Irish private schools take in €227m annually


BACKGROUND:Fee-paying schools generate more than €120 million annually in gross fee income, writes PETER McGUIRE

THE 56 fee-paying schools in the State have two main forms of income – revenue received from parents for fees and support from the State for teacher salaries. Some also receive some support for capital but this has been reduced dramatically in recent years as support for private schools has become more politically sensitive.

Private schools stress that they do not receive capitation and other supports given to schools within the “free” State system. Many also provide scholarships, bursaries and other supports for disadvantaged students. This should be borne in mind when looking at the gross fee income figures on this page. In the vast majority of cases, this figure overstates the amount of discretionary income available to those schools.

That said, the figures underline how many schools in the fee-paying sector receive considerable income from fees and from the State.

When fee income and State support is combined, private schools receive over €227 million annually.

This includes over €121 million in gross fee income and €89 million in payment for teacher salaries.

Capital spending on the sector amounted to €14.7 million between 2007 and 2011.

Which are the wealthiest schools, according to the survey?

Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit-run boarding school in Co Kildare, has a fee income of €7.4 million. Blackrock College/ Willow Park School in south county Dublin also has a gross fee income of €7.4 million.

Teacher salaries for Clongowes came to €1.6 million, but the school has only received €9,490 in capital support since 2007 – one of the lowest figures for private schools. This means it has been dependent on voluntary contributions and donations to fund its expansion plans.

Blackrock and Willow Park receive high levels of State support, with €4.5 million paid in teacher salaries. It has received only €276,438 in capital funding since 2007.

Glenstal Abbey, a private boys’ boarding school in Limerick with 196 students, charges €15,400 a year, the highest school fees in the State. Teacher salaries came to €555,124, while capital expenditure since 2007 amounted to just €7,090. The school also topped The Irish Times 2011 School League Tables.

Outside the boarding sector, the highest school fees in the State are those for Sutton Park in Howth in north Dublin, a Protestant school which charges €7,000 a year.

This is followed by Sandford Park in Ranelagh, a non-denominational school where parents pay €6,800 a year.

St Gerard’s in Bray, Co Wicklow, is the most expensive Catholic school in the Republic, with fees of €6,500. Only one private school, Christian Brothers College in Cork, did not release fee information, but other private schools in the area charge an average of €3,350.

Conversely, the lowest fees in the State are charged by Royal College in Cavan, closely followed by Drogheda Grammar, a Quaker school in Co Louth.

Belvedere College, a Jesuit school for boys in the heart of Dublin city, with 997 students, is the second largest private school in the State. The €4,940 fee is significantly lower than Blackrock College, while teacher salaries amount to €3.3million.

St Andrew’s College in Booterstown, the third largest private school in the State, paid out €3 million in teacher salaries.

Rosemont, a secondary school for girls in Blackrock, Co Dublin, under the patronage of Opus Dei, has a policy of very small class sizes and has the lowest private school enrolment in the State, with just 102 students and fees of €3,800.

One private school, St Patrick’s Academy in Co Mayo, does not feature on the list as it is does not receive any support from the State, either in the form of teacher salaries or capital grants.

There are 55 fee-charging schools in the State.

The only funding provided to fee-charging schools by the Department of Education in 2011 is the Assistive Technology grant for students with particular special educational needs. Almost €22,000 has been paid to fee-charging schools in respect of this grant in 2011.

The total figure for capital funding provided to fee-charging schools in 2011 is €2.8 million, which amounts to 0.5 per cent of the entire capital budget for education.