Quinn to review funds for private schools

 

MINISTER FOR Education Ruairí Quinn has said he will review support given by the State for building projects in private fee-paying schools to ensure scarce resources go to those most in need.

Mr Quinn promised to explore the decision made by the last government on capital spending projects for private schools with a view to prioritising the best use of “scarce money”.

“We’ll have to look at scarcity of resources, the ability of schools to raise money and the scale of disadvantage,” he said.

Earlier this month, he told the Dáil that private schools had received more than €530 million in support from the taxpayer over the past five years.

Most of this went to pay teachers’ salaries, but it also included €38 million for current funding, €12 million for building projects, €2.6 million for computer supports and €1.2 million for clerical support over the period. The €38 million in current funding is the total under a support scheme for Protestant schools.

In April, the Minister rejected calls from the Teachers’ Union of Ireland for the abolition of State support for private schools.

Speaking yesterday on RTÉ Radio, he said there were a variety of historical reasons why the 55 private schools had chosen to stay private when most other schools abolished fees. Private schools are not in receipt of a capitation grant, he pointed out. Every item in his budget would come under review, he said, because the country was in a state of receivership.

Mr Quinn also pointed out that all 374 schools which benefitted from a small works support scheme he announced last month were in the non fee-paying sector.

According to the Department of Education, while €12.3 million had been spent on building projects at fee-paying schools since 2006, more than €846 million had been invested in capital projects at non-fee paying schools during the same period.

Fee-paying schools received 1.46 per cent of the capital grants awarded while accommodating 7.5 per cent of pupils.

The total number of students in fee-paying, second-level schools this year (26,277) has dipped only marginally – despite fees of more than €5,000 per pupil per year.

The 2009 McCarthy report on public service reform estimated the 50-plus fee-paying schools generated about €100 million in annual fee income from parents. This was in addition to the €100 million per year from the State for teacher salaries.