Friday 19 January 2018

Poor rural broadband harming pupils' education, parents claim

Some 67pc of parents consider the strength of the internet service when choosing a school for their children. stock photo
Some 67pc of parents consider the strength of the internet service when choosing a school for their children. stock photo

Louise Kelly and Ken Whelan

Almost half of parents believe their children's education is stunted by substandard internet access at their school.

Some 46pc of school children are suffering as a result of unsatisfactory broadband, according to a Pure Telecom survey. A third of parents would consider moving their child to a different school if they felt that their requirements in terms of broadband were not being met.

The research found that the average parent spent €213 per child on internet-connected devices intended for school work this year, with 16pc of children typically relying on the internet to do their homework.

Some 67pc of parents consider the strength of the internet service when choosing a school for their children.

"Access to internet-connected digital tools and resources is vital for all children living in a modern society, so it is concerning that so many parents believe their child's educational achievement is being stunted by poor broadband speeds and access in school," Paul Connell, chief executive of Pure Telecom, said.

"Not surprisingly, our research showed that the majority of those parents are living in areas outside of Dublin."

Under the Schools 100Mbps project, the Government rolled out 100Mbps broadband to more than 780 post-primary schools in Ireland.

Education Minister Richard Bruton has also launched the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Action Plan 2017, which includes €30m in ICT grants to schools.

It came as Fianna Fáil criticised the Government's record on rural affairs. Spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and Environment,Timmy Dooley said Fine Gael's record on rural Ireland was "300 post offices set to close and a failed broadband plan".

Rural and Community Affairs Minister Michael Ring acknowledged there was "no room" for complacency as the Government pushes on with its blueprint for rural development.

"I know how ambitious the plan is. We still have a long way to go to fully deliver on our commitments to improve the lives of people living and working in rural Ireland," said Mr Ring as he attended the Diageo Baileys Champion Cow competition at the Virginia Show in Co Cavan.

"There is certainly no room for complacency, but this progress report shows we are moving in the right direction."

At the launch of the six-month progress review, Mr Ring said just seven of the 202 actions proposed for first half of 2017 had been delayed.

The plan, which was launched last January, is an inter-departmental project which includes schemes such as the Royal Canal Blueway, the Lough Allen Broadway, some 172 village and small town renewal schemes, in addition to help for rural art and culture and new transport initiatives in disadvantaged rural communities.

Irish Independent

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