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Parents of girls at top school get 50% of grant scheme

October 26, 2011

Parents of girls at top school get 50% of grant scheme

PARENTS whose children attend a prestigious all-girls school are claiming over half the total Department of Education’s remote area grant scheme.

The scheme was designed originally for islanders and those unable to access second level education in their locality. However, the main beneficiaries of the scheme are the parents of students at Coláiste Íde, the all-Irish country house-style boarding school in Dingle, Co Kerry. The majority of the 142 students at the school are able to avail of the grant towards their fees. The grant, not means tested, offers up to EUR5,000 euro per student, according to figures released to Radio Kerry. The grant scheme, administered by the department, was introduced in 1967 with free post-primary education and was designed to give pupils from islands and other remote regions an opportunity to be educated. The grants are based on distance and pupils who live over 25km from “suitable free education”. Coláiste Íde is the only all-Irish boarding school in the State and is in demand among second-level children who had their primary education in Gaelscoileanna. According to figures obtained by the local radio station, 99 of the 142 students in 2010 at Coláiste Íde qualified for the grant aid and drew down a total of EUR472,375.

Over the past five years, parents of boarders at the school have qualified for over EUR1.9 million in state aid to cover the fees. This was over 50% of all monies paid out by the Department of Education under the grant, which was paid in respect of pupils at 26 other schools since 2006. The EUR836,876 total cost of the scheme last year included payments relating to 14 other schools – six in Cork, four in Mayo, three in Galway and one in Donegal – and the next highest payment was EUR163,251 for students at the all-Irish Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire, Co Cork. A spokesperson from the National Parents Council has called for a review in the light of special needs cutbacks affecting most schools. Coláiste Íde is housed in an elegant Georgian home on the shores of Dingle Bay on almost 110 acres of park and woodland. It offers stables and other facilities. Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Coláiste Íde said what parents claimed was not a matter for the school. However, the grants did not cover 100% of costs as the fees at the school were EUR6,000 in addition to other costs, the spokeswoman said.

On its website, the school advises parents: “A remote area grant, which presently covers the basic boarding school fee, may be available for children who are unable to get an all-irish education in their local area. Please ask the school for details.” Yesterday the Department of Education issued a statement indicating the scheme may be reviewed in the forthcoming budget. “All areas of Departmental expenditure, including the Remote Area Grant scheme, are subject to the Comprehensive Expenditure Review (CER) initiated by the Government. The Department is not in a position to comment on any aspect of the CER until decisions have been made by Government in the context of the upcoming Budget.”

Irish Examiner – Anne Lucey & Niall Murray