Schools seeking to reverse cuts targeting private education

Seven private schools in dicussions with Department of Education

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan told ‘The Irish Times’ private schools funding “will feature in budgetary discussions”.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan told ‘The Irish Times’ private schools funding “will feature in budgetary discussions”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Seven fee-paying schools are in discussions with the Department of Education about abandoning “private” status amid renewed claims the Government’s drive for greater equity in secondary education is ending up costing the State more money.

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents 400 voluntary secondary schools, including the State’s 50 fee-paying ones, has called for the reversal of cuts in recent budgets targeting private educators.

General secretary Ferdia Kelly said: “The notion that this was done to shift money to Deis schools and others is nonsense; instead it is costing the State because schools are being forced to move into the free education system.”

In a pre-budget submission, the body says the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-paying secondary schools should be reduced from 23:1 to 21:1, which would still be above the 19:1 ratio in free education.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan told The Irish Times private schools funding “will feature in budgetary discussions . . . but I am aware there have been significant cutbacks in recent years. I hope my budget wouldn’t be quite as squeezed as it has been.”

After the ratio was first adjusted under the previous government, more than a dozen of the State’s then 55 fee-paying schools contacted the department about the possibility of joining the free scheme.

Abandoned fees

Asked if there was a risk of the exchequer ending up with a bigger bill, Ms O’Sullivan said: “I wouldn’t see it as a risk. If they choose to go in [to free education] for good reasons, then that is a positive thing because it does mean parents don’t have to pay fees.”

However, she said: “I am very conscious they have different levels of wealth. I would have a particular concern for the ones that are of minority denomination in a broadly dispersed population.”

Other budget recommendations made by the

JMB include greater resources for middle- management to ease the workload on principals, and more investment in technology and junior cycle teacher-training.