THE Government is planning a multi-million euro scheme to help disadvantaged students get through the end of the school year and their exams, Education Minister Joe McHugh has said.
Tonight, Mr McHugh said tablets, smart phones and access to data will be among the measures in the scheme, to be announced tomorrow.
It is understood the investment involved will be about €7m and thousands of exam candidates will benefit.
Many will be in schools in the Department of Education’s DEIS programme for disadvantaged communities, but others will be in non-DEIS schools.
The issue of students with less access to technology was identified at an early stage in the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr McHugh acknowledged the inequity of many students not having access to devices or broadband connectivity, to continue with online teaching and learning while schools remain closed.
The issue is particularly critical for candidates facing into the high-stakes Leaving Cert exams.
“There is an inequity there with digital and technology use,” he said on Virgin Media’s The Tonight Show.
"We're giving autonomy to the schools themselves, they've been working very closely with the students, they've identified themselves where there's support needed so there will be individual autonomy.
"We're talking about tablets, we're talking about whether it's smartphones or whether they need any other specific support.
"Bu it's important to point out we're working very closely with the Department of Communications to see in terms of flexibility, and also support in terms of data availability and supplies, so we're going to make progress on that in the next few days as well."
Mr McHugh said this year’s Leaving Cert exams could “potentially” start on July 29.
Mr McHugh took part in an online discussion organised by youth organisation Spunout.ie this evening during which young people asked him about the delayed Leaving Cert exams.
“The date we are going to be looking at is that Wednesday, July 29, and I will confirm that in a couple of days,” he said.
This evening Mr McHugh said while it was planned to have the Leaving Cert at the end of July, there is a “Plan C, Plan D and a Plan E” in place.
“We’re constrained by, not just the timeline but by public health and advice and guidance,” he said.
“Schools will not open unless they’re safe.
"Whatever advice we're given on that first week in June, or prior to that first week in June, we will be announcing all the timetables in advance around that, and what parameters are needed to ensure the safety and health and well being, for students."