Nine new primary schools in Northern Ireland were today recognized with the Digital School of Distinction award.

Supported by HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft, the Digital Schools of Distinction Award has been developed to help schools to integrate technology into the classroom.

The initiative aims to recognise best in class practices and build on the progress already made by schools by providing a pathway and resources for those schools 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 will provide support to the programme, including 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  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.

Already more than one in eight primary schools, some 110 schools, have signed up to become ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’, since the launch of the programme in November 2015. These schools are at various stages of the validation process and are progressing well.

For those schools that haven’t yet signed up, there are just 15 weeks of school term left to get involved this academic year. Remaining primary schools are now urged to sign up for the programme, to avail of the comprehensive package of support and advice available.

The Minister for Education John O’Dowd congratulated the schools who have become Digital Schools of Distinction and called on all primary schools to register their interest in the programme:

“Being recognised as a Digital School of Distinction is a fantastic achievement and an important milestone for all the schools that have done it. We live in an increasingly technology literate world and it’s important that our schools reflect the world our children live in,” he said.
“I’d like to encourage any school that hasn’t yet gotten involved to sign up straight away.”

Gary Tierney, Managing Director of HP Northern Ireland said: “At HP we believe that technology has the power to make education a more unique experience for students in a way that is more flexible, collaborative and dynamic. We’re exceptionally happy to support the Digital Schools of Distinction programme as it represents a best-in-class approach to the application of technology in the classroom.”
Martin Murphy, Managing Director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Northern Ireland added: “Digital technology is a way of life for everybody but when you look at the education system, modernising the curriculum to reflect that is a pretty big job. The Digital Schools of Distinction award is a flagship programme that helps do just that.”

Tom Jackson, Education Manager, Microsoft Northern Ireland said: “Microsoft is delighted to support the Digital Schools of Distinction project. With 110 schools signed up so far, it’s gaining fantastic traction in Northern Ireland and we congratulate the nine primary schools receiving awards today. No matter what career a young person chooses to pursue, technology will play a role in their daily lives, so it makes sense to ensure that our schools are equipping students with the skills they will need for the future.”

New digital schools 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 specialists.

The programme has already been successfully rolled out in the Republic of Ireland with over half of primary schools – 1,700 – signed up to become ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’.  260 schools have been accredited in the first two years of the programme.

The list of awarded Digital Schools of Distinction in Northern Ireland is as follows: Millennium Integrated Primary School, Saintfield, Co. Down; St Oliver Plunkett Primary School, Glen Road, Belfast; St Malachy’s Primary School, Co. Armagh; Ballyclare Primary School, Newtownabbey; St Colman’s Primary School, Banbridge; Millquarter Primary School, Toomebridge; Knockloughrim Primary School Magherafelt;  Killean Primary School, Newry; Cumran Primary School, Clough and St. Joseph’s Primary School, Carryduff.
For further information and to register online, visit or follow @schools_digital on Twitter for regular updates.
Note to Editors
The five criteria under which schools are evaluated in order to become Digital Schools of Distinction are as follows:
1.    Leadership and vision: Digital Schools of Distinction will have a whole-school ICT policy that outlines a vision and strategy and conveys a positive attitude towards the use of ICT.
2.    ICT integration across the curriculum: Schools will show ICT integration across the curriculum in learning and teaching. Staff will demonstrate a clear understanding how ICT can be used in the curriculum to improve student learning.
3.    School ICT culture: Schools will demonstrate an awareness that ICT has an impact on the quality of learning and teaching, pupils’ attitudes and behaviour and the wider school community.
4.    Continuing Professional Development: Schools will demonstrate a commitment to on-going professional development in relation to ICT, with a mechanism in place to inform teachers of courses in relation to professional development, as well as school-wide support and encouragement.
5.    Resources and infrastructure: Schools will have in place appropriate ICT resources, including hardware, software and infrastructure, to support particular learning environments. Schools will also have deployed appropriate ICT resources that reflect the plan for future improvement and development of ICT as outlined in the whole-school policy.