05 April, 2021 - Minister Foley announces development of a New Digital Strategy for Schools

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today announced the development of a new Digital Strategy for Schools, commencing with a wide-ranging consultation process. 

The new Digital Strategy for Schools will replace the existing strategy, which will run out in the current school year.

Minister Foley said: “I am pleased to announce this important work on a new Digital Strategy for Schools.

“It is my aim that the new strategy will build on what has been achieved to date. Significant progress has been made in the lifetime of the existing strategy. In particular, real commitment has been shown by school leaders and teachers in planning for the embedding of digital technologies, to support teaching and learning, and has been key to the successful implementation to date.

“Many schools have used this funding to purchase devices for use by students and to support laptop or tablet loan schemes during periods of school closures. This, combined with other improvements to schools’ digital infrastructure supported remote learning.

“The consultation process will be wide-ranging and I look forward to engaging with all key stakeholders to inform the development of this crucial strategy. It is vital that all voices are heard and critical that the views of everyone, with an interest in this area inform the overall development and approach to build on the use of digital technology in education.

“I encourage everyone with an interest in this area to engage with this process and have your say. With your help we aim to build a robust and exciting strategy that will support our schools to enhance learning through embedding technology into the future.”

Learnings from the current strategy and the experience of teachers, school leaders, students and parents with the embedding of digital technologies across the curriculum and the opportunities provided by this, as well the impact of remote learning during Covid will inform the development of the new Digital Strategy for Schools.

The new strategy will take into consideration the overall status of implementation in all schools, Government objectives and priorities, national and international experience and look to address and incorporate new and emerging issues and trends in digital technology. It will build on the success of the implementation to date but also consider the challenges that have arisen in terms of any gaps that have come to light. 

Under Project Ireland 2040, the government’s long-term overarching strategy to make Ireland a better country for all of its people, the ongoing embedding of the use of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment through the Digital Strategy for Schools will be supported through a further investment, under the current National Development Plan, of some €200 million up to 2027.

In order to ensure a comprehensive review of the existing Digital Strategy for Schools and to take account of new and emerging themes from the point of view of all relevant stakeholders, a consultation framework has been developed. The overall consultation process will be an integral part of the development of the new strategy and key to ensuring its successful implementation.

A Consultative Group involving key stakeholders, including the management bodies and unions will be established to inform this work. The consultation process is designed to include various different strands to ensure an effective, meaningful engagement with all interested parties. This will include an easily accessible online survey, which will be available for teachers, principals and students at the end of this month.

An open public call for submissions hosted on the Department’s website will be publicised from next week. Further detail will be available at this link

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The Digital Strategy for schools 2015-2020 sets out the Department’s current policy on the use of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment. The vision of the Digital Strategy is 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. The strategy promotes the embedding of digital technologies in all classroom and school activity so that the use of digital technology becomes a seamless part of the whole education experience.  It underpins the development of 21st Century skills in our young people; skills such as communication and collaboration, critical thinking and analytic reasoning, research skills, creativity, problem solving and team work. 

The implementation of the strategy in schools is supported by a Digital Learning Framework (DLF) and comprehensive digital learning planning guidelines and extensive CPD, resources and supports for teachers and school leaders. 

 

Funding

The current Digital Strategy is underpinned by a total investment of €210m by way of an Infrastructure Grant for schools, which has been delivered in full since 2016.  As part of the overall investment programme, the Department provided €100m in grant funding to schools to address their ICT needs during 2020, €50m in respect of the 2019-2020 school year, and €50m in respect of the 2020-2021 school year. Schools were advised that they can use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure occur arising from Public Health advice owing to Covid-19 restrictions as is the current situation. 

This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the requirements of their own student cohort and to meet those requirements. In the context of the current public health crisis this funding can be focussed on assisting schools to address ICT needs including devices, software and other ICT solutions to support the provision of remote learning.  This can include the purchase of ICT devices including laptops, which can be shared with students who do not have access to devices, essential learning platforms and other ICT infrastructure to support the provision of remote learning. 

This funding issues in the form of a lump sum per school, and a per capita amount based on the school enrolment. DEIS schools receive a 10% increase on the per capita amount above that provided for non-DEIS schools.

In terms of the funding required to implement the policies developed under the new strategy, under Project 2040, the government’s long-term overarching strategy to make Ireland a better country for all of its people, through the National Development Plan, the ongoing embedding of the use of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment through the Digital Strategy for Schools will be supported through a further investment of some 200 million up to 2027.

The review of the National Development Plan currently underway is expected to conclude in summer 2021, and will reflect the priorities of the Programme for Government and the evolving policy context.

 

Achievements under the Digital Strategy for Schools 2016-2021

 

  • As a matter of policy the Department, in consultation with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), now  ensures that  all new and revised curricular specifications include clear statements that focus on the development of digital learning skills and the use of digital technologies as a resource in achieving specific outcomes across the curriculum

 

  • The Junior Cycle Framework continues to promote digital literacy skills through eight Key Skills (all skills have an ICT/digital component) and through Statements of Learning. In addition, in the ongoing reviews of the Primary Curriculum and of the Senior Cycle, the skills of, or skills closely related to, digital literacy have featured strongly in all discussions on future provision.

 

  • Computer Science has been introduced as a Leaving Certificate subject and is now offered in 92 schools across the country. 

 

  • All schools continue to be supported to develop a Digital Learning Plan, informed by the DLF, but continue to have flexibility to determine how best to embed the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning in their school having regard to their individual circumstances and within the context of the broader Department digital strategy.  
  • The role of Initial Teacher Education is fundamental to the development of digital competency in the teaching profession.  In Ireland, the Teaching Council has responsibility for the accreditation of Initial Teacher Education programmes. Following an extensive consultation process, Digital Skills is one of the seven core elements  incorporated for the first time into the revised standards published by the Teaching Council in October 2020  (Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education). The digital skills encompass digital literacy and the use of digital technologies to support teaching, learning and assessment for all learners; the integration of digital skills across the programme including opportunities for student teachers to explore new and emerging technologies. All new programmes submitted to the Council for accreditation must now be in alignment with Céim. 
  • Separately, the Department issued a guiding framework for teacher educators for consideration when preparing/revising their Teacher Education Programme. The framework highlights the range of knowledge and skills required by pre-service teachers to develop professional digital competencies so that they can effectively use digital technologies in teaching and learning. This framework “A Guiding Framework for Pre-Service Teachers’ Professional Digital Competence” was developed in consultation with representatives of the ITE sector.
  • The upskilling of teachers will continue to be a key priority for the Department in the promotion of digital technologies in teaching and learning. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) is the country’s largest single support service offering professional learning opportunities to teachers and school leaders in a range of pedagogical, curricular and educational areas.   Its dedicated Technology in Education Team, together with its ICT Team of Advisors, continue to design, develop and deliver a comprehensive range of CPD programmes for teachers and school leaders.   
  • The effective use of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment will continue to be an integral part of all Department funded CPD programmes and supports.  
  • Under the Schools Broadband Programme the Department directly funds the provision of broadband connectivity to schools at an annual cost of some €13m and some 98% of schools avail of this programme. This funding programme will continue.   Broadband capacity can vary across geographical locations and is dependent on local infrastructure which can impact on the service that can be provided in individual schools. The Department will continue to provide improved broadband connectivity as the opportunity arises and is actively engaging with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) on the provision of improved broadband to schools within the context of the National Broadband and State Intervention Plan.