Minister for Education Norma Foley TD announced the issue of €50 million in grant funding to schools, the first of two major ICT projects to address the digital divide. This funding was secured as part of a major investment programme for the Department of Education in the Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) approved by the European Council.
Schools will be required to use this funding for the direct benefit of their students, and can consider innovative projects and programmes using digital technologies in teaching and learning depending on their own digital learning plan, and approaches including providing infrastructure such as devices on loan to students.
Minister Foley said, “all of our children and young people must be prepared to learn, work and live in a digital world. This scheme builds on existing funding commitments from national funds and will provide for advances in the two important areas of enhanced digital infrastructure for schools and addressing learners at risk of educational disadvantage through the digital divide by providing funding to schools.”
“School communities made incredible strides in digital teaching and learning during the pandemic. An enormous effort was made by teachers and students, and a huge amount has been learned. We know also that for some students a lack of infrastructure impeded their ability to engage with remote learning. This digital divide will also impact their capacity to engage fully with digital technology and development of digital skills.”
“As we move beyond this phase, we need to acknowledge the great effort and progress made. The enhanced investment under the NRRP will advance greatly the efforts to ensure that technology and infrastructure is in place to support teaching and learning in the classroom across all schools and ensure inclusion of all learners.”
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) has been developed by the Government so that Ireland can access funding under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. Ireland is expected to receive €988 million in grants under the facility.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the largest component of NextGenerationEU, the European Union’s response to the global pandemic. The aim is to help repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the pandemic and to prepare for a post-Covid Europe that is greener, more digital, more resilient and fit to face the future.
Under the project being announced, funding will be paid directly to all recognised primary and post-primary schools in the free education scheme, to invest in digital infrastructure to support students who are most at risk of educational disadvantage through the digital divide. As part of this measure, schools in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme will receive double the amount of funding provided to non-DEIS schools.
Full information on the rates applying and the criteria and conditions attaching to this funding can be found in the Department of Education’s circular 0060/2021
Through the other project for which NRRP funding is being provided, and through the National Broadband Plan Intervention Area implementation and commercial provision, all primary schools will be provided with high speed broadband connectivity by early 2023.