Friday 18 August 2017

Quarter of Catholics in capital at private schools

Secondary school classrooms could soon be empty unless the €60m is raised
Secondary school classrooms could soon be empty unless the €60m is raised

John Walshe Education Editor

ONE in four pupils attending Catholic schools in Dublin are fee-paying students.

The figure is significantly higher for boys -- 30pc -- compared to 20pc for girls, new figures reveal.

Fees in the schools range from €2,900 to €5,650 a year for day students and higher again for boarders. Last year, there were 6,310 girls and 4,990 boys in Catholic fee-paying schools in Dublin.

The figures for the Catholic fee-paying sector are most likely an underestimate. They don't include Catholics attending Protestant schools, nor do they include those attending "grind" schools, such as the Institute of Education or Ashfield College.

David Tuohy, an independent consultant on education, says the drift towards fee-paying schools creates a tension within the Catholic education sector.

"The marketing of many Catholic schools, especially fee-paying schools in the Irish context, sits uncomfortably with the Church's stated pursuit of the common good," he writes in current issue of 'Studies, the Irish Quarterly Review'.

He says to some extent, the success of the private schools has raised question marks over their identity and purpose.

"In some instances, it seems that public policy is more in tune with Catholic social teaching than is the practice in many of the schools," writes Dr Tuohy.

He suggests there is a growing division between the concept of "desirable" schools and other schools.

In other parts of the country, the debate often focuses on differences in the intake of schools within the free scheme, and the strategies some schools use to avoid enrolling "difficult" pupils.

He says there are many reasons why parents might forgo a free "public" education. The improved economy allows for more private spending on education and smaller families mean there is more money available per child.

Awareness

There is a greater social awareness of education "credentials" as a factor in future economic success. There is also an assumption that price equals quality in schools.

Dr Tuohy says the greatest threat to the Catholic ethos in schools may well be the qualified commitment or apathy of many Catholics.

"God and Church become the context for rites of passage (such as Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, weddings and funerals). However, they are not to the forefront in other aspects of daily life. In this context, it is extremely difficulty to sustain a perspective on the Church aspect of the Catholic school," he adds.

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