Warning from fee-paying schools

John McGowan said Ruairi Quinn should seek to eliminate public funding of private schools.

John McGowan said Ruairi Quinn should seek to eliminate public funding of private schools.


Fee-charging schools in Ireland have warned a withdrawal of State funding could ultimately cost the country more.

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB) said private schools save the state money, after a Government report revealed they have millions more to spend on pupils every year.

General secretary Ferdia Kelly said current funding to Ireland’s 55 fee-charging schools, which covers the cost of teachers’ salaries, would have to be paid regardless of whether a child attends a private or a free school.

“Should the parents of the 25,600 young people currently being educated in fee-charging schools transfer their children to free education schools, the state will not only have to pay the teachers’ salaries, but also the capital costs for buildings, capitation grants for the running of the schools, in addition to extra teachers’ salaries as the pupil-teacher ratio in free education schools, from September 2013, will be four points lower than that in fee-charging schools,” Mr Kelly said.

The JMB, which represents the management of the fee-charging schools, claimed that an independent study from PWC showed the annual cost to the state for a pupil educated in a fee-charging school was €4,552, compared with €8,035 in a public school.

Mr Kelly insisted the fee-charging schools — 32 of which are Catholic, 20 Protestant, two inter-denominational and one Jewish — are very much part of the country’s post-primary system.

The Department of Education report revealed that private school students have seven times more funding available for extra-curricular activities than youngsters in public schools. The report published today says private schools have an average of €1.48 million each to spend on additional teachers, capital improvements and extra-curricular activities.

The Teachers Union of Ireland has called on the Government to “reduce and eventually eliminate” public funding of private schools.

The union’s general secretary John McGowan said: "There is an unconscionable amount of taxpayers’ money being provided to schools that are independently well-off."

He said the report showed 55 private schools have a combined €81 million for discretionary spending. If they increased their pupil/ teacher ratio to 28 to 1, they would still have €61 million discretionary spending but the savings could be put into the State sector, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Fee-paying schools “by virtue of having such very large discretionary income,” can provide smaller classes, wider subject choices and can buy in extra teachers.

“It is now incumbent on the Minister to act in line with the irrefutable logic of this report and to reduce and eventually eliminate the subvention to these schools,” he said.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, which represents teachers in fee-charging schools, non-fee charging schools and state schools, said “the funding of Irish second-level schools is a far more complex issue than is generally understood. For example, all non-state run second-level schools currently experience a funding differential.”

The union added: “Reducing state-funded support for teachers in fee-charging second-level schools will (and has) resulted in some schools coming back into the free-school system… ultimately this costs the state and the taxpayer more.”

The National Parents Association said State schools needed to look at how they were spending their money.

A spokeswoman said the Minister for Education and officials from his department "probably need to sit down with [fee paying and State schools] and look at all the funding".

A Labour TD, meanwhile, described the “bail-out of education privilege” as a national scandal.

“In the past thirteen years private, state aided schools, have received from the taxpayer a subsidy of almost €1billion,” Dublin South West TD Eamonn Maloney said in a statement.

“Parents who wish to avail of private schools are entitled to do so, but the taxpayer should not have to subsidise the privileges that private schools offer."

Additional reporting by PA

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