As part of the €210m investment programme underpinning the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools, my Department provided €100m in grant funding to schools to address their ICT needs during 2020. Schools were advised that they can use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure occur arising from Public Health advice owing to Covid-19 restrictions as is the current situation.
This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the requirements of their own student cohort and to meet those requirements. In the context of the current public health crisis this funding can be focussed on assisting schools to address ICT needs including devices, software and other ICT solutions to support the provision of remote learning. This can include the purchase of ICT devices including laptops, that can be shared with students who do not have access to devices, essential learning platforms and other ICT infrastructure to support the provision of remote learning.
The continuity of learning guidance circulated to schools last year advised Principals of the responsibility to ensure that learners receive appropriate support to engage adequately with learning remains with the school in which they are enrolled. Regular and ongoing communication between school and home will be essential to support engagement with learning and continuous connection with classmates and school community. Additional supports will be provided for these learners from within the staffing resources of the school. Schools will have discretion to manage and redistribute their support resources in order to best meet the learning needs of their pupils and students.
Resources to support schools and teachers to the transition to distance learning using technology, including blended learning approaches, are being provided by the Department support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), at https://www.pdst.ie/DistanceLearning.