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Fee-paying schools likely to see higher pupil-teacher ratio

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 17, 2012

SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor

THE GOVERNMENT is expected to target fee-paying schools in the budget, with further changes to the pupil-teacher ratio. The move will result in larger classes and possible cuts to subject choice in these schools; it could also mean higher fees for 25,500 pupils.

While the Department of Education insists “no final decision’’ has been taken, a one-point increase in the staffing schedule for all fee-charging schools is likely.

These changes will increase the pupil-teacher ratio for fee-paying schools to 22:1 with effect from the 2013/14 school year. The move could force these schools to use more fee income to subsidise teaching and extra-curricular activities. The cut is expected to realise full-year savings of €3.2 million.

There is speculation some Protestant boarding schools – which face serious financial difficulty – may be exempted from the change.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn says he must find €77 million in total cuts from the €9 billion education budget. In all the 55 fee-paying schools receive about €100 million in support from the exchequer; virtually all of this is used to fund teacher salaries. These schools also generate about €102 million in annual fee income.

The Department of Education has asked private schools to clarify how they spend this income. They have also been asked to give details of outstanding mortgage payments, access programmes for disadvantaged students, available cash reserves and additional teaching posts.

The department says a report based on the responses from private schools will play a key role in informing budget decisions in relation to the sector.

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