The Government has allocated €10m to schools to be spent on measures to address the digital divide being experienced by students.

The purchase of laptops for Leaving Certificate students who need them will be a priority.

Around €7m has been allocated to second-level schools and €3m to primary schools. 

The funding will be used to purchase devices that will be owned by schools and loaned to students.

All schools, with the exception of fee-charging schools, will receive a proportion of the funding based on enrolment numbers and disadvantaged schools will receive 10% more.

The funding, which has been redirected from a schools' IT strategy announced earlier in the year, is worth between €17,000-€19,000 for a typical large second-level school.

The Department of Education believes that it will enable schools to support an estimated 10,000 students who are at a disadvantage when it comes to access to technology.

Schools will have autonomy in deciding how best to spend the money. 

However, the department said it will organise the bulk purchase of laptops if schools believe that this is the best approach. 

Any bulk purchase of laptops in the name of the Department of Education would reduce the cost to schools of individual laptops.

The department said that any unspent money should be retained to spend on IT in the school.

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The Minister for Education Joe McHugh also said that his department is also working with the Department of Communication to ensure that there will be zero charge for the use of data if schools and their students are accessing educational sites.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One Minister McHugh said he expects an announcement on this removal of tariff charge in the coming days.

In relation to the Leaving Cert examinations, Minister McHugh said he hopes to be in a position to confirm the proposed 29 July start date for exams in the coming days.

He said further decisions will be made after the possible easing of restrictions in early May.

He acknowledged that there are many unanswered questions about what will happen after 29 July.

The principal of one Dublin secondary school has said however that the funding is not nearly enough.

Twenty-six students are due to sit their Leaving Certificate exams at Mercy Secondary School this year and Principal Michelle O'Kelly says the funding the school will receive amounts to just over €100 per Leaving Cert student.

She says a survey of students found that they all required laptops. In many cases this is because home computers are being used by parents or other siblings.

One Leaving Certificate student at the school, Carmel O’Brien, received a laptop sourced by the school yesterday, paid for by a local business. The Glass Centre in Dublin’s Inchicore contacted the school to offer assistance.

With five siblings at home Carmel says she was relying on her mobile phone for Zoom classes and to receive and download material from her teachers.

She says studying for the Leaving Cert is hard in a busy home, but she is managing the best she can. She is delighted with her new laptop.

Yesterday evening she used her new device to fill out an application form for a foundation course in primary school teaching at Maynooth University.

The Department of Education has signalled that it may be able to provide additional supports to schools with particular difficulties.