Over 1,000 regional and rural schools across New South Wales will receive new devices in classrooms, faster internet, and access to new laptops as part of the rollout of the state government's $366 million Rural Access Gap investment.
One of the first schools to receive a tech upgrade will be Orana Heights Public School in Dubbo where classrooms will be fitted with smart boards, laptops will be given to all teaching staff, internet access will be five times faster, and students will be provided with additional devices. Staff will also be given access to training on how to use digital tools in the classroom.
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell highlighted the importance of giving students access to the same educational facilities no matter where they live.
"I want every student learning at our schools in regional NSW to enjoy the same opportunities as their metro peers," she said.
"This investment in technology will provide students and teachers learning in the regions with more opportunities than ever before. Students can access subjects previously only available in larger schools, and teachers have additional support and a broad library of professional development options."
Following the rollout in Dubbo, a further 81 schools in Term 2, which starts mid-April, will be upgraded this year, with the remaining schools to be upgraded by mid-2023.
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Last October, the state government inked a AU$328 million deal with Telstra to roll out more than 5,200 km of fibre to more than 2,000 public schools across the state. The government boasted it would increase internet speeds by more than 10-fold.
"This upgrade will bypass existing network constraints meaning all our schools will be on a high-speed connection in the next 18 months, three years ahead of schedule," Mitchell said at the time.
The state government also made the decision to digitise all school forms at public primary schools, starting with giving parents the option to enrol their children online via their local school website. Other forms that will be digitised include parent-teacher interview bookings, student absences, and HSC subject selection.
"We want to cut the number of physical forms down from 85 to a more manageable level," Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said.
"Currently, parents and carers spend more than six million hours a year filling these forms out, and school staff spend 11 million hours processing them.
"The current model is outdated, and this digital solution is a winner for families and staff."
Paper enrolment, however, will remain available, the NSW government said.
Areas that will receive a share of funding include education, cybersecurity, courts, and e-planning.
Apple, Acer, Dell, and HP were all named as suppliers.
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