or an education centre;
  • Collaboration between schools and business or industry.
  • Opening Seminar/training event, to consist of information and workshop events;
  • Online support and training;
  • Scheduled Webinars during the project;
  • Some PDST-TiE advisor support;
  • Professional support delivered through support services and local Education Centre.

Funding has been set aside for this scheme, for the following:

Grants to clusters for identified needs, which may include, amongst others, software, hardware, additional training. This will be determined when the detailed project plan is finalised, and will be reviewed as required during project implementation;

  • Cluster events – meetings to facilitate collaboration, and showcase events at cluster level if required.

Paid Substitution

  • Substitution will be provided for the opening event and the first Shared Learning training event;
  • The expectation is that the cluster co-ordinator will require some two hours per week to administer the project, amounting to some nine days over the school year –the specific allocation of time will depend on the cluster requirements;
  • Participating teachers from the member schools will also receive substitution cover for specific items, including meetings and training – to be determined at project level in consultation with the PDST-TiE scheme administrator;
  • Substitution cover for a final showcase event to take place at the end of year 1.
  • Substitution cover will also be provided in years 2 and 3 of the scheme, to be determined, but similar to that for year 1. One to two network/showcase events will take place in those years also.
  • Other events as may be required, to be determined in consultation.

Proposed Schedule for Scheme

Application period:

December 15th 2017 to January 26th  2018

Selection of clusters:

January 29th to February 16th

Announcement of participating Clusters:                                      

Between February 19th and February 23rd

Preparation for opening event   and Shared Learning Event:              

February 26th to March16th

March to April

Opening event:                                   

Week of 19th March, exact date to be confirmed

Shared Learning/Training event:        

April 2018 (date to be confirmed)

Project development and implementation:

April 6th to April 27th (to include engagement with third level   & industry)

Initial Showcase/Network event   for clusters to take place in November 2018

September 2018 to April/May   2019 Year 1

September 2019 to April/May   2020 Year 2

September 2020 to April/May   2021 Year 3

Development and dissemination of support materials and information:

Ongoing between September 2018   and April 2019

External Evaluation:                           

Ongoing between April 2018 and project end

Final showcase event each year:       

May 2019 / 2020 / 2021