Enrolment in private primary schools is on the rise as affluent parents choose to pay for smaller class sizes, a broader curriculum and “wrap-around” childcare.
The number of private primary schools has climbed from 29 to 38 over the past decade or so – a 30 per cent increase – with fees ranging from between €3,000 and €11,000 per year.
Unlike fee-charging secondary schools, the private primaries do not receive State funding and the schools are not subject to Department of Education inspections or rules.
The only regulation is by Tusla, which carries out occasional assessments of educational provision of “independent” schools, which are attended by just over 6,200 children.
It said these assessment reports and recommendations are issued to the schools but are not published by Tusla, unlike inspection reports for the State-funded primary sector.
Private primaries say they have the freedom to teach outside the curriculum and typically benefit from lower pupil -teacher ratios.
Many private primaries are now offering childcare from 8am to 6pm to assist working parents.
Hedley Park Montessori School on Dublin's Merrion Square, for example, charges €11,340 for a full day of school and after-school, which includes access to extra-curricular activities such as ballet and Mandarin Chinese.
Some boast of their access to extensive school grounds compared to regular schools, such as Headfort School near Kells, Co Meath. It is based on 60 acres, where children can stable their ponies and are encouraged to play outdoors and climb trees, under supervision.
"The biggest advantage is the fact that they have quite a lot of freedom," said headmaster Kevin Allwright. "We can develop themes much more easily. We don't have to stick to the set curriculum; we do of course cover it, but we also do more."
Class sizes in the private primary sector are typically much smaller than in public national schools where there is an average of 25 pupils for each teacher.
At John Scottus Primary School in Rathmichael, Co Dublin, the school's head teacher, Elizabeth Dempsey, said the school is capping class sizes at 15 pupils per teacher.
Other private primaries said their position outside the formal primary education system allows them to emphasise different teaching approaches.
The Kildare Steiner School says it places a strong emphasis on music and arts and crafts, while several private primaries take a Montessori approach to teaching and learning.
Private primary schools: what they charge
Headfort School, Co Meath €17,925* (boarding*), €6,252-€7,729 (day pupils)
Nord Anglia International School Dublin, Co Dublin €11,130-€13,930
Hedley Park Montessori School, Dublin 2 €11,340
International School of Dublin, Dublin 8 €9,850
Alexandra College Junior School, Milltown, Co Dublin €7,133-€7,740
St Gerard's Junior School, Bray, Co Wicklow €7,220-€7,440
Rathdown School, Glenageary, Co Dublin €4,995-€6,995
The Children's House Primary School €4,750-€6,420
St Mary's College Junior School, Rathmines €6,175
Mount Anville Primary School, Stillorgan, Co Dublin €4,150-€6,100
Loreto College Junior School, St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2 €5,750
Catholic University Junior School, Dublin 2 €5,700
St Kilian's German School, Clonskeagh, Co Dublin €5,615
The Teresian School, Dublin 4 €5,250
Monkstown Park Junior School, Co Dublin €4,950
Lycée Français d'Irlande, Clonskeagh, Co Dublin €4,620
John Scottus Primary School, Rathmichael, Co Dublin €4,500
St Nicholas' Montessori, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin €4,500
Wicklow Montessori Primary School, Ballyguile Beg, Wicklow €4,450
Weston Primary Montessori School, Leixlip, Co Kildare €4,300
Scoil Mhuire Junior School, Cork €3,700
Druimnigh Montessori School, Dublin 5 €3,685
The Georgian Montessori Primary School, Dublin 1 €3,190
Balreask School, Navan, Co Meath €2,700-€3,000