–      HP and Microsoft confirm support for the programme in 2014/15 –

1032, or almost one in three Irish primary schools, have signed up to become ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’, in the first full year of the programme.

Almost 150 schools have been validated through the registration process, with the remaining schools at various stages of the validation process, which is proceeding well.

The highest number of registrations came from counties Dublin (190 schools), Cork (100 schools), Galway (50 schools) and Meath (40 schools).

HP and Microsoft have confirmed their support for 2014/15, the second year of the programme.

In a survey of 300 Irish primary schools who have registered to take part in the programme, access to high speed broadband, IT maintenance, support and funding were identified as the major obstacles to integrating ICT in the classroom. Other findings from the research included:

  • Primary school teachers were virtually unanimous (98%)  that ICT used in teaching is necessary to help prepare students to live and work in the 21st century
  • 80% strongly agreed that ICT used in teaching has a positive impact on student motivation
  • The response to the Digital Schools of Distinction programme from primary schools has been extremely positive with 75% of teachers agreeing that the programme has created momentum in innovative and effective use of ICT tools by teachers
  • 84% said that the programme has helped their school to focus more on ICT usage to support curriculum objectives

Launched by the Minster for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn T.D. in September last year, ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’ is a flagship award programme which promotes, recognises and encourages best practice use of technology in primary schools.

Minister Ruairí Quinn launches Digital Schools of Distinction

Supported by HP Ireland and Microsoft Ireland, the Digital Schools of Distinction Award aims to help schools to further integrate technology into the classroom. HP Ireland and Microsoft Ireland are providing support to the programme, including a financial commitment of €300,000 in the first year as well as the provision of practical support and resources.

The Minister for Education and Skill Ruairi Quinn T.D. said that the programme had been a great success in its first year: ‘In its first full year, the Digital Schools of Distinction programme has demonstrated how it can make a significant practical contribution to helping schools make the most of their digital capabilities. It is an important initiative from HP and Microsoft which will complement the new Digital Strategy for Schools, which will be completed during 2014, and which will set out how resources, policies and projects can be prioritised and organised throughout the school system for the next five years.’

Martin Murphy, Managing Director of HP Ireland said: ‘We are encouraged to see that the Digital Schools of Distinction programme has clearly struck a chord with education providers at primary level, by providing access to a range of IT supports and expertise. This programme has tremendous potential to further develop in 2014/15 and beyond. We are also pleased to say that that we have received expressions of interest in replicating the programme in other European countries, which further underscores the success of the model.’

Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland added: ‘The response to Digital Schools of Distinction has been tremendous this year. By supporting and encouraging schools to embrace technology in the classroom, the programme is helping to enhance the overall learning experience of our students as well as equipping them with skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.’

Gerard McHugh, Chair of the Digital Schools of Distinction Committee and Director of the Dublin West Education Centre concluded:  “We are very pleased with the success of the programme in its first year. We look forward signing up more schools to participate next year and to working with them to help them achieve DSOD status.”

The Digital Schools of Distinction programme is supported by the Department of Education and Skills in partnership with Dublin West Education Centre, the Professional Development Service for Teachers/Technology in Education, the Computer Education Society of Ireland (CESI), the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN). Digital Schools of Distinction is delivered through a public private partnership in association with HP and Microsoft in Ireland.

For further information and to register online, visit www.digitalschools.ie or follow @digital_schools on Twitter for regular updates.