Digital Schools of Distinction awards programme launched in Northern Ireland
'Digital Schools of Distinction', a flagship awards programme which promotes, recognises and encourages best practice use of technology in primary schools has been launched in Northern Ireland.
The initiative has been developed to help schools to further integrate technology into the classroom.
It aims to recognise best in class practices and build on the progress already made, by providing a pathway and resources for schools who are seeking to do more with technology. The programme also recognises those who achieve excellence and supports the efforts of schools and teachers in making the best use of technology in the learning environment.
HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft are providing support to the programme for five years, to include a financial commitment of £100,000 in the first year as well as the provision of practical support and resources.
Primary schools are encouraged to register for the programme through the www.digitalschoolsofdistinction.co.uk website where they can undergo a self-evaluation of current practices and standards. The programme aims to sign up 200 primary schools in Northern Ireland to participate in its first full year.
Schools who meet the criteria will be awarded Digital School of Distinction status.
New digital schools will receive a presentation plaque and a ‘Classroom Kit’ which includes a free HP printer with a free print allowance per month of 200 colour and 2000 mono prints and access to education ICT.
The programme has already been successfully rolled out in the Republic of Ireland with over half of primary schools – 1,600 – signed up to become a ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’. 260 schools have been accredited in the first two years of the programme.
Education minister urges schools to get involved
Minister for Education John O’Dowd emphasised the added value that accreditation offers to primary schools.
Mr O’Dowd said: “The Department of Education is already committed to supporting schools by investing in their digital future through C2k. Our aim is to ensure our schools are equipping children with the most up to date ICT knowledge and skills and this programme supports that objective.
"I am delighted to welcome the support of HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft in bringing us the Digital Schools of Distinction programme and I would urge schools to participate.”
Supporting the Digital Schools of Distinction programme Martin Murphy Managing Director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Northern Ireland, highlighted the role of schools in equipping young people with the necessary skills to be job ready in the future.
"Getting education and skills right is core to investment and job creation. While Northern Ireland already performs well in terms of integrating technology into the curriculum, there is still room for improvement and an opportunity for Northern Ireland to differentiate itself in this area.
"We are delighted to be able to support the Digital Schools of Distinction initiative which enables schools to harness the full potential of technology for education purposes.”
Tom Jackson, Education Business and Programme Manager, Microsoft Northern Ireland said: "The world of technology continues to develop at an extraordinarily fast pace and it’s essential that young people develop the right skills and talents needed for the world we live and work in. We’re pleased to partner with HP in rolling out Digital Schools of Distinction to help support and develop work already in progress in schools."
St Joseph’s Carryduff first to get Digital School of Distinction status
Speaking at the launch, Principal Dominic Donnelly of St Joseph’s, Carryduff, the first primary school in Northern Ireland to be awarded Digital School of Distinction status, welcomed the award and praised the commitment of staff in embracing opportunities to implement digital learning and the enthusiasm of pupils across all age groups to discover and learn using the latest technology;
"Pupils, staff, governors and parents of St Joseph’s, Carryduff are delighted to receive this prestigious award in recognition of the quality of the school’s provision for ICT. In St Joseph’s we place great emphasis on developing the children’s ability to use ICT judiciously and effectively.
"The children learn how to use technology to handle, interpret and communicate information, to solve problems, pose questions and to be creative. In essence, our vision is to ensure that the children have the confidence and abilities they will require to be successful in a rapidly evolving technological world.
"Receiving this award is a wonderful affirmation of that important aspect of our work."
Avril Allen, Service Delivery Manager, C2K said, "We’re delighted to welcome this new digital schools awards programme which recognises and rewards the high calibre work in progress in primary schools using Department of Education funded infrastructure, software and services. We would anticipate this programme being of significant interest to schools."
For further information and to register on line visit, www.digitalschoolsofdistinction.co.uk.