Transparent funding of second level schools needed, say trustees
Call follows report showing reliance on parental contributions
Voluntary schools, the vast majority of which are denominational in character, face increasing challenges due to the diminished role of religious personnel. Photograph: Peter Thursfield/The Irish Times
Trustees of religious secondary schools have called for fair and transparent funding of second level schools.
They were responding to the publication by the ESRI of a report which found voluntary secondary schools are far more dependent on parental contributions than other types of school.
The trustees said trusts, parents and the Government should work together to find a solution to the problems identified in the report.
Voluntary schools, the vast majority of which are denominational in character, face increasing challenges due to the diminished role of religious personnel.
“Many post-primary schools are facing severe funding difficulties,” said Sr Elizabeth Manning, director of Educena, the foundation which owns the former Mercy and Presentation secondary schools.
“The ESRI report shows that the funding problems of faith-based schools arise largely from the fact that the free services they received from religious have not been replaced.”
Sr Manning said the funding gap between faith-based and State schools, together with a projected increase in secondary school enrolment, underlined the need for a “new social consensus” on secondary education and how it is funded.
“School trusts will welcome this report and the new and comprehensive research on which it is based,” said Anne Kelleher, chief executive of Ceist, the largest trustee body in the country. “The report offers a timely platform for debate at a number of levels, including between the trusts themselves, to ensure that a valuable component of heritage and expertise in education is not to be lost.”
The Church of Ireland also welcomed the study because “it quantifies, for the first time, the inequity in funding in regards to trusteeship at second-level”, said Ken Fennelly from the church’s Board of Education of the General Synod. He added Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn should discuss the matter with trustees and patrons.
Meanwhile, teachers’ union Asti expressed concern at the vulnerability of voluntary schools that rely on parental contributions. “This potential inequality needs to be addressed to avoid placing certain schools at a disadvantage and to safeguard equality in education,” the union’s general secretary Pat King said.