Wednesday 7 December 2016

It's easy to see why fee-paying schools are Labour bugbear

John Walshe

Published 02/01/2016 | 02:30

Fee-paying schools have always been a bugbear for Labour and it's easy to see why. Apart from being one of the most visible signs of an unequal society, they get about €95m a year from the taxpayers on top of what they receive from charging fees.
Fee-paying schools have always been a bugbear for Labour and it's easy to see why. Apart from being one of the most visible signs of an unequal society, they get about €95m a year from the taxpayers on top of what they receive from charging fees.

Fee-paying schools have always been a bugbear for Labour and it's easy to see why. Apart from being one of the most visible signs of an unequal society, they get about €95m a year from the taxpayers on top of what they receive from charging fees.

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Quite how much discretionary money they have was detailed in a study published in 2013 by the Department of Education and Skills. It showed that they had about €80m extra once you discount for bad debts, capital loan repayments, reduced fees for families, grants forgone by not being in the free education scheme etc. That worked out at an average of €1.5m per school, ranging from €4m for the big schools to €300,000 for the smallest.

You can do a lot with that kind of money to advantage the already advantaged through extra teachers, smaller classes, more specialised options and greater facilities, including at least three golf courses. One is at the 150-acre St Columba's College which nestles on the foothills of the Dublin mountains. The school's Victorian and Georgian buildings are straight out of a Harry Potter set. It has a warden rather than a principal and if you have to enquire closely about the fees, you probably can't afford them anyway.

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