Wednesday 13 December 2017

No fees, full marks: secrets of school success revealed

Non fee-paying schools can make the grade just as successfully as their private counterparts when it comes to sending pupils to college. Katherine Donnelly reports on two second-level schools with 100pc records

Principal Sean
Mulvihill in a
classroom at
St Benildus
Principal Sean Mulvihill in a classroom at St Benildus College yesterday

IF college places were counted as worms, it could explain why the early birds at one school have snapped up so many this year.

When many second-level students are still in dragging themselves from bed, the boys of St Benildus College, Kilmacud, are already sitting at their desks.

The south Dublin school is in the top ranks of those sending pupils on to third-level. It recorded a 100pc success rate in the 2011 tables that show how many students from each school went to college.

But, unlike many schools in south Dublin, with a similar track record, it is not fee-paying and doesn't have the extra cash to provide additional teaching and learning resources.

Instead of typical private school annual fees of about €5,000, parents are asked for a voluntary contribution of €350.

St Benildus finds its wealth in other sources, including an early-rising principal, Sean Mulvihill, who opens up the school at 6.45am.

"We stress that it is about about work, work, work" said Mr Mulvihill, a brother of former GAA director general Liam Mulvihill. He has been at the helm at St Benildus for 16 years.

"There is a lot of hard work by everybody. The feeder primary schools are excellent, the boys are good, the staff work hard and we have unbelievably supportive parents", he said.

The 740-pupil school typically receives about 290 applications each year for 140 places. It has already filled its quota for the 2013-2014 year.

The early opening allows pupils go into their classrooms from 7am, well ahead of the official school start of 8.20am.

"We get up to 50 students in at 7am and they study away in their own room, rather than being locked out until 10 minutes before class starts", said Mr Mulvihill.

All pupils can also avail of two hours supervised after-school study, five days a week, at a cost of €2 per day.

Leaving Certificate students can also go in for three hours supervised study on Saturday mornings, at no charge, from 10am to 1pm. This attracts up to 45pc of exam candidates.

"They benefit on the double, because it means they don't go out on Friday night", said Mr Mulvihill

Learning is also encouraged by the school's no-nonsense approach to discipline.

"Every student has a right to an education and if you are disrupting other children's education, you will be removed", said the principal.

Irish Independent

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