We are at a crossroads with these schools. Many of them will close. What will be the response of the State in this case? Will the State provide funding for schools under Protestant management such as those in Bandon and Midleton? The imposition of this cut was done without consultation, which is a regressive move. We are talking about a minority grouping of people with a distinct faith who are part of our State and who have a right to be educated in their own denomination. We need to take cognisance of that. This move also has implications for those who cannot afford to pay fees. What happens to them? Cuts in the budget have affected people across the board.
Adjournment Debate 6th Nov 2008
As the Minister of State knows, many of our Protestant secondary schools are rural voluntary schools. I am talking about schools such as BandonGrammar School and Midleton College in Cork. These have been specifically targeted by the mid-year withdrawal of the support services grant, which amounts to a smash-and-grab raid on our schools and their resources. Twenty-one schools are affected nationally by this cut of about €2.8 million, which is not an major amount in the overall budget of the Department.When free education was introduced in 1968, the Government agreed that schools such as those I mentioned would not be included in the free scheme. This special grant was in recognition of the fact that we as a State could not provide an appropriate education for people of the Protestant faith, particularly as these children were few in number and the Protestant community was dispersed. It is important that we allow all children to be educated under an ethos of their choosing. This sum of €2.8 million annually is not a major amount in the overall scheme. Many of the schools are fee-paying and the grant is used as a step-up support grant to families who in some cases are unable to pay.