A €10 million fund has been established to provide technology and devices for disadvantaged students at both primary and secondary levels, Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy, Peter Burke, confirmed this week.
Deputy Burke said the funding will be a huge help to both students and teachers as part of our response to Covid-19.
“Schools in Westmeath know their students best. So they are being empowered to support those who most need access to technology, with the right equipment.
“Schools are being asked to prioritise exam classes, and then to look at where else access to technology is most needed. I am confident this will make a real difference to thousands of students and provide the technology they need to be able to access online supports.
“At this time it is imperative we go further as a society to support more vulnerable young people. By redirecting funding we are focusing our attention on where it is needed, with a priority on Leaving Certificate students. Combined with an emphasis on wellbeing, this funding will help to give students the tools they need to succeed,” Deputy Burke commented.
The measures are part of a number of initiatives taken by the Department to support Westmeath children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage during the period of school closures, which include
Guidance being issued to all schools to support the ongoing learning of children with special educational needs and children who are at risk of disadvantage.
Collaboration with Cisco/WebEX to support schools with training in video conferencing software – for use by teachers with their classes.
Guidance and resources developed by the National Council for Special Education on supporting children with special educational needs.
Continuation of the School meals programme, funded through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, to provide food parcels to children who are at risk of food poverty.
Continued funding of Home Tuition or, where this is not possible, flexibility to bank hours for use at a later time in the year.
Resources to support good mental health and wellbeing amongst students produced by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS ).
€10 million funding package secured as part of the Digital Strategy for Schools ICT Infrastructure Fund.
“The Department of Education and Skills is also working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and telecoms companies through industry body Ibec to make a number of relevant websites ‘zero rated’. This would allow students to access these sites with no data costs,” Deputy Burke concluded.