The Rural Access Gap program is addressing the digital divide between rural and metropolitan NSW public schools.
The Rural Access Gap (RAG) program is the first stage of the Schools Digital Strategy that will ensure rural schools are digitally transformed to match their metropolitan counterparts. Supported by the Digital Restart Fund’s $365.8 million investment, the program is enhancing the digital capacity of more than 1,000 schools spread across 800,000 square kilometers by enabling digital classrooms, leading digital improvements, making daily tasks easier and improving access to digital tools.
The RAG provides the foundations for schools to build lifelong learners, ensures all students get quality education no matter where they live and prepares schools and students for the future of flexible, uninterrupted high-quality teaching and learning.
The program has achieved a 1:4 device-to-student ratio at 999 schools – benefiting 217,705 students – and has provided 12,955 teachers with access to a personal device. To 30 June, 978 schools have access to connectivity and speed of 5 megabits per second (Mbps) per student. Learning spaces across 567 schools were equipped with new or upgraded Main Learning Displays.
All schools eligible for these upgrades were invited to apply for the Schools Digital Infrastructure Fund to invest in the areas that are most critical for improving their learning spaces. Through that fund, 973 schools were supported by a $13,493,067 allocation. To 30 June, 702 schools have engaged with the program’s Digital Support Team to build their digital maturity, and 458 Digital Classroom Officers have been identified.
The program has prioritised the unique needs of schools by offering a tailored and flexible approach and working closely with schools to develop a one-year implementation support plan. The team has built key relationships in communities across the state to truly ensure impact can be felt at the ground level.
The program will continue to roll out and engage with additional schools until mid-2023, supported by further funding allocated by the Digital Restart Fund. While the immediate focus is on supporting rural NSW schools, several projects within the Rural Access Gap program have a broader scope and will benefit all NSW public schools, including the NSW Parent App, implementation of Google Delegated Admin and the Universal Resources Hub. The Digital Maturity Planner and Digital Classroom Officer projects also have potential to be scaled across all NSW public schools to support evolving digital requirements and support other school staff to build capacity and confidence to embed technology into their teaching and learning.
The Rural Access Gap program has delivered on four key areas:
1. Leading improvements
by working with schools to understand and develop their digital maturity and investing in skills development.
2. Enabling digital classrooms
through upgraded learning spaces, increased access to teacher and student devices, connectivity upgrades and a move to online file storage.
3. Making daily tasks easier
by streamlining school management and administration processes and improving the way schools communicate with parents and carers.
4. Accessing digital tools
to support teachers and students in growing digital capabilities.