Saturday 18 November 2017

Quinn to review fee-paying schools' support

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Government is to review the €100m a year in financial support given by the taxpayer to fee-paying schools.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn says his intention is to ensure scarce resources will go to those most in need.

His main focus will be the subsidy given to the schools for building work, which amounted to €12m in the past five years.

The biggest source of state support for the 55 schools involved is the payment of teacher salaries, worth €105m in the past school year and €470m since 2007.

The Department of Education also pays about €300,000 a year in salaries for clerical staff and about €1.6m for special needs assistants, bringing total payroll support since 2007 to €480m.

But Mr Quinn has already ruled out a change in those arrangements, partly because salaries would have to be paid anyway if the schools switched to the free education sector.

The schools, which charge fees ranging from about €3,000 to €12,750 for day pupils, received €533m from the State in the past five years.

Detailed figures outlining the full extent of state support were provided in a reply to a parliamentary question from Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan.

The State's handout since 2007 includes €12m for building works, €2.6m for information and communications technology, and €173,000 for devices or aids to assist those with a disability.

MINORITY

While fee-paying schools do not normally receive state funding to help with daily running costs, the figure also includes €38m provided for Protestant schools, which receive special treatment because of their minority status.

Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Peter MacMenamin said that in the current economic climate, it had never been more important that education investment be forensically audited to ensure equality of provision.

"With the exception of the provision given to minority faith schools, the current system is unjust and unconscionable," Mr MacMenamin said.

"(It) makes a mockery of the Department of Education and Skills' mission statement of providing equity and inclusion," he added.

Irish Independent

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