Schools demand cash to put child on a waiting list
PARENTS are handing over thousands of euro in application fees to private schools that do not even guarantee their children a place.
A survey by the Irish Independent found that some fee-paying secondary schools were raking in tens of thousands of euro simply for placing children's names on waiting lists.
The practice is particularly prevalent in Dublin where many private schools have non-refundable fees of €50 to €100.
And with some schools operating waiting lists for entry up to 2024, the application fees can be a significant moneyspinner. If a pupil is accepted, there are annual fees of between €3,000 and €10,000.
Posing as a parent applying for children due to start secondary school in 2012 and 2015, we found more than two-thirds of private schools charged to accept pupil applications.
Belvedere College in Dublin is one of the most heavily oversubscribed for entry next year with 470 applications for 168 first-year places in 2012.
With a non-refundable fee of €55 per child, that means this charge could be bringing in up to €25,000, while there are already 240 applicants for 2015, generating up to €13,000.
However, Belvedere headmaster Gerry Foley told the Irish Independent that many of the applications pre-date the administration charge -- introduced in 2004 -- and around 10pc of pupils were exempt.
But even for parents who pay these fees years in advance there is no guarantee of entry, as Belvedere operates an enrolment policy that favours brothers and sons of past pupils and staff.
Most private schools we surveyed also favour siblings and relatives of past pupils, with some operating on a first-come first-served basis and others interviewing students.
Castleknock College charges €100 for their 100 first-year places -- suggesting revenue of up to €10,000 for next year alone.
St Andrew's College in south Dublin has an application fee of €95 and said they tended to allocate places three years prior to entry for their 160 vacancies.
Asked about applying for entry in 2015 they said it would be worth doing that now and noted they had even taken some applications for students due to start secondary school in 2024.
Alexandra College in Dublin had the highest application fee at €150, but they were the only one that offered a refund if the application was unsuccessful.
However, application charges are by no means universal as some fee-paying schools such as Sligo Grammar School, Kilkenny College, Villiers in Limerick, Mount Anville and CBC Monkstown have none, while others charge €10 to €15.
The National Parents Council (NPC) criticised the practice of non-refundable charges.
"I cannot see how it would be justified. Parents want to get the best education for their children, but it's not fair to impose extra costs just to put a name on a list," said NPC post-primary president Tommy Walshe.
Mr Walshe said he was not aware of any free secondary schools levying applications.
The Department of Education said it had no role in regulating fees and charges in private schools. There are more than 50 fee-paying schools in the country, with around 26,000 pupils.