Written Answers. - Fee-Paying Schools.

Seán Ryan

Question:

21 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the total amount of financial support provided by the State for private fee paying schools broken down in respect of teachers' salaries and other areas; if he intends to continue to provide this financial support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21739/02]

The total annual amount paid in respect of fee-charging secondary schools is €77.5 million. Of this sum approximately €68.5 million relates to salaries and allowances of teachers. The balance includes the Protestant block grant, funding towards support services such as secretarial and caretaking services and grants in 2002 towards supervision arrangements.

The payment of teachers' salaries is part of a complex scheme of funding for fee-charging schools, which has traditionally sought to balance considerations of equity, pragmatism and State support for minority religions. Teachers in fee-charging schools, irrespective of the denominational ethos of the school, are paid by the State. This may well reflect a long standing pragmatism that the State would be required to provide teachers for the pupils in question were they located within the free education scheme.

There are 58 fee-charging second level schools in the country, of which 21 are Protestant. The latter schools receive funding by way of the Protestant block grant, which has its origins in the desire of the State to enable students of the Protestant persuasion to attend schools, which reflect their denominational ethos. The block grant includes payments in respect of captivation and these schools also qualify for payment of such grants as the transition year support grant and secretarial and caretaking grants. Fee-charging schools not embraced by the Protestant block grant do not qualify for payment of captivation or related supports.

I have no plans, at this stage, to withdraw State support for the payment of teachers in fee-charging schools. This support has been a long-standing feature of our education system and one continued by successive Governments.