Fee-paying schools to hike charges in face of further state funding cuts
* Pupil numbers in decline
* More cutbacks 'may cost jobs'
MANY fee-paying schools are increasing their charges to meet rising costs in the face of government cuts and declining pupil numbers.
An analysis shows that despite an overall fall-off in enrolments since 2008/09, the year of the economic crash, many have been forced to put up their charges.
The schools are now staging a fightback against any further cuts to the funding they receive from the State.
The 55 schools – 54 of which are at second-level – have been targeted for more severe cuts than those in the free education sector.
Arising from last year's Budget, from this month the Government is paying for a teacher for every 23 pupils in a fee-paying school, compared with one for every 19 pupils elsewhere.
As Education Minister Ruairi Quinn seeks up to €100m in cuts for next year, fee-paying schools are expected to be hit again in the October budget.
But the schools warn that any further reduction in state funding in the forthcoming Budget will put 1,500 jobs at risk and end up costing the Exchequer more.
They claim that the State would have to pay out an additional €133m a year if ongoing cuts force the schools into free education.
However, the Department of Education, said the basis for that figure is not explained. According to an audit carried out by the department last year there would be an annual cost of €23.55m if all 55 fee-paying schools joined the Free Education scheme.
The schools, working under the umbrella of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents school managers in the voluntary secondary sector, will be lobbying politicians in advance of the Budget. They have set up a website called fairfunding.ie to highlight the impact of cuts.
Ken Whyte, principal of Presentation Brothers College Cork said many parents felt let down by Fine Gael on the issue.
He said his school had lost seven state-paid teachers in the last two years because of the cuts. He added parents had to make up the costs and many schools had to increase fees.
Mr Whyte said parents made a choice about fee-paying education and many sacrificed in other ways, such as holidays.
Mr Tom Geraghty, principal of St Gerard's College, Bray, Co Wicklow, said parents of children in fee-charging schools were paying everything, apart from the cost of teachers.
"Lighting, heating, insurance, building costs – all of these are met by parents.
"Cutting the funding means that there will be significantly less money available to meet other costs, and this will mean job losses".
Parent Barbara Broderick said they were not asking for "vast extra resources" for their children.
She said some parents chose extras for their children, such as grinds, Irish college or music lessons, and those who made a choice of a fee-paying school should not be punished for that.
"We happily contribute to the running of our schools. All we ask is that the State provide teachers in the same way it does for every other child".
She said it was important that every child be treated fairly and equally and to say that some children were worth fewer teachers than others would be to depart fundamentally from that principle, which is absolutely unacceptable.