Private secondary schools should not receive any funding from the taxpayer, according to Sinn Féin.

New Department of Education figures show that State subsidies to private schools increased to €121m last year.

The figure has increased steadily over the past few years – up from €97m in 2020.

The vast majority of the funding goes towards teacher and SNA salaries – although the schools generally get fewer State-funded teachers than public schools, with a larger pupil to teacher ratio.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Sinn Féin education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the system is forcing people on low incomes to subsidise private school education.

“We don’t believe that people who make the choice – which is entirely their prerogative – to pay €5,000, €6,000 or €7,000 to get their child into school, we don’t believe that should be subsidised by somebody who is on a very low income, working as hard as they can and trying to contribute to their child’s education by paying for their books and all those costs that come in an ordinary school,” he said.

“We don’t think that is right and we would phase it out over the course of a term in Government.”

Private schools

He said fee-paying schools, “by their nature” exclude children from the local community.

He said the State should not be subsidising that kind of exclusivity.

“I think people are entitled to make whatever choices they wish with their own money and if that includes sending children to a fee-paying school, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

“My problem is where those who don’t get the benefit of this are subsidising those who do, and seeing no benefit from it.

“I think, if they’re going to get public funding, theses shouldn’t be entitled to charge fees and such exorbitant fees.

“They can continue as fee-paying schools and these fee-paying schools can pay their own way and pay for their teachers and so on and charge whatever fees they wish – but they shouldn’t be getting public funds.”

Subsidies

He said Sinn Féin hoped that some private schools would go public if State subsidies were dropped.

“My hope would be that, if this policy was put into practice, it wouldn’t necessarily see significant savings to the State,” he said.

“The objective is to try to try and encourage schools to come into the public system and drop the policy of charging such significant fees.

“We would work with schools to come into the publicly funded system and not to charge fees.

“That would be the objective and that would be, I think, an objective that the vast majority of the public would support and indeed, very many excellent schools right across the State do not charge fees.”

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