Kilkenny College, one of the oldest private schools in the State, is to enter the “free” education system. The school will no longer charge day pupils from September .
The move comes after a series of Government cuts in support to the fee-paying sector. Five of the 54 other fee-paying schools in the State are also in discussions with the Department of Education about possible entry to the State supported “free” education sector.
Last December, the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-paying schools rose to 23:1. This was a result of the latest in a series of Government cuts to the sector, which receives about €100 million in State support.
In an Irish Times article, the principal of Kilkenny College, Ian Coombes, said the attacks on fee-charging schools ignored the fact that Protestant boarding schools often offered the only viable solution for Church of Ireland families living outside the capital to get an education in a school of their ethos.
Kilkenny College has blamed falling incomes and rising taxes for the move. The second-level school has almost 800 pupils, two-thirds of whom are boarders.
In a statement, the college said although fees had been maintained at 2008 levels, it was becoming increasingly difficult for families to send their children to the only Church of Ireland secondary school in Kilkenny and the southeast.
The school will continue to charge boarders.
Established by James, first Duke of Ormonde in 1666, Kilkenny College is the only private school in the southeast. Its past pupils include Jonathan Swift and the philosopher Bishop George Berkeley.
Last night , a spokesman for Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, said : “The Minister and the Government are committed to supporting the provision of education by schools with a Protestant ethos . . . the Minister welcomes this decision by Kilkenny which demonstrates it sees the future of the college is best secured through participation in the Free Scheme. ’’