Thursday 30 March 2017

Fee-paying schools to get slice of €21m hi-tech grant

John Walshe Education Editor

ALMOST 700 second-level schools -- including all those in the fee-paying sector -- are to share €21m in grants for high-tech equipment over the coming days.

The inclusion of fee-paying schools has been criticised by the Teachers' Union of Ireland, which says it will widen the divide between well-off schools and those in disadvantaged areas. However, as disclosed in the Irish Independent last week, the decision follows advice obtained from the Attorney General.

In the past, computer grants were given to Protestant schools but not other schools that charged fees. The advice was that continuing with this policy could leave the Department of Education and Skills open to charges of discrimination.

The schools will each receive a base grant of €1,700 and a payment of €63.45 per pupil. Disadvantaged schools will receive a higher basic grant of €2,550.

The National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) has advised schools of the appropriate equipment specification, which should include a fixed digital projector and teaching computer.

Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan said the Information and Computing Technologies (ICT) grants represented the next phase in the implementation of the Smart Schools Equals Smart Economy Report and the 2008 ICT Strategy Report. A similar announcement of €22.3m in ICT grants was provided to primary schools last year.

Paul Sweetman, Director of ICT Ireland, welcomed the announcement, but said that much greater use of technology in the classroom was required.

Microsoft Ireland managing director and chair of the ICT in schools implementation steering group, Paul Rellis, said the continued investment in ICT in schools would help Ireland regain its position as a competitive, successful economy.

"The better use of technology in schools is vital to ensuring that students leave with the skills needed to participate fully in today's modern economy."

Irish Independent

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