Decisions regarding the use and deployment of digital technology in schools is a matter for the Board of Management of each school. Where the introduction of digital devices is planned, consultation with members of the school community including parents is advised. Consultation between parents, students and schools is now underpinned through the recently published Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019. The cost and other implications must be fully considered by the Boards of Managements before a decision is made. It is important for schools, in conjunction with parents, to retain local autonomy for decisions on the use of digital technology, including tablet devices, laptops, and learning platforms, and how best to manage their integration into classroom practice reflective of their own context and requirements. In making this decision each school should refer to and reflect on the available information.
The Professional Development Service for Teachers Technology in Education (PDST-TIE) offers advice to schools and have developed an advice sheets on digital technology in education, including on the adoption of Laptops and tablets in schools. The information on their website outlines what these devices can offer schools to support teaching, learning and assessment, and facilitate students' active learning and collaboration. Specific items for consideration including software and hardware requirements, purchasing regulations, are addressed in the support information.
I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by educators and parents, in relation to costs of digital technology, including tablets, and my Department continues to work to help support schools and families meet these costs. In 2017 a circular letter issued to schools with measures to be adopted to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs. This circular also instructed schools to consult with parents and their school community on the issue of ensuring costs are reasonable for parents, and how to avoid costs acting as a barrier. This circular specified that wherever possible, generic rather than branded items should be specified (e.g. uniform, clothing, IT tablets, sports equipment etc.).
The Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, sets out a plan to embed the use of digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment, and affirms that the use of digital technology can enhance the teaching and learning experience. The Strategy recognises that schools require investment in their ICT infrastructure. Funding of €210m has been committed to support the implementation of this strategy with €60m issued to schools over the 2016/17 and 2017/18 school years and a further €50m recently issued to schools in respect of the 2018/19 school year.