Wednesday 4 January 2012

Protestant private schools encouraged to co-operate with the Irish government

His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, one of the highest-ranking members of the Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopalian) hierarchy, has publicly encouraged private schools under the Church of Ireland's management to co-operate with the Irish Ministry of Education as it seeks to conduct an audit of educational expenditure in the Irish Republic.

The Irish Department of Education is attempting to conduct a comprehensive study of how Irish schools are spending their money, in both the state and private sectors, and in particular how private schools, some of which receive certain subsidies from the government, are spending the money they acquire both from the Department and from fee-paying families.

The Archbishop has encouraged schools to see this an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience or an attack. Faith schools which are struggling financially or which are meeting their educational or financial quotas will be able to prove this to the government thanks to the new audit. The Irish Minister of Education, Mr Ruiari Quinn, has welcomed the Archbishop's support and is said to be eager for Protestant private schools to co-operate with the government. 

Traditionally, Protestant faith schools in the Irish republic have a history of being significantly less co-operative with the government than private Catholic schools, although this has admittedly changed in recent years. There are no private schools in neighbouring Northern Ireland, where academic selection at the age of eleven filters students into grammar schools or secondary/high schools, all of which are state run. The Northern Irish grammar schools consistently score in the highest percentile of academic qualifications amongst school leavers in western Europe - particularly in History, the Sciences, Religion, Drama, Music and Mathematics. Some of the older grammar schools in the north, such as Methodist College, Victoria College, Down High and the Royal Belfast Academical Institute, still operate private preparatory departments - the incomes from which are self-funding or used to fund parts of the main grammar school's maintenance. There are faith schools in Northern Ireland, all of which are run by the Catholic Church in conjunction with the State, which funds them but which allows a specifically Catholic ethos to be promoted. There are no schools operated by any Protestant religious institution in the North and no school is allowed to place adherence to the Protestant faith as part of its admission's criteria.

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