Dáil Éireann - Volume 677 - 05 March, 2009
Written Answers. - Grant Payments.
Deputy Mary Upton Deputy Mary Upton
Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding given to fee paying private schools in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; his views on the impact of funding and fees being available to the schools; if he has plans to review his Department’s funding for these schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9395/09]
Deputy Batt O’Keeffe Deputy Batt O’Keeffe
Deputy Batt O’Keeffe: The funding information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table. There are currently 56 fee-charging second level schools in the country, of which 21 are Protestant, two inter-denominational, one Jewish and the remaining 32 Catholic. Fee-charging schools, with the exception of the Protestant and Jewish fee-charging schools for which special arrangements apply, do not receive capitation or related supports.
Protestant fee-charging schools receive, and will continue to receive, the Protestant Block grant, which amounts to €6.5 million in the current school year. This payment covers capitation, tuition and boarding grants. The grant is distributed by the Secondary Education Committee among disadvantaged Protestant children. Applications are made by parents to the Central Protestant Churches Authority which, on the basis of a means test, distributes the funds to individual schools on the basis of pupil needs. A similar arrangement exists for the Jewish school and will continue also.
The arrangements for minority schools reflect the importance the Government attaches to ensuring that students can attend schools that reflect their denominational ethos. In retaining this grant, the Government is being faithful to the separate arrangements that were agreed with the Protestant schools when the free scheme was introduced by Donogh O’ Malley; at the time, it was the payment of a block grant in particular for Protestant fee-charging schools that distinguished them from the Catholic schools that also chose to continue to charge fees.
Prior to Budget 2009, in addition to the block grant, Protestant fee-charging schools were paid a range of support services grants that the Catholic fee-charging schools did not receive. It is estimated that savings of €2.8 million will accrue as a result of the withdrawal of these grants from the Protestant fee-charging schools in 2009. Teachers in all fee-charging schools are paid by the State; this arrangement pre-dated the introduction of free education arrangements. In the absence of fee-paying schools and the enrolment of all pupils in the non-fee  paying sector, there would be subsequent additional costs and teachers would still have to be paid.
In Budget 2009 the Government has, however, decided to make changes to how fee-charging schools should be treated in relation to the number of publicly funded teaching posts they are allocated. Teachers in fee-charging schools are now allocated at a pupil teacher ratio of 20 to one, which is a point higher than allocations in non fee-charging post-primary schools. Fee-charging schools can continue to employ additional teachers that they fund from their fee income.
With regard to capital expenditure, school building projects, whether for fee-charging schools or schools in the free education scheme, are selected for inclusion in the Schools’ Building and Modernisation Programme on the basis of priority of need using published criteria.
Considerations of State support for minority religions has been an important factor in the provision of funding for such schools, given that much of the fee-paying sector has traditionally been made up of Protestant schools and those with a minority religious ethos. Minority fee-charging schools qualify for capital grant aid on the same basis as secondary schools in the Free Education scheme; schools make a contribution of 5% of the cost of a new building, with a cap on the local contribution of €63,000, and 10% for an extension or refurbishment, with a cap on their contribution of €31,500. No changes have been made to this arrangement. Catholic schools receive capital funding at the rate of 50% of the total cost, subject to the individual circumstances of each case.
Dáil Éireann 677 Written Answers. Grant Payments.