The recent investment priorities under the ICT in Schools Programme have been the provision of networking grants to schools and the Schools Broadband Access Programme. Schools were invited to submit proposals for the development of their networking capability in June 2004 and grants totalling some €23m have since issued to schools.
The roll-out of broadband connectivity to all recognised schools is being undertaken in partnership with industry, in the context of the joint Government /IBEC — TIF (Telecommunications and Internet Federation) three year Agreement to fund local connectivity at school level. The broadband connectivity is being provided via a Schools National Broadband Network supported by HEAnet, in order to provide managed Internet access, email, security controls and content filtering. A broadband support service is being managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) to assist schools with advice and information relating to the roll-out and ongoing use of their broadband connectivity within the schools network. The overall costs of the Schools Broadband Access Programme, including the initial set-up and ongoing costs over the three years, are in the region of €30m.
Under the annual devolved grant scheme for minor works to national schools, all primary schools with full recognition receive a basic grant of €5,500 plus €18.50 per mainstream pupil and €74 per special needs pupil and this grant must be spent on the physical infrastructure of the schools or on items of furniture and equipment for educational use, including IT related equipment.
The National Development Plan contains a provision of €252m for ICT in schools, the essential purpose of which is to advance the embedding of an e-Learning culture in teaching and learning in our schools. I intend to publish a new ICT strategy this year covering the period of the National Development Plan. As part of the development of this new strategy, it will be necessary to consider and address a wide range of issues including teacher education, teacher professional development, curriculum developments, the maintenance of the national broadband network for schools, the upgrading and renewal of hardware and the provision of software and digital content for learning. The planned investment will also address maintenance and support requirements.
It is my intention to build on recent investment in networking grants to schools and the Schools Broadband Access Programme in developing the new ICT Strategy, based on the investments outlined in the NDP.