Irish private schools have warned that the health of their student body and faculty are at risk due to their exclusion from the Department of Education's COVID-19 reopening fund.
The department, via a spokesperson, stated that the €375 million fund would be automatically made available to public schools. Private schools which seek to avail of the fund will have to apply to the department.
The application process for private schools will determine “where it can demonstrate difficulties in implementing necessary control measures outlined in the plan”.
This decision has not gone down well with the 51 fee-paying schools in Ireland. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to the Irish Times, one principal of a private school that takes in thousands of Euro every year in student fees, stated that they "don't have piles of spare cash lying around".
“We simply don’t have piles of spare cash lying around. Many schools like ours just about get by. We don’t get State funding for capital costs. We get less funding per student and teacher than the free sector. We’ve had to fundraise for every brick in this building. ”
The Joint Managerial Body, which represents most private schools, said it was “engaged in ongoing dialogue” with the Department of Education with regard to the fund, as well as other matters.
Another principal speculated that the cost of implementing COVID-19 safety measures will cost around €200,000.
Likewise, another principal stated that the department deliberately targeted private schools "because there’s a perception that we all have lots of money.”
In 2018, fee-paying Wesley College, whose annual fees per student amount to roughly €6,500 per year for regular secondary students, received a €150,000 sports capital grant, whilst 30 public schools were refused funding. This was despite Wesley College already boasting four rugby pitches, one soccer pitch, two astroturf hockey pitches, 15 tennis courts, a cricket field, a basketball court, a sports hall and a gym.