THERE HAVE BEEN calls made this morning for the government to end State subvention for fee-paying schools.
They come after Department of Education analysis found Ireland’s 55 so-called private schools have an additional €81.3 million available to them to spend on extra teachers, facilities and extracurricular activities.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) welcomed the report with General Secretary John MacGabhann telling Morning Ireland it was long-promised.
“It confirms what the the TUI has been consistently saying over the past four to five years. Which is that there is an unconscionable amount of money, taxpayers’ money provided to schools that are independently well-off.”
The research showed that the discretionary income works out at an average of €1.48 million for each school. However, there were discrepancies depending on number of students enrolled and amount charged (a range of €2,550 to €10,065).
“These are fine schools, there is no question about that,” continued MacGabhann. “We do not for a second contest the right of parents to choose to send their children to fee-paying schools. Our contention is that it is no function of the State to supplement that choice or underwrite that choice.”
He noted that there are currently State schools “in dire straits and in need of teachers”.
The report found that if the pupil-teacher ratio was raised to 28:1 in fee-paying schools and the State ceased its subvention, the schools would lose out on about €20 million of its discretionary income, leaving them with a total of €61 million.
“In the context of the Leaving Certificate, which is a high-stakes exam faced by all students from all sorts of backgrounds, it is the function of the State to provide the best standard education that is high-quality for all,” added the TUI spokesperson.
He said the fact that fee-paying schools can provide smaller classes, additional subjects and more teachers is “distorting” to the system, favouring those students in private schools over those already disadvantaged.
MacGabhann said it is now “incumbent on the Minister to act in line with the irrefutable logic of the report” and “reduce and eventually eliminate the subvention to these schools”.
The TUI wants the State to continue to provide teachers as public servants to these schools but for them to repay the State the cost of the teacher allocation. Such a system would ensure quality and qualification checks.
Labour TD Eamonn Maloney echoed the sentiment.
In a statement, the Dublin South West deputy noted that private schools operate in other countries without a State subsidy.
“Working-class children can never avail of the many advantages of attending a private school, not because they lack brains but because their families are not sufficiently well off. In this Republic, citizens have propped up this discrimination against the children of the less well off for years.”