A STATE-funded 'elite' primary school has been rapped over the knuckles for asking parents for a €2,000 enrolment 'hello money' contribution for their children.
The national school also charges an annual 'fee' of €350 plus €145 a year to cover the cost of employing a number of tutors.
The Department of Education and Science pays teachers' salaries and gives capitation grants to the Killashee multi-denominational school in Naas, Co Kildare, just as it does for other national schools.
But the Killashee school, which caters for 220 pupils, unusually charges fees and has been told to stop doing so by the department, which carried out a Whole School Evaluation report recently.
The school's patron body is Friends of Killashee Ltd, which has a number of directors including football star Niall Quinn, who lives in the area.
A note in the company's financial statement for the year ended July 31, 2007 said that the previous October the department offered to provide €467,000 in grant aid for a proposed extension, but this would result in a significant shortfall which would fall upon the members to pay.
The department's evaluation report, which praises the principal and her 'dedicated teaching team', is very critical of fundraising practices.
"The patron company engages in the practice of sending out admission forms accompanied by a letter requesting €2,000 as a 'voluntary' contribution from parents which they are asked to pay on the enrolment of each child in the school," it says.
"Furthermore, parents are also requested to give an undertaking to pay €350 per child annually to the school. A fee of €145, to cover the cost of employing a number of tutors, is also requested annually from the parents." It says that requests for large voluntary contributions should cease.
"If contributions are sought from parents/families, the level of contribution should be flexible and this flexibility should be clearly articulated in all policies and in practice," says the report.
The report has been reviewed by the school, which says that requests for voluntary contributions will not be sent out in future. However, nobody was available from the school or the patron body to elaborate.
The school says it has also amended its enrolment policy towards students with special needs. Until now, its policy stated clearly that "children with special needs will be accepted when the special resources required are provided by the Department of Education and Science. However, parents may consider a special school which is designed and resourced to specifically cater for the needs of a particular child if their child's needs are not being met satisfactorily."
The department says that this policy as it is currently written could be construed as discriminating against pupils with special needs, adding that the policy should be revised in the light of the requirements of equality legislation.