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NSW logs record investment in regional digital education

Image Credits: NSW Government News Portal, Press Release

The NSW Government’s $365.8 million Rural Access Gap (RAG) investment, will provide rural and regional schools access to the best digital teaching and learning tools. The package will support over 1000 regional and rural schools in NSW. It will provide new devices in the classroom for students, laptops for teachers and training for staff.

Orana Heights Public School in Dubbo will be one of the first schools to have their classrooms fitted with smart boards, faster internet access, laptops for all teaching staff and additional student devices.

A further 28 schools in the Dubbo region will be equipped in the same way as Orana Heights Public School. After being rolled out in Dubbo, another 81 schools will receive the RAG by Term 2 2021. The remaining schools will receive their upgrade by mid-2023.

The region’s Minister for Education stated that she wants to see all students have access to the same educational facilities and opportunities no matter where they live.

The students can access subjects previously only available in larger schools, and teachers have additional support and a broad library of professional development options, she said.

About the Rural Access Gap investment in Dubbo

The aim of the proof of concept (POC), which will cover 29 schools in the Dubbo, Narrabri, and Northern Border Region, is to accelerate the RAG’s key goals and validate ideas developed within the SDS. This will be extended to 110 schools by the end of June 2021 with the remainder delivered over the subsequent two years.

Building a digital roadmap

A Digital Support Team (DST) has been formed to engage with each school and establish its current digital context, pain points, and digital development priorities. These are assessed and a roadmap is developed for each school to lift their digital capability to an equitable level. These roadmaps are called Digital Implementation Plans (DIP).

The DST then coordinates with the department and each school to roll out the DIPs and test their effectiveness. Key areas addressed by the DIPs are:

  • School operations and administration
  • School communications
  • Teaching and learning
  • Devices and tools
  • Learning spaces
  • Connectivity

Testing additional POC initiatives

  • Digitisation of forms: More than 80 manual processes and forms that affect parents and caregivers are currently being used in schools. The POC will help streamline the number needed and to digitise them to reduce the administrative workload.
  • Digital Learning Resource Hub: A prototype DLRH has been developed to help teachers get easier access to digital learning resources used in lesson planning and delivery.
  • Mobile Parent App: A mobile app is in development that integrates with the Schools Website Service (SWS) to help improve and streamline the two-way communication between schools and parents.
  • Digital Maturity Planner: A digital planner is being developed to assist schools to assess their current level of digital maturity, access department resources to help lift their digital capabilities, and build a digital rollout plan.

Analysis and validation

The POC will analyse, test, validate, and refine the tools and processes required to uplift initially the RAG schools and subsequently the entire school community across these key outcomes:

  • Improved student performance.
  • Productivity benefits for teachers and administration staff.
  • Time-saving for parents and caregivers.
  • Improved access to quality teaching.
  • Increased resilience.
  • Reduced device ratio.
  • Efficient use of services.
  • Improved digital skills in students.
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