€90m saved in pupil/teacher ratios

The salaries of all teachers in fee-paying schools were paid on the same basis as other second-level schools — one for every 18 pupils until September 2009.

Then education minister Batt O’Keeffe, increased it to a 20:1 ratio for fee-paying schools when it only rose to 19:1 for other schools, with disadvantaged schools allowed an 18.25:1 pupil-teacher ratio. Mr Quinn further increased that to a 21:1 pupil-teacher ratio for schools which charge fees in September 2012 and to 23:1 for the current school year, which should cut the contribution he makes to teacher salaries to over €90m a year.

Kilkenny College, one of the biggest colleges in the sector, decided to stop charging fees from this September. Its State support dropped 15% from almost €3.5m to €2.9m between the school year beginning in September 2008 and the last academic year.

The biggest drop in public funding has been a one-third fall in taxpayer money for Drogheda Grammar School, one of 10 schools to have lost around one-fifth or more since 2008. But six others, including Bandon Grammar School in Co Cork and Scoil Mhuire in Cork city, are receiving more department support than five years ago, suggesting rising student numbers counteracting less-favourable publicly-funded staffing levels.

A Department of Education review of fee-charging schools published in March showed annual fees range from €2,500 to €10,000 per student. Each has an average of almost €3,200 more available to them for each student than other second-level schools, or €1.5m each for extra teachers, capital works or extra-curricular activities. But the total €81m available hides a range of discretionary incomes, from €112,000 to €4.7m.

The argument has been made on behalf of Protestant fee-charging secondary schools that they depend on State support to continue offering children of minority faiths the choice of a school of their ethos. But the department’s analysis found the proportions of Protestant fee-paying schools that would still be very well funded privately if pupil-teacher ratios were substantially increased is the same as across the entire fee-charging sector.


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