This Government recognises the importance of ensuring that students from a Protestant or reformed church background can attend a school that reflects their denominational ethos while at the same time ensuring that funding arrangements are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
With regard to the fee-charging Protestant schools, an arrangement exists whereby funding is provided by my Department to the Secondary Education Committee (SEC), an organisation run by the churches involved in managing the Protestant secondary schools. The SEC then disburses funds to the Protestant fee-charging schools on behalf of pupils who would otherwise have difficulty with the cost of fees and who, in the absence of such financial support, would be unable to attend a second level school of a reformed church or Protestant ethos. Funding amounts to €6.5 million annually. This fund ensures that necessitous Protestant children can attend a school of their choice. There are no changes proposed in respect of the Protestant block grant.