Private schools in Hanafin's area to get funding
Two of the five second-level fee-paying schools which yesterday received approval to proceed to the planning stage of the school buildings programme are in Minister for Education Mary Hanafin's own constituency, it has emerged.
A total of 124 schools - 73 at primary and at 51 at post-primary level - are included in a Department of Education-approved list of schools authorised to continue immediately to the architectural planning stage of the programme.
This means that subject to approval of a tender for construction, the schools can expect to have building or refurbishment work completed within about two to three years.
Only five of the 124 schools are private second-level fee-paying schools. But of these, two are located in Ms Hanafin's constituency of Dún Laoghaire.
Christian Brothers College (CBC), Monkstown Park, is listed as approved for a new school on its existing site, while the Protestant St Andrew's College in Booterstown is approved for a school extension. The other three fee-paying secondary schools on the list are St Patrick's Cathedral School in Dublin, Drogheda Grammar School in Louth, and Scoil Mhuire, Sydney Place, in Cork.
The news that the five second-level fee-paying schools have been approved for building works comes after The Irish Times revealed that some other private second-level schools had received grants of over €1 million each from the State for building and other projects since 1995.
In total, fee-paying schools received over €16.5 million in State support for building projects between 1995 and 2004. This is in addition to more than €70 million which they receive annually to subsidise teachers' salaries and allowances.
The publication of the list has prompted calls for Ms Hanafin to explain why the taxpayer should fund school building projects at fee-paying schools when many State schools are struggling with inadequate facilities.
However, a department spokeswoman said she was not in a position to confirm the amount of money being allocated to each school on yesterday's list. This was because the schools had yet to proceed to the tendering stage.
But the State generally only meets a maximum of half of the total cost of such works, with the schools expected to raise the remainder themselves.
The spokeswoman said she could not comment on some estimates that €3 million or more of public funds was being allocated to CBC Monkstown for its new school. But she rejected any suggestion that either of the schools were in any way benefiting from their location in Ms Hanafin's constituency.
A further 13 fee-paying schools - thought to include Blackrock College, another fee-paying second-level school in Ms Hanafin's constituency - have also applied for capital grants to upgrade buildings.
However, these are each at different stages of the application process and would not necessarily have appeared on today's list.
Fine Gael's spokeswoman on education, Olwyn Enright, called on Ms Hanafin to explain why the taxpayer should fund school building projects at fee-paying schools.
If a school chooses to restrict access through the imposition of a fee, then the taxpayer should not bear the running costs of that school, she said.
Neither CBC Monkstown nor St Andrew's College had spokespeople available for comment yesterday.