Fee-paying schools and State support

Sir, – An unnamed principal of a fee-paying secondary school is quoted as saying, "We are not private schools. We are part of the State system of voluntary schools'' ("Many fee-paying schools say they are unfairly excluded from State support", News, December 27th).

All of the fee-paying schools quoted in the article are privately owned.

There is no State system of voluntary secondary schools in Ireland. All of the State schools are either community, comprehensive or Education and Training Board-managed and none of them is fee-paying. Voluntary secondary schools are private institutions, some of which charge fees and others don’t. All of them receive subsidies from the State.

The question is very simple. Should those institutions that charge fees continue to be subsidised and if so at what level?


If we are going to reopen this debate, let us be clear about the terms we use. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 9.

Sir, – It was sobering to read about the financial challenges involved in running a fee-paying school in Ireland in 2021, and especially concerning to read that the Department of Education funds only one teacher per 23 students, rather than the 19 in non-fee-paying schools. I was curious to understand more about the financial ramifications of this policy, so I looked up my nearest fee-paying school (King’s Hospital in Dublin 20) to understand whether their fee income does much to soften the blow of the reduced departmental funding.

The school has approximately 440 day students (fees for same being €7,550 per year) and 280 boarders (fees for same being €15,645 per year). This gives €3.322 million in day student fees and €4.38 million in boarder fees as the current upper limit of the school’s potential fee income, for a total of approximately €7.7 million.

When set against the headline issue of departmental funding at one teacher per 23 students versus 19 students, or a difference of seven teaching posts based on a school with 720 students, complaints about State funding seem in poor taste. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

Sir, – Your article "To fee or not fee: Has Covid sparked a private school revival" (Education, December 27th) contains a bewildering contradiction.

One of the principals interviewed for this article is characterised as complaining of a raw deal: “Another principal says the fee-charging sector is getting a raw deal for historical reasons.” However, the quote from them directly printed directly after states: “We’re part of the State system for voluntary secondary schools. For historical reasons, we didn’t opt in to the free scheme. But now, we’re treated as if we’re an embarrassment to the system.”

I don’t understand how these two positions can be reconciled. If one doesn’t opt in to a scheme because of the downsides, one cannot expect to reap the benefits. But private schools are reaping the benefits of public funding.

Your front-page article “Private schools claim grants are ‘discriminatory’” (News, December 27th) states that private schools were publicly funded to the tune of €111 million, despite retaining the privilege of turning away potential pupils for not having parents wealthy enough to pay the thousands they charge per year per child.

Private schools, despite this so-called “raw deal”, still provide markedly better facilities than the vast majority of public schools. They still turn out higher than average exam results. That the private school sector can cry “raw deal” while continuing to cater to an exclusive set wealthy enough to cross their gates and still soak up over €100 million in public funding reveals a rotten sense of entitlement at the heart of these institutions. If this is a “raw deal” then the rest of us outside of “Ross O’Carroll-Kelly Land” haven’t got a hope. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

Sir, – Reading your coverage of State funding for private schools, it strikes me that certain representatives from these schools need a lesson in humility. When your annual income is significantly higher than that of ordinary State-funded schools, it is not an achievement or evidence of some special clairvoyance to decide to invest in technology and e-learning; it is a luxury.

Sounds to me like these principals might need to get back to the classroom; or are economics and civics no longer taught in schools? – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.