Second Protestant school stops fees
A second Protestant fee-paying school has gone public and entered the state's free education system.
Kilkenny College, one of the country's oldest Church of Ireland schools, is to stop charging tuition fees from September.
Principal Ian Coombes said the historic switchover had saved the struggling school from laying off any of its teachers.
"Our staff are retained to continue developing the broad curricular and extra-curricular range while access for pupils will be greatly enhanced by the reduction in charges," Mr Coombes said.
Kilkenny College, established 475 years ago, was one of 20 Protestant fee-paying schools in Ireland.
It now joins Wilson's Hospital School in Westmeath, which became the first Protestant fee-paying school to stop charging in 2011.
Fees at Kilkenny had been maintained at 2008 levels, but the school said there had been a withdrawal of support, building grants and reduced allocation of teachers since the recession hit.
Pupils will receive free tuition now that the school is to enter the state's free voluntary secondary education scheme but boarders will still be charged.
A spokesman for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the department had received a number of inquiries from both Protestant and Catholic fee-paying schools about switching to the free scheme.
"The minister and the Government are committed to supporting the provision of education by schools with a Protestant ethos in order to meet the needs of their communities," the spokesman said. "In that context, the minister welcomes this decision by Kilkenny which demonstrates it sees the future of the college is best secured through participation in the free scheme."