• I would agree with Patrick Cassidy's query (Letters, January 11) as to the reason for Education Minister's Ruairi Quinn's request for an audit of fee-paying secondary schools in Ireland.
I also feel that the debate on the issue lacks something in its objectivity and critical analysis. Do fee-paying schools cost the taxpayer money? Or more pertinently, how much money would the State save if it took away the €100m it provides in subvention to fee-paying schools?
And no, €100m is not the answer -- in fact it would more likely cost the State the vast majority of this figure if all fee-paying schools were closed in the morning.
A PriceWaterhouseCooper report, commissioned by a group of fee-paying schools, but based on figures from the Department of Education, has endeavoured to answer these questions. The information it generated makes interesting reading.
For a non-fee-paying secondary school, the cost to the State per schoolchild per annum is about €8,000. This figure drops to €4,517 when you look at the cost to the State for a schoolchild in a fee-paying school. If you accept that the 56 fee-paying schools have about 26,000 pupils spread about the country, the €3,483 less it costs the State to send a child to a fee-paying school as opposed to a non-fee-paying school results in a €90,558,000 saving.
So I'd be interested to hear how this extra cost of €91m would be generated by the State. In addition, how would the State provide places for these children -- the teacher-to-pupil ratio that is the subject of much discussion would rise significantly, unless the State was suddenly able to create 50 new schools.
In any case, such a scenario would inevitably lead to a poorer educational experience for the child and the loss of jobs for teachers. Surely a win-win situation for all in the educational system is to have more fee-paying schools, not fewer; in this way a figure in excess of €91m can be made available to the State to provide discretionary income that can be used to fund important educational initiatives, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
Address with Editor