Questions to the Minister for Education: IT Capacity in Schools in North Wales (9/01/19)


Thank you, Llywydd, and a happy new year.

Minister, as you will be aware, twenty-first century technology, such as superfast broadband, is of increasing importance to our primary schools, with more bilingual digital tools and resources now available online. One major example where IT is of significant importance, of course, is the new e-sgol pilot project. As you will be aware, this has seen the use of video technology to connect classrooms in different schools across Ceredigion and Powys. I'm aware that £279,000 capital funding has been allocated to Ceredigion council to buy specialist equipment to pilot e-sgol in 13 schools. Obviously, this looks to be a good initiative. However, it is a considerable spend that could amount to millions if you are going to roll out the scheme out across Wales. 

Therefore, what assurances can you provide us with here today that the e-sgol project was well costed before the pilot began and is being monitored against spend in terms of performance? And can you clarify whether you will be making the finance available following the review later on this year? If it has been a successful scheme in Ceredigion, will you be rolling it out across north Wales, and, indeed, Aberconwy?


Minister for Education:

I'm glad that the Member is aware of the innovative e-sgol project that is indeed being piloted for the Welsh Government by Ceredigion County Council. It builds on the experience of the Scottish Government in delivering education in the highlands and islands. Sometimes, we are concerned about our rurality; well, delivering education in those circumstances, in a bilingual system, the same as we have, certainly is a challenge. I was delighted to launch the project at the high school in Lampeter, and I saw for myself the innovative delivery of a further maths lesson bilingually to pupils in that school and another school in Ceredigion. Without that project, the pupils in the other school simply would not be able to take further maths A-level, a qualification that is highly desired by some top universities.

The e-sgol project is an important part of our rural schools education plan. The project is not designed to be a whole-Wales project. It is part of the solution to some of the logistical disadvantages of delivering education in a rural area. We will, of course, be evaluating the scheme in terms of value for money, but, more importantly, the impact that it has on the opportunities for students in rural areas, and if the scheme follows the success of the Scottish scheme, which I believe firmly that it will, then we will be looking to roll it out in other rural local authorities, because no matter where a child is educated in Wales, whether it be in an urban setting or a rural setting, they deserve to have the best possible opportunities.