Taxpayers fund private schools to tune of €100m


PRIVATE FEE-PAYING schools received over €100 million in support from the taxpayer last year.

New figures show that one school – St Andrews in Booterstown, Dublin – received over €5 million in State supports, including over €4.5 million for teacher salaries and €460,000 for building works.

Blackrock College, Dublin, received over €4.2 million in teacher salaries and got an additional €114,000 for building works.

Another well-known Dublin school, Wesley College, also received substantial support for capital works – €359,000 – plus over €3.7 million for teacher salaries.

Alexandra College in Dublin received over €2.8 million for teacher salaries.

Earlier this year, the school was forced to defend its controversial decision to remove a Junior Cert pupil over non-payment of fees. The expulsion of the pupil was criticised by the National Parents’ Council.

In all, the Department of Education figures show the 51 fee-paying schools shared over €100 million in support for teacher salaries in 2008/09.

An additional €2.1 million in support was given for capital or building works in 17 fee-paying schools last year.

The new figures are certain to intensify the debate about support for the fee-paying sector.

Last night an Irish National Teachers’ Organisation spokesperson expressed concern at levels of capital funding provided for private schools. The union said, given the significant number of children and teachers working in prefabs and rundown primary schools, it was hard to believe that millions were being invested in fee-paying private schools.

The new figures show the State also supported the cost of teacher supervision in fee-paying private schools including Belvedere College, Dublin (€61,000) and Blackrock College (60,700) .

Other private fee-paying schools receiving substantial salary support include The High School, Dublin (€3.3 million), Kilkenny College (€3.7 million), Belvedere College, Dublin, (€3.9 million) and Wesley College, Dublin (€3.7 million).

With teacher salaries paid by the State, many fee-paying schools enjoy much better facilities than their counterparts in the “free” second-level sector.

St Gerard’s School in Bray, Co Wicklow, which has one of the highest fee levels in the State, received €1.8 million in State support.

Other high-profile schools to receive substantial supports include Clongowes Wood College (€1.9 million), Newbridge College (€3.3 million) Glenstal Abbey (€933,000), Cistercian College, Roscrea, Tipperary (€1.4 million) and CUS, Dublin (€1.6 million).

Most fee-paying schools charge fees of over €5,000 per year, with boarding schools charging up to €16,000 per year.

In the past year, the Government has begun to differentiate between supports for State schools and those for private education.

Last year’s budget increased class size for all second-level schools, but the cut was deeper for the fee-paying sector.

State-run schools are entitled to one teacher for every 19 pupils; in fee-paying schools, however, the pupil/teacher ratio was increased to 1:20.

The Department of Finance backed a 50 per cent cut in State support for fee-paying schools in its submission to the McCarthy group earlier this year.

It says savings of €47 million could be achieved by significantly increasing the staffing schedule for fee-paying schools to the level where one teacher was only provided for every 38 students.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland says State funding should be withdrawn from those fee-paying schools who operate restrictive admission policies.