private public education

Time to call time on fee-paying schools?

In the school year 2009-2010 the State paid out more than €107 million to fee-paying schools to cover the costs of salaries for teachers, clerical officers and special needs assistants in those schools. In the same year, more than €12 million was given to these schools in capital grants, grants for assistive technologies, and grants for computers and other ICTs. There are 56 fee-paying schools in the State. The State’s 776 free post primary schools* received just short of €46 million in grants for ICTs in 2010; fee-paying schools received €2.5 million. At a rough calculation (and bearing in mind the monies would not have been distributed evenly) this works out at just shy of €60,000 for each free post primary school, and €45,500 per fee-charging school. In total, between January 2007 and May 2011, fee-charging schools have received more than €531 million from the State to pay teachers, admin staff, install or upgrade ICT infrastructure, and build or upgrade school buildings. The 2009 McCarthy report estimated that, between them,these 56 schools raise €119 million annually in fees from parents.The Government will save some €2.7 million through the removal of 227 Special Needs Assistant posts in Irish schools, assuming all those unemployed SNAs are entitled to Jobseeker’s Benefit. Resource teaching posts for Travellers and the Visiting Teachers for Traveller Service were withdrawn in Budget 2011, effective 31 August this year. Language support has seen cutbacks in allocation. Rural co-ordinators for 331 DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools) schools were removed as part of Budget 2011 in order to save €24 million (although this figure does not take into account the cost to the exchequer of Jobseeker’s Benefit for those Rural Co-ordinators who subsequently went onto the Live Register) a cut which the current Government has no plan to reverse. Only two-thirds of the €150 million pledged as part of the Smart Schools=Smart Economy scheme launched in 2009 has been disbursed; the €63 million that was to be given to schools in 2011 was cut in December’s budget to €1.5 million. (The annual budget of €30 million “for support, rolling replacement and enhancement of the service” recommended by the Joint Advisory Group on the scheme seems to have been entirely abandoned.) In the context of such brutal austerity – not just in education, but across the board – and the infliction of the consequences of this austerity on some of the most vulnerable children in the State, the question must be asked: why do we continue to fund these fee-paying schools to such a degree? Continue reading →