Ministers announce roll-out of high speed broadband to schools in Dublin, Meath and Kildare

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS

216 schools to receive 100 Mbps (business class service) broadband access

Schools to mirror the workplaces of tomorrow through this investment in Ireland’s competitiveness

All second level schools in Dublin, Meath and Kildare will have high speed (100Mbps) broadband installed during 2013, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., and the Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D., announced today.

This is the second stage of a national roll-out to all second-level schools.  The 2012 phase of the project saw broadband installed in all post-primary schools in 14 western and midlands counties, covering 202 schools.  This built upon a pilot project involving 78 schools nationally, where the use of broadband has been shown to have improved both teaching and learning.

Today’s announcement details a further 216 schools to be connected in Dublin, Meath and Kildare by September 2013, with all remaining 250 schools to be connected in 2014.

Speaking at Presentation Secondary School in Warrenmount, Dublin, Minister Quinn said “This Government is committed to delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government to incorporate the integration of ICT/ digital technology in teaching and learning across the curriculum, and to invest in broadband development to ensure schools have access to modern high-speed networks. The use of ICT/ digital technology will be one of the key skills in the new Junior Cycle, and it will be enhanced through the availability of a short course, currently being developed by the NCCA, that will deal with programming / coding for junior cycle students from September 2014.  In order to facilitate students in developing ICT skills access to fast reliable broadband is essential.

“The roll out of 100Mbps to all post primary schools will also facilitate schools to develop e-portfolios to augment the school-work component of the new Junior Cycle.”

Commenting on the announcement, Minister Rabbitte said “I am very pleased that my Department is investing in industrial strength, future proofed connectivity for these schools.  By bringing 100Mbps uncontended connectivity directly to the premises many students will now have vastly enhanced access to new and innovate educational tools.  This is a completely different standard of connection to domestic broadband and will allow multiple applications to be accessed by students right across the school.

“This is an important investment in Ireland’s competitiveness.  From now on these schools will mirror the workplaces of tomorrow.  These students will therefore be much better prepared for the digital economy when they seek work.”

Both Ministers were agreed that despite Ireland’s current economic difficulties, this significant investment in driving our schools forward into the digital age is money well spent. According to Minister Quinn, “the internet is providing learners with the possibility of learning at any time and in any place. Accessing education through mixed media delivers a richer educational experience.  Applying technology in the right way can make education not just more engaging – but more appealing – so the students and teachers get more from it.”

Minister Rabbitte concluded by referencing the important job creation possibilities. “It is a key investment in future employment and employability as it feeds into the development of a more ICT literate workforce. The European Commission estimates that there will be up to 1 million unfilled vacancies in the ICT area within Europe, by 2015.  At a conference in Brussels today, ‘Filling the gaps: e-Skills and Education for Digital Jobs’, policy makers, industry and education specialists are discussing this challenge. Clearly, ICT literacy at second level is an important element of the wider objective of addressing Europe’s ICT skills deficit”.

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) is funding all of the capital costs of this project, estimated to be approximately €11m, as well as contributing some €10m in current costs for the years 2012 to 2015.  The Department of Education & Skills (DES) will fund the remaining current costs (estimated to be some €20m up to 2015). DES will also fund the on-going costs on an annual basis into the future.

ENDS

Note to editors:

The Ministers participated in a virtual learning experience, whereby students were taught by a teacher in Scoil Colaiste Bride, Clondalkin via an internet connected screen. In this live learning experience four Warrenmount students are only able to take Honours maths classes because of the high-tech system now allowing them to link up with a class in Colaiste Bride.

The introduction of high speed broadband will have a major impact on how teachers use ICT in their teaching.

The internet provides access to an increasing amount of highly relevant content which can enrich learning, enliven teaching and, generally make learning a more rewarding and motivational experience.  For example, online 3D simulations and animations can significantly and quickly assist the learner towards a thorough understanding of mathematical and scientific concepts. Modern languages, technology subjects, business and liberal studies are equally enhanced through access to chosen digital content and communication platforms.

The benefit of having this bandwidth available in schools includes:

·        Empowering teachers to explore the use of ICT in the learning and teaching process;

·        Enabling sharing and collaborating online within their own schools, with other schools, with universities and with expertise in curriculum areas;

·        Enabling the use of video conferencing and use of Skype or other online communication tools;

·        Encouraging the use of online learning and teaching spaces such as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and Blogs.

Under this programme all second-level schools will have 100Mbps broadband installed by the end of 2014 – 202 in 2012, 216 in 2013 and the final 250 schools in 2014 – building on the 78 schools which were involved in the pilot scheme.

The provision of service to the schools to be connected in 2013 will be on foot of a tender competition under an established Framework Agreement and will be undertaken by HEAnet on behalf of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Education and Skills.

This project is the result of cooperation between the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Education and Skills, the Higher Education Authority, HEAnet and the Professional Development Service for Teachers – Technology in Education, in conjunction with core services supplied by ESB Telecoms.

HEAnet has built and will maintain the network on behalf of the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources. The Technology in Education section of the Professional Development Service for Teachers is charged with the integration of ICT within schools. They will also provide front line support for the staff of the schools. ESB Telecoms provides backhaul from regional locations to Dublin. The Project has been co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

- See more at: http://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Press-Releases/2013-Press-Releases/PR13-03-05A.html#sthash.ej0DzuEb.dpuf

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